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Massapequa preserve renamed in honor of Peter Schmitt

(L-R )Jessalyn Murphy, 8, Samantha Huyler, 6 and

(L-R )Jessalyn Murphy, 8, Samantha Huyler, 6 and Holly Krieg, 7 play "bubblegum in a dish" just prior to the Massapequa Preserve dedication ceremony. (April 27, 2013) Photo Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

Nassau County's 423-acre Massapequa Preserve was renamed Saturday after its ardent environmental advocate, Peter Schmitt, who died in October after suffering a heart attack.

Schmitt, the Nassau legislature's longtime Republican presiding officer, worked for more than a decade to nurture the preserve. He helped obtain $8 million in state and county funds to improve water quality, remove invasive plants and beautify areas. The project was completed about 18 months ago.

"The preserve meant a lot to Peter," Schmitt's wife, Lois, said at the morning dedication ceremony. "He felt there was tremendous beauty here, and he fought to ensure that funding for the environment did not just head up north."

The Peter J. Schmitt Massapequa Preserve features woodlands, ponds, lakes and freshwater wetlands that border Massapequa Creek for nearly 4 miles, from South Farmingdale to Merrick Road. Nassau acquired the property in 1981.

On Saturday, a who's who of Nassau Republicans recalled Schmitt as a principled lawmaker, staunch advocate for his Massapequa district and doting father to his daughter, Samantha, and grandson, Logan.

"Peter lived and breathed public service and doing the right thing for the people of Nassau," said Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto, a Republican.

Holding back tears, Schmitt's son-in-law, James Kennedy, said Logan would reap the benefits of his grandfather's efforts.

"This preserve will be a place we bring Logan often," he said, "so that he can better understand who his grandfather was, and what he did in his lifetime."

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