Residents and local volunteers across Long Island spent the day Saturday planting trees and removing rubbish like shopping carts, cardboard boxes, plastic cups, candy wrappers and even parts of a fence from their local waterways and parks.
At the Babylon Park Avenue Tennis Courts and Trails in Babylon, between 50 and 60 volunteers turned out to help pick up trash from nearby Carlls River during the third annual “Creek Defender Day,” sponsored by the nonprofit environmental group Save the Great South Bay.
The event was one of several that the Sayville-based nonprofit is hosting this weekend to help clean up waterways that lead to the bay.
Tom Dempsey, 47, of Babylon, and his wife Ilena Dempsey, 48, were busy rolling up their sleeves and planting several native, noninvasive plant species at the entrance of the trails. The plant species — including red maple and willow saplings and assorted grasses — will eventually help to siphon off nutrients from the invasive phragmites grasses growing near the trails and stop their growth.
“It’s nice to get out and meet people in the community and see how involved they are with the environment in different ways,” said Tom, a science teacher at Massapequa High School. “Sometimes you feel like you’re working by yourself, but when you’re part of a bigger event … you feel like the work you’re doing is maybe making a bigger difference.”
Ilena said that because the waterways and tributaries around them flow into the Great South Bay, it was important for her family to make an effort to keep those waters clean.
“Everything that you do together for the small contributes to the large. If everyone gets together and does their share in their own communities, it will get better,” she said.
Babylon organizers said the group has picked up roughly 100 bags of trash each year, finding items ranging from plastic cups to candy wrappers, discarded tires, napkins and other trash.
Babylon Mayor Ralph Scordino was at the event’s kickoff ceremony to thank volunteers for coming out.
“[Carlls River] is one of the premier streams that goes out to the Great South Bay and it’s so, so important that we clean it up at least once a year,” Scordino said.
Meanwhile in Rockville Centre, between 75 and 100 people turned out for the annual cleanup of Smith Pond at Morgan Days Park South.
State Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach), who organized the cleanup, said volunteers picked up trash ranging from shopping carts to plastic bags and even part of a fence. The event, Kaminsky said, was designed to combine both advocacy and action on the environmental front while cleaning Smith Pond, which he called a “hidden treasure.”
“It’s connected to an important part of our environment, Mill River, and unfortunately, a lot of trash that people throw away, even miles from there, end up there, so it’s important to be on top of it,” Kaminsky said.