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North Hempstead prepares to dive into long-awaited pond restoration

Gerry Pond Park in Roslyn on Sept. 10,

Gerry Pond Park in Roslyn on Sept. 10, 2014. The pond is undergoing revitalization. Credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan

North Hempstead Town is readying the $9 million revitalization of three ponds in Roslyn and the stream that links them, where officials say sediment has hampered flow for decades.

Town leaders say they hope the project, which could take several years to complete, will see the return of songbirds and ducks that nested on the ponds' edges before they were walled off by invasive grasses and weeds.

The project, envisioned in the 1990s, involves removing sediment from the ponds at the 16-acre Gerry Pond Park and the planting of native species such as cordgrass and coastal wetland plants.

"Many of the ponds and waterways have not gotten the attention that they perhaps should have gotten," said town Supervisor Judi Bosworth. Since taking office Jan. 1 she has authorized with the town board a combination of funding and borrowing for pond and harbor restoration projects, including $2.5 million in bonds for the Roslyn ponds.

This and other projects are expected to be funded largely through federal and state reimbursements, officials said.

"It's a clear signal to the federal government and state government as we apply for grants that we're serious about this and we're putting our own funds into this," Bosworth said.

The ponds, which sit north of where Main Street and East Broadway intersect, "are all connected and go out to the bay and serve as a very important filtration system," she said.

Kevin Braun, the town's environmental control specialist, said "the deeper you make the ponds, the more water stays in, and the greater chance the plants will take up extra nutrients" or pollutants.

As part of the Roslyn project, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has agreed to remove 15,000 cubic yards of sediment caused by superstorm Sandy, town officials said. The removal could tally $1.3 million, town officials said.

"The aquatic sand buildup was made so much worse" by Sandy, Bosworth said.

Plans also call for the installation on park grounds of contraptions called hydrodynamic separators to catch sediment, contaminants and floatables before they reach the ponds.

Visitors say the park needs a spruce-up. On a recent morning, Huntington residents Alison Steindler, 44, and her mother, Joan Steindler, 84, recalled decades of visits.

"It needs some love," the daughter said.

"They used to have a variety of waterfowl, but the Canada geese seem to have taken over," the mother said. "I used to hike and come down to look at whatever wildlife was in the park."

Bosworth said improving town waterways is a priority, but she acknowledged the challenges of the initiatives given the state's property tax cap. "It's a start," Bosworth said, summing up the town's strategy: "One pond at a time."

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