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Long Island the Beautiful?

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What is an open space? Is it a beach along the coast that no one will litter on? Sure. Is it a forest where the animals prosper in the shade of the trees? Definitely. Is it a park in the middle of a fully developed lot?

No.

On Long Island, open spaces are becoming less and less commonplace in our community. To think that a mere five hundred years ago, the Native tribes once hunted with spears and a variety of stone and wooden weaponries. Now, to find an environment that hasn’t been developed, you have to get in a car and drive to Avalon or someplace even farther away.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, between 1984 and 1994, 12,000 acres of land were developed into real estate, malls, and parking lots that we don’t need. Approximately 5,000 acres of this land were transformed from forests and 5,000 more were transformed from grasslands that were mostly agricultural. Given that data, one could only imagine the amount of land from that time until now that has been developed.

Not only must we worry about protection of the land, but the Long Island Sound has also been afflicted by this epidemic. The Long Island Sound Study, an organization that works to keep the Sound clean, declares, “While there is still much healthy habitat in and around the Sound, the overall abundance and diversity of natural areas has diminished. Development and increased population have resulted in the loss of coastal and inland wetlands, and eelgrass beds in the shallow, near-shore areas.” Not only does it seem that the Sound is in danger, but that the fate and the land and the water are intertwined. It appears like this because, as referred to in the quote from the aforementioned study, as new lands are developed and people move into new houses, not only are marshes and wetlands covered up, but new pollution from factories that can be developed along the coastline pour their toxic waste into the Sound. This also works in reverse because as the waste in the Sound evaporates with the water, precipitation that falls later will be considered acid rain. This acid rain will gradually poison all that is left of the open spaces on Long Island. Right now, we are getting caught in a vicious cycle that, without intervention, will slowly tear away at our ability to pull ourselves out of an environmental mess.

However, there is still hope to relieve us of the consequences of our actions. Many government projects are trying desperately to conserve what is left of the natural environment. One contributory action was that of New York State when it agreed to purchase very large parcels of open space in and near Setauket. This purchase was completed on December 19, 2009, and it was very important because, not only did it protect open spaces where we live, but development of these lands could have done serious damage to the water quality on the North Shore.
The government isn’t the only group that can help preserve open spaces. Every day people can participate in community activities to preserve and maintain open spaces. One of the best examples of this on Long Island is Avalon Park. Purchased by the Paul Simons Foundation in 1997, this land preserve contains 300 acres of grass and wildflower meadows, an immeasurable forest, and various habitats for wild animals such as rabbits, squirrels, the red fox, turtles, and many different birds. Furthermore, an organization called Long Island’s Last Stand has developed a ten-year plan to preserve the remaining open spaces on Long Island. Their plan is to protect the remaining 25,000 acres of open space on Long Island, conserve 10,000 acres of land to “preserve farming viability,” and manage and restore the parks, harbors, bays, and farms that have already been developed.

There are many activities that we students can do to manage the spaces that have already been preserved for public use. We can participate in local beach clean-ups that are run throughout the summer and into early fall. Additionally, we can hold individual fundraisers and donate the money to an organization that protects our environment. With donations, they will be able to purchase more land that will be preserved and cared for.
What is an open space? Is it a beach along the coast that no one will litter on? Sure. Is it a forest where the animals prosper in the shade of the trees? Definitely. Long Islanders almost lost these spaces entirely due to over-development of the natural habitat, but now, in the eleventh hour, people are getting smart. They are looking around, and they are seeing what they are destroying. Now, people are forming charities, buying land to be set aside for preservation, and taking care of our open spaces.



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