Meghan Whittaker, 16, of Hicksville, is a member of the...

Meghan Whittaker, 16, of Hicksville, is a member of the Holy Trinity High School Environmental Club that helped plant grass at Tobay Beach during Town of Oyster Bay's annual Dune Stabilization Project. (March 24, 2012) Credit: Jim Staubitser

There were so many reasons to help.

For some of the hundreds of children who turned out with parents or Scouts group leaders to plant grass at Tobay Beach as part of the Town of Oyster Bay's annual Dune Stabilization Project Saturday, the explanations were simple.

"We're saving the dunes by planting grass," said Corey Tallarine, 9, of Cub Scout Troop 436 in Massapequa.

"It's so the waves don't erode the beach," explained Anthony Thompson, also 9, of Massapequa, who came with his father and cousins. "If the dunes weren't here, it could flood people's homes, and I want to prevent that from happening."

"I really love this beach," said Dominick Bonamassa, 10, of Massapequa Park. "I come here often, and I don't want it to be unprotected."

Elizabeth Bordt, a Bethpage 9-year-old, worried about the animals. "If there's a really big storm, it could overflow to the road and into animal habitat."

Jessica Dippi, 9, who attends Charles Schwarting Elementary School in Plainedge and was there with her father, said, "It saves the earth because when the waves come all the sand moves."

In all, about 1,200 volunteers -- the largest turnout yet -- showed up for the 24th annual dune day, planting 230,000 stalks of American beach grass by noon, said town spokesman Kurt Ludwig.

Diana Parada, 37, from Hicksville, who attended with her 3-year-old, her younger brother Alex Parada and his 4-year-old, said it was important to give the kids every opportunity to connect with the environment when they live surrounded by television and computers.

The town began the program in 1989, using only recycled Christmas trees that were "planted" to catch sand drifts. In 1995, officials began using American beach grass, a proven dune stabilizer because its thick blades reduce wind velocity near the ground, helping to trap what would otherwise be windblown sand. The new sand deposits help build the dunes and nourish further plant growth.

Ludwig said the town provided the grass and local businesses donated clam chowder, doughnuts, coffee and hot chocolate for fortification against Saturday's stiff South Shore breeze.

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