Written by Pat Aitken, firstname.lastname@example.org Friday, 17 May 2013 00:00
A large crowd of almost 100 people gathered at 95 Shore Road in Cold Spring Harbor on Saturday, April 27 to celebrate the completion of the environmental clean up at the former Exxon Mobil site. The 8-acre waterfront parcel, where the oil tanks once stood, was donated to the North Shore Land Alliance for conservation purposes.
On a sunny picture-perfect spring afternoon, Land Alliance officers and staff were joined by elected officials, including State Senator Carl Marcellino, Huntington Town Councilmen Mark Cuthbertson and Mark Mayoka, Heather Amster, Region 1, New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and community members to thank ExxonMobil for this valuable gift.
Jane Jackson, Land Alliance stewardship director, reviewed the land trust’s plans for developing this currently blank canvas into a colorful native grassland and bird habitat. She asked attendees to envision how the site will look in the next decade or so: a diversity of wildflowers, short and tall grasses (including the switch grass that are present today), the vibrant yellows and purples of goldenrods, asters and blazing star in summer and early fall, and wet meadow to be planted with additional grasses, punctuated by stands of blue flag iris, swamp milkweed, and cattail. An array of butterflies, bluebirds, and other birds will be drawn to the restored habitat, to be viewed by quiet observers from a bird blind. There will be a winding path to lead Long Islanders across the upland to the harbor, where the existing Spartina will be greatly enhanced by additional salt marsh plantings. Perhaps there will be a container of young oysters at the shoreline being nurtured by Cold Spring Harbor and Oyster Bay East Norwich high school students for later deposit at an oyster bed.
Lisa Ott, Land Alliance president added, “This is a very exciting project for the Land Alliance—one unlike any we’ve taken on before. Our goal is to install a suite of ecological communities (some of them rare) that will optimize habitat values for native birds and other wildlife. We are beginning to fundraise for habitat work, but it will take some time.”
After a brief ceremony, attendees were asked to take part in the beginning of the restoration process by taking a handful of native grass seeds (little blue stem, switch grass and deer tongue) and spreading them throughout the property. All are invited back to watch the progress of the seed’s growth.
ExxonMobil donated the former industrial property to the Land Alliance in November 2012, just after Superstorm Sandy hit our community. The property is approximately eight acres, composed of four acres of newly-planted maritime grassland, one acre of tidal marsh (providing 1,300 linear feet of shoreline), and three acres of underwater habitat. Across the harbor is Oyster Bay National Wildlife Refuge, which was designated to protect this threatened estuary. Nearly 90 percent of New York oysters and 35 percent of hard clams are harvested from Oyster Bay. The New York State DEC has identified Cold Spring Harbor and Oyster Bay as Significant Coastal Fish and Wildlife Habitats.
This property along Shore Road was purchased by the Standard Oil Company of New York in 1924, operating as a petroleum fuel distribution terminal until 2003. ExxonMobil completed removal of the storage tanks and buildings from the harbor-front property in 2010, and soil remediation activities were completed in compliance with applicable state standards in March 2011.
ExxonMobil is believed to be the only corporate landowner on Long Island to invest resources and donate land to restore a former industrial site to its natural state, providing critical coastal habitat for wildlife.
The North Shore Land Alliance was established in 2003, with the help of The Nature Conservancy, to promote local land conservation by working with individual landowners, local communities, local and county governments and other conservation organizations. To date, the Land Alliance has helped to conserve over 900 acres through public funding. It holds over 139 acres in conservation easements, has absolute ownership over approximately 76 acres, and manages 88 acres of local preserves. For information about land conservation they may be contacted at 516-626-0908 or www.northshorelandalliance.org.