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Preserve Holds Meeting

Massapequa Preserve, a lush 423-acre nature sanctuary that lies between Farmingdale and Massapequa, is indeed the place that many people go to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life...if only for a walk, job, or simply to commune with nature, unspoiled by the hand of man.

Helping to prevent erosion, vandalism, and other negative impacts that human encroachment tends to bring upon nature are a very special group of environmental activists- the Friends of Massapequa Preserve, started in 2000 by North Bellmore residents Richard and Lisa Schary.

Annually, Friends President Richard Schary holds a public meeting of the at the Massapequa Public Library’s Bar Harbour branch to give an update on the last year’s happenings within the confines of the Preserve; considering the fact that Superstorm Sandy had touched down throughout the area during that time span, obviously the focus was on the ramifications of that historic event.

Schary opened the meeting, which was attended by elected officials such as Nassau County Legislator Michael Venditto, R-Massapequa, and Oyster Bay Town Clerk James Altadonna, by thanking his fellow members for their hard work protecting the Preserve over the course of the previous 356 days.

“It’s important to remember...I’m a volunteer, as are all of you, in terms of protecting the Preserve,” he said. “We don’t get paid for this; we do it because we love the Preserve.”

Schary noted that, no matter what the time of day or year, members of his group are always casting a watchful eye upon the happenings in the Massapequa Preserve in case any wrong-doings or misuse should occur.

“We have people in our group, who I’m not going to identify because they want to remain anonymous, but they’re out there watching...they’re our eyes and ears,” he said. “356 days a year, we get emails, phone calls, letters...you’re out there, watching, and I want to thank those who are sitting here and those who are not. Just keep going the job that you’re doing.”

However, no amount of vigilance on the part of the Friends could prepare them for the terrible hurricane known as Sandy, which touched down on the Eastern Coast of the United States in late October 2012.

“Last year we went through a terrible time in the Preserve because of the storm,” he said. “The damage that was done was significant, but a lot of it’s been fixed. In fact, this morning I was out in the Preserve with the Department of Public Works, and there’s going to be further remediation of storm damage along the fire road, and we know those piled-up trees by Walker Street are going to be chipped up and removed.”

Nassau Legislator Michael Venditto, son of Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto, was an invited guest at the meeting, and he gave updates on the Town of Oyster Bay and Nassau County’s efforts to repair the injuries sustained by the Preserve during Sandy.

“It’s been a very good year for the Preserve, overall...obviously, we’ve been confronted with many difficulties in the wake of Superstorm Sandy,” he said. “The Preserve was hit pretty hard, but we’ve been doing everything that we can to make sure that it’s been cleaned up...that the pathways are clear and safe. We’ve chipped a lot of wood, cleaned up a lot of vandalism, and we recently just planted ten trees by Merrick Road by the lake.”

“We’ve also just had a very successful resident-driven weed pull over at the lake,” Venditto continued. “That water wasn’t very visible for quite some time as you headed down Ocean Avenue going south, but thanks to the weed pull, we’ve started to free up some of that space, and it looks great.”

Venditto later fielded questions, comments, and concerns from the gathered members of the Friends Of Massapequa Preserve; while most present were quite happy with post-sandy clean-up efforts, grievances were aired regarding topics such as bicycle safety on the Preserve’s pathways, dangerous low-handing tree limbs, unleashed dogs, and forest undergrowth that impedes vision around corners, which can lead to hazardous collisions on the blacktop bike path.

Oyster Bay Town Clerk and former Massapequa Park Mayor James Altadonna also spoke at the meeting, thanking the Friends for helping to keep Massapequa Preserve, and Massapequa itself, a model community for other to aspire to.

“It’s been because of all of your efforts that the Preserve has grown, become popular, and had been kept as well as it has been kept,” he said. “The Preserve is truly a gem...we bike it, we walk it, we enjoy the migratory birds...nature itself just opens up there. At this time of year, when the leaves are changing color, it’s just glorious. When it comes to the Massapequas, you really can’t live in a better place, and it’s because of the things that you do that this is the place that everyone wants to live.”

Schary assured members of his group that their issues would be addressed, and that their efforts would continue to be appreciated by the countless people touched by the beauty and tranquility of the Massapequa Preserve each and every day.

“That’s why we’re having this meeting...we want you to voice your opinions,” he said. “We have a quarter-million people using the Preserve every year, and we want each and every one of them to be able to enjoy it.”

If you want to know more about the Friends of Massapequa Preserve, please visit: http://www.fdale.com/fmp/fmp.htm.