Long Island Embraces Creek Defender Days

Much more than roadside gardening, these native plantings are the beginnings of a restored “swamp forest” that will help filter water runoff entering our creeks, which ultimately find their way to the bay. (Photo courtesy SGSB)

By Laura Schmidt ~ Nearly 70 volunteers braved the gloomy weather on Saturday, April 13 to help clean up Carlls River in Babylon Village for Creek Defender Day. After the volunteers moved through the water and trails for a few hours collecting plastics and other litter, the sun broke through clouds as if to say, “Thank you.”

Save the Great South Bay (SGSB) hosted its third annual CreekDefender Day in cooperation with the Village of Babylon welcoming volunteers ofall ages from all over the south shore to take action to protect our delicateecosystem and promote planting native Long Island species that make for“bay-friendly” yards and nature preserves.

Co-founder of SGSB Marshall Brown emphasized the importanceof local altruism involving schools and students, government, local businessesand beautification organizations. Brown was extremely happy with the turnout,which included Babylon Village Mayor Ralph Scordino and State AssemblymanMichael LiPeti despite heavy rain in the morning.

“This is about local passions,” Brown said. “Gettingeverybody together to create an awareness about what the local environmentneeds, and the more we can have bay-friendly yards, the better off we’ll be interms of water quality.”

Sponsored by York Analytical Laboratories, MiddletonEnvironmental and Long Island Natives, volunteers not only plucked out largeamounts of debris from the Southards Pond and walking trails, but thanks tonative plant donations from LI Natives, also created a swamp forest that willhelp to balance the ecosystem. By planting native species on their property,homeowners can support natural ecosystems that properly filter water before itenters the nearby creeks that eventually lead to the Bay and provide foodsources for birds and other local wildlife.

Brown encouraged Long Islanders to plant species such asswamp cedar, red maple, sweetgum, sassafras or buttonbush. Although he saidhomeowners must consider the type of soil their lawn is comprised of (dirt,clay, sand, etc.), as well as the amount of sunlight the area receives beforebuying the plants.

“When you bring in non-native plants, you’re breakingecosystems because you just put in something that isn’t necessarily a foodsource for local creatures,” Brown said. “It doesn’t have to be this way.”

There are about 36 creeks and rivers that run through the 16south shore communities on Long Island. Across the island Babylon’s CreekDefender Day has spawned a sense of environmentalism as the concept has gainedmomentum.

The following Sunday, April 14, the Blue Point Community Coalition, led by its Creek Defender Jason Borowski, along with 35 volunteers tackled the cleanup of Purgatory Creek. Coming up, SGSB in partnership with Seatuck Environmental Association will spearhead the cleanup of Penataquit Creek in the hamlet of Bay Shore on May 4, from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. Unfortunately weather conditioned postponed the April 20 Creek Defender events in Sayville and Lindenhurst, but keep an eye out for these dates to be rescheduled in the near future.*

Brown hopes all shore communities will join the movement tocreate a cleaner future not just for people, but for flora and fauna throughoutLong Island.

“Our goal is to have [every community] tended to and really build a sense of local stewardship in each community,” Brown said. “Untouched nature is the goal isn’t it? Isn’t that the most beautiful?”

To learn more about the Creek Defender events, including volunteer opportunities visit Save the Great South Bay’s website to become part of the solution visit Save the Great South Bay’s website.

UPDATE: Since original publication of this article Sayville and Lindenhurst Creek Defender dates have been rescheduled to May 18, 2019. The hamlet of Masapequa has also organized an additional Creek Defender event for May 4, 2019. Full details can be located in the “events” page on SGSB’s website.