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Community Pulls Together

Massapequa Lake sheds its weeds

Massapequa Lake received much needed attention on Saturday, August 3 as concerned community members, employees from Nassau County and the Town of Oyster Bay, activists, and County Legislator Michael Venditto gathered in an extreme effort to rid the lake of an evasive species of aquatic weed called Tropa Natas, or water chestnut, which has consumed its surface.

Nassau County recently obtained a five-year permit from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation for the much needed weed pull. Over the next five years, the County will battle the invasive aquatic plant.

The aggressively growing weed which covers almost 80 percent of the 40-acre lake is not native to Long Island. Brian Schneider, as Assistant Deputy Commissioner of the county Department of Public Works explained.

“The bad thing about this plant is it crowds out all the other good plants, and it cuts down on the amount of light that penetrates through the water which gives light to other plants and wildlife,” he said. “This aquatic weed could have gotten into the lake from community members dumping their aquariums into storm drains which lead into the lake, or a bird could have potentially picked up a seed, flew over the lake, and dropped it.”

Those who wanted to make a difference graciously got down and dirty in the muddy lake to remove these weeds. An aquatic weed harvester, which is a machine that skims the top of the water to remove the weed, was also put to the test. The harvester was ordered upon Oyster Bay Supervisor, John Venditto, for one week to remove some of the millions of weeds floating on the lake, and it made a noticeable impact within the first day of operation.

Town activists and community members who overlook the lake every day in their own backyards called upon the County Legislator to help make a difference to this lake that has taken a beating from these aquatic menaces.

Venditto, who often reminisces of playing by the lake when he was a child, realized its importance to the county and its residents.

“Massapequa Lake is one of the environmental jewels of the county, if residents reach out to us, we are going to join with them to preserve it every way that we can,” he said. “The residents made this problem noticeable, so it was a great idea to organize a day like this where we can come down, get together, and remove the weeds with our special equipment and helpful hands.”

The manmade lake built in 1837 has a rich history, with presidential visitors such as U.S. President Chester A. Arthur who fished for trout, and a poem which was written about its unique beauty. The lake is thoroughly enjoyed by community members and visitors year round.

Long-time Massapequa resident and a founder of the Massapequa Lake Association, Laura Messano, whose backyard is greeted by the lake, was especially thrilled by the attention it is receiving.

“Residents love this lake, and a lot of us grew up with the lake and know about its history. Everyone was very concerned on what we would do to preserve and restore the lake that was turning into a swamp. We watched it getting consumed little by little by water chestnuts, but we weren’t permitted to do anything until now,” she said. “Now we have 5 years. It’s a community effort, but everyone is helping each other to get this hard job done.”

The county intends to maintain the lake by cleaning it regularly. A study will also be performed in order to understand the lake’s overall health, depths, and hydrology. This study is to provide recommendations on how to permanently rid the lake of the water chestnuts, and hopefully its original beauty.