Written by Joe Scotchie Friday, 26 November 2010 00:00
Last Wednesday, Nov. 17, a crowd of up to 60 people filled the Bar Harbour Library’s community room to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Friends of Massapequa Preserve.
The evening was both a celebration of past accomplishments and future challenges, as its leadership expressed optimism over a restoration project still ongoing on the vast 423-acre site.
Richard Schary, president of the organization, gave a brief history of Friends, why it was formed and its progress over the past decade.
Schary recalled that by the end of the 1990s, Massapequa Preserve had faced a “multitude of problems;” namely, such illegal activities as dumping, makeshift forts and tree houses, ATVs and motorbikes, homeless people, graffiti, large party spots littered with furniture and beer kegs and cans and even occasionally fires that were being set.
Ten years later, Schary noted that Massapequa Preserve has now been voted as the “Best Nature Preserve” on Long Island. He added that over 6,000 people visit the Preserve on any given weekend. Part of the Preserve’s popularity is the result of an award-winning documentary video, one that was produced by Friends and widely distributed throughout Nassau County.
“[Massapequa Preserve] has become a family-friendly destination, the most popular preserve in Nassau County, beloved by most of its visitors,” Schary said.
Another major achievement of Friends has been the start of a massive storm water and pond restoration project.
In a recent newsletter to members, Schary said that the county’s six million dollar stream and enhancement and pond restoration project should be completed this fall. (Even though many members and Massapequa area residents have been alarmed by the work, which has included sawing down trees and bulldozing through underbrush, Schary is confident that the preserve will be in better shape than ever once the project, which is now two years ago, is completed.)
He noted that most of the feedback from the public over the project has been positive. “The water seems clearer, the streambanks have been replanted, the paved path has been resurfaced, new mile-markers have been installed, and there are now garbage cans and benches to sit on,” Schary noted.
Seeking to placate those who have delivered negative feedback, Schary added that the county, the contractors and Friends members alike are all determined to ensure that when the project is completed, the Preserve is “going to be a much better and healthier place.”
“The new stormwater treatment devices will filter out suspended solids, harmful nutrients and pathogens, oil, grease, and heavy metals,” he said. “The water will be cleaner and less polluted. The streams will be clearer, and run faster and more consistently. Less trash and debris will litter the waterways. The ponds will be deeper in spots and less clogged with vegetation. Over 30,000 plants, trees, and shrubs are scheduled to be planted, to replace most of what was lost and to vegetate the new berms. In the remaining disturbed and border areas, natural succession in the Preserve should lead to a regrowth of trees and shrubs within a few years.”
Schary also hoped for improvement in areas that, in his words, have been damaged by heavy machinery. This includes Parkside Boulevard at Jerusalem, Massachusetts and Pittsburgh Avenues; at Ocean Avenue; parts of the fire road; and by the pump house on Sunrise Highway.
But overall, Schary remains optimistic.
“The secondary stormwater project in the northwest corner of the Preserve is nearing completion,” he said. “This section along the fire road, north of Walker Street, has new underground treatment devices filtering stormwater runoff, and controlling the erosion that has been severely washing out the fire road. Also, the huge pile of old concrete in the woods just west of Walker Street has been removed by the contractor. Soon, the old graffiti-covered viaduct, just west of the fire road and south of Hickory Street, will be demolished.
“So far, the Preserve has gotten through all the chaos of construction and disruption in pretty good shape,” Schary concluded. “As the stream project winds down, the Preserve will finally have a chance to regenerate and return to normal…We’ve accomplished a great deal in the past 10 years and look forward to the next decade.”
Schary also cited the work Friends members have done to educate young people on the importance of keeping the land area pristine. The organization has sponsored over 15 Eagle Scout projects, all approved by Nassau County. Recently, North Massapequa resident John Guastavino completed an invasive species removal project. Another project that has received much attention has been by Farmingdale resident Greg Carman, whose troops have replaced the rotting wooden planks and refurbished the Kiwanis Fishing Bridge, one located north of Clark Boulevard.