Erin Bellavia, Jennifer Trepal, Emily Monem and Gina Cassero proudly hold up their trowels, ready to dig holes for the dune grass - no easy task on a frozen beach.
Despite a brisk sea breeze and a temperature in the low 20's, more than 400 volunteers participated in the 11th annual Dune Stabilization Project at Tobay Beach on Saturday, Jan. 16. Among them were members of the Boys & Girls Club of Oyster Bay-East Norwich's F.L.Y. Keystone Club and P.A.C.E. Torch Club.
Keystone and Torch members bundled up in many layers of clothing to lend a helping hand at the beach. They helped plant discarded Christmas trees strategically along the dune line on the beach to protect the dunes from erosion. The project actually helps enlarge the dunes by catching blowing and drifting sand.
Members also planted several bundles of dune grass in bare dune areas. "Dune grass was added to the project in 1995 and is very popular with the volunteers, as it is beneficial in stabilizing the dunes," said Town Councilman Leonard Symons. "The thick stems of the grass reduce wind velocity near the ground and trap windblown sand. The new sand deposits, in turn, build the dunes and nourish further plant growth," he explained.
"This year's Dune Stabilization Project was a resounding success," said Supervisor John Venditto, who, along with Town Council members Tom Clark, Leonard Symons, Joe Muscarella, Christine J. Preston and Receiver of Taxes John J. O'Leary, participated in the project. "While it was cold and windy, it didn't deter our dedicated residents, who traveled from all parts of the town to Tobay Beach, where they worked alongside town employees to plant 120,000 stalks of dune grass and 7,000 recycled Christmas trees in the dunes.
"In going around and speaking to some of the volunteers, I enjoyed hearing their reasons for participating in the project," the supervisor said.
"One woman told me that she always enjoys Tobay Beach during the summer and felt this was a way of making sure the beach would be there for future generations. A teacher, who came with a group of students, said the project was an outdoor classroom where the youngsters were learning, hands-on, about the importance of ecology. One youngster said that it was 'neat' to see what the beach looks like in the winter, when you don't think about it much, and that it shows there's a need to protect the environment all year round," he said.
Both advisors Emily Monem, for the Keystone Club, and David Martz, for the Torch Club, said: "Yes, it was very cold, windy and frigid, and the sand was frozen, yet the members who volunteered enjoyed being there with all of the other groups who were involved. They feel they played a part in saving the beach for future use and for future generations to come."
Mr. Venditto said, "Whatever their reasons for coming, my fellow town board members and I appreciate greatly the support our residents have given the dune stabilization project over the years."
Another element which added to the success of the dune stabilization project was the many organizations that donated services or products including our local Frank M. Flower & Son. Volunteers were fortified with clam chowder, hot chocolate, coffee, tea and doughnuts. Also, Kraemer Co. donated Port-A-Johns.
"The success of the Dune Stabilization Project is an outstanding example what can be accomplished when government and the community work together for a common goal," Supervisor Venditto said. "The efforts of dedicated residents and town employees who come together every January are helping ensure that Tobay Beach will flourish for years to come."
For more information regarding volunteering at the club, please call Emily Monem at 922-9285, ext. 802. - DFK