"I Love My Park Day" brought some much-needed TLC to .
From 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on May 5, volunteers toiled away on the shores of the park's Northwest Pond and some fisherman, clad in knee-high rubber boots, even headed into the water, to remove as much trash as they could.
The community clean-up event at the 775-acre state park, which straddles West Hempstead and Rockville Centre, was hosted by the newly formed non-profit organization,
"I've been coming here for about 10 years and it's a great park, it's huge but it doesn't get the recognition it deserves," says Chris Carter, president of the HLSPA.
As a lifelong West Hempstead resident, Carter, 27, says he and his friends have wanted to do something like this for years to bring more awareness to what the park has to offer and address its . Inspired by the good turnout at the clean-up event that was held at the , which was coordinated by Alex Jacobson, owner of the nearby , and the Parks Department, Carter, along with fellow West Hempsteaders Joel Ruiz and Adia Bethel, and Teresa Reid, of Floral Park, decided to form the non-profit.
"We wanted to get more people involved," Carter said. "Now, we're just doing some clean-ups and trying to get the word out."
For now, the group is focused on coordinating more clean-up events and "getting the word out," but going forward, he says, they'd like to team up with local Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, community organizations, and schools, including science clubs and sports teams.
"If all goes well we can get some more art events, craft fairs, kayaking on the lake ... bird watching, just to get people more immersed in nature right in their own backyard," he says.
Based on enthusiastic feedback from the community so far, Carter is optimistic adding, "Hopefully, we're the catalyst that can start bringing people down here more."
For Saturday's clean-up project, HLSPA partnered up with park manager Bill Brown, who supplied the pickers, garbage bags and vehicles, and manpower to haul away the trash.
"We're looking for all the help we can get from the community and volunteers," Brown told Patch. He also explained what's causing the pollution problem.
"It's street run-off from local villages that ... end up here in Norh East Pond and North West Pond," he said. "It's stuff that people throw out of their cars, bottle caps..."
All the trash discarded along Peninsula Boulevard, for instance, runs off into a creek that flows past Hempstead High School and into the park's two north ponds, Hempstead Lake and then eventually the South Pond and the bay.
"Ideally, if we can get some sort of education about where the pollution goes, that would be great long term," Brown says. "Right now, we're just trying to clean it up."
Despite Saturday's dreay weather, roughly 50 volunteers pitched in throughout the day. They came from the immediate area, but also from Hempstead, Glen Head, East Meadow, Bay Shore and Wantagh.
"I do the Summer Series, where you run in the parks, and this was a way for me to help clean up one of the parks I run in," said Ellen Caravella, who along with her young daughter, Emily, spent the morning picking up trash along the shore of the pond.
Osman Canales, of Hempstead, came down with fellow members of the Long Island Civic Participation Project, after finding out about the event online.
Seven year-old John, of East Meadow, was one of the youngest volunteers but was the most eager to get his hands dirty. His aunt and uncle, Glen Head residents Kevin and Michelle, brought him to the park, but once there, he wanted to take charge and even goaded them to help him retrieve a discarded car tire that was buried under some fallen branches. He then hauled it away himself.
His motivation was simple. "I wanted to help clean," he says.
Many of the residents recognized that the state parks are working with small budgets nowadays and were willing to lend a hand to offset this.
"It's either we pay for it in taxes or we come out every now and then," Jack Riordan, a fisherman from Bay Shore, said as he stood inside the pond fishing out trash. "I don't mind. I could use the exercise."
By the end of the day, the volunteers had removed tons of garbage from the area, but they weren't the only ones showing their love of state parks that day. Projects to address pollution and other environmental issues were also held at Caumsett, Hecksher and Bethpage state parks on Long Island, and others throughout the region.
Click through the gallery above to see photos from the event.
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