Written by Dave Gil de Rubio, firstname.lastname@example.org Thursday, 23 January 2014 09:32
The setting may been cold and dreary around dusk on a recent Saturday, but the spirit was light and optimistic during the Garden City Bird Sanctuary’s (GCBS) Sixth Annual Winterfest. As around 10 volunteers milled around, stamping their feet to ward of the cold, the GCBS founder and current director Rob Alvey and President John Cronin distributed green candles and plastic cup holders for use in the day’s ceremony.
The assembled gathered in front of a fir dedicated to the memory of Curt Hoera at the beginning of the this half hour event that started with Cronin explaining the genesis of Winterfest.
“We begin the Winterfest candle lighting ceremony in near darkness and cold, with summer but a distant memory. We, the directors, will tell the story of the Garden City Bird Sanctuary and the meaning of Winterfest,” he read. “It all began in 1995 when our founder and first president Rob Alvey was inspired to start ‘sump-thing’ at this formerly neglected 9-acre storm water basing that became the Garden City Bird Sanctuary in which we now gather. Rob, in turn” inspired those of us on the board to start this celebration called Winterfest, a holiday unique to us and our supporters.”
Each person wound up getting their candles lit in turn as a way of symbolically passing on the hope of spring and new life that the green color represented. And while this annual event is only six years old, the Garden City Bird Sanctuary has continued to grow as an environmental oasis in the village. It’s quite an accomplishment given the fact that the area had its start as a storm water basin, (which it continues to serve as), that Alvey inventoried as part of the municipality’s green space when he was asked to do this study by the Village of Garden City Environmental Board back in 1992. Four years later, it was proclaimed the Garden City Bird Sanctuary and ever since then, the nine-acre space has hosted an Annual Earth Run, environmental camps and the site of numerous Eagle and Girl Scout projects. Alvey acknowledges all that these particular teen volunteers have contributed in making this quite an impressive nature preserve.
“I have to give a lot of credit to the Scouts. When they reach the Eagle [and Gold] project level[s] and find me, whatever project they want to do is immaterial. But I’ll work with them on it to make sure they’re all different. What are the skills they’re learning? Project management, coordination and learning how to plant, all things that they’re learning for life,” he explained. “You realize these kids end up having a major life change when they complete a project like that. I tell them that they all contribute a small piece to the overall process and no one will really notice if one was done here or there but by the time years have gone and you see a steady accumulation of improvements, then you all come back and recognize it. Then you realize you were building that all together, you just didn’t know who the other teammates were.”
The wonders visitors can encounter never cease. One of the last remaining acres of the once-massive Hempstead Plains, a tract of land that at one time stretched from the Queens border all the way out to Suffolk County, can be found within the confines of the environmental center. And birders have been fortunate enough to espy a well over 90 bird species including warblers, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, orioles, cardinals, kestrels and Scarlet Tangers thanks to the fact that the GCBS lies along a migratory route.
“The biggest asset we have, which is hard to put a dollar figure on, is the literally hundreds of people that volunteer, work out there and donate their time. That’s where it really makes the difference,” Alvey said.
It’s a sentiment that goes to the heart of one of the many passages read at this year’s event. “Winterfest reminds us that there is reason to hope for the future because there are many people of good will who care about the planet and the next generation.”