If you could turn back the pages to 1961, one would see that a national organization "Keep America Beautiful" was beginning to have an impact, by educating communities how litter and other forms of pollution were tarnishing our environment. However, it wasn't until later that the pollution prevention campaign became embedded in American culture. Ten years later in fact, on Earth Day a public service announcement shown on television for the first time throughout the United States featuring Native American actor Chief Iron Eyes Cody with a tagline, "People Start Pollution, People Can Stop It." Iron Eyes Cody became synonymous with environmental concerns and achieved lasting fame as "The Crying Indian" during the height of the Keep America Beautiful campaign.
In 1976 the United States celebrated its 200th birthday with a parade of tall ships sailing up the Hudson River titled "Operation Tall Ships." Inspired by the title given to that Fourth of July birthday celebration "Operation Cleanup," Massapequa's version of Keep America Beautiful began to form.
Numerous community leaders realized the impact the program would have and wanted to be a part of it. Under the umbrella of Operation Cleanup several committees with a coordinator were formed that included waterways and wetlands, wooded areas, graffiti, parks, parking lots, roadsides, etc. The goal of the project was to help clean up the communities and keep in step with the Keep America Beautiful campaign to fight the negative attitudes and behaviors that lead to pollution.
During the past 45 years on any given day thanks to KAB's lead, volunteers concerned about the environment can be seen picking up debris in wooded areas and parklands, pulling shopping carts from ponds and streams and painting out graffiti from fences and the walls of public and private buildings, and bridge overpasses. The Historical Society of the Massapequas takes credit for keeping the graffiti in check on the old brick New York City water supply building no longer in use on Sunrise Highway in Massapequa.
According to Rich Schary, president of Friends of the Preserve, his group spearheads work groups in the Greenbelt Preserve on a regular basis. Schary says at present they're very concerned with the water flushed from water mains being released in the Tackapausha Preserve stream at Jerusalem Avenue. Other concerned groups who regularly volunteer their time are members of high school Key Clubs, Scouts, Telephone Pioneers, Geese Peace, and Citizens Campaign for the Environment, and concerned citizens who just want to do their part to protect nature's natural beauty.
Over the past several years a host of new and important environmental, energy and conservation issues have taken center stage. Groups have been getting together for the past 18 years in March to help save the dunes by placing discarded Christmas trees and planting dune grass to prevent erosion. Crews from the USDA based in Amityville are constantly on the lookout for traces of the Asian Longhorned Beetle that kills trees and spoils the appearance of the preserves and private properties. A group known as Geese Peace is working to control the population of the Canada Geese that have become a nuisance and a health hazard for children playing on our athletic fields. Long Island Sound and the Great South Bay organizations are gaining momentum with their marine clean-up and environmental programs to protect the waters fishing industry and unwise commercial development projects. And, out on the East End of Long Island there are several environmentally conscious groups including the Long Island Farm Bureau keeping an eye on the use of fertilizers and pesticides/herbicides used for growing green vegetables, potatoes, corn, etc. Green Peace, the Clamshell Alliance, the Sierra Club and the Long Island Greenbelt Trail Conference all have very active and successful with programs that benefit the country's beauty, quality of the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat.
Other issues have been brought up at town and village meetings by organized groups. One in particular concerns a law that requires tow truck operators to cleanup debris caused by an accident before any vehicles are removed from the scene. The law is not enforced by the police and debris can be seen for weeks later. On a positive note, recycling laws and depositis on bottles and cans in 1983, are keeping our wooded areas and roadsides much cleaner.
To find out more about "Friends of the Preserve" there is a 14-minute video at local libraries for loan or call 541-2461.