Children With Special Needs Help Sandy-Slammed Lido Neighbors – Earth Day Beach Grass Plantings Protect Environment and Homes

In a compelling and meaningful Earth Day project, youngsters with special needs who are part of Hempstead Town’s ANCHOR Program and Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray joined with residents of Lido Beach to rebuild coastal sand dunes that were destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. The dunes constitute a natural habitat for endangered shorebirds, and also serve as the last line of defense between local homes and the surging waters of the Atlantic Ocean. The event was an educational experience for the children, and an opportunity for Lido Beach neighbors to bond with their dedicated helpers, while safeguarding both the environment and their homes. Participating in the event were Lido Beach Civic Association President Liz Murdy, Civic Association Board Member Addie Quinn, Hempstead Town Councilwoman Angie Cullin and Receiver of Taxes Don Clavin, and ANCHOR Program Director Joe Lentini.

“Helping the environment, building friendships and educating young people on the importance of rebuilding damaged sand dunes have combined to make a meaningful and memorable Earth Day,” said Murray. “Lido Beach homeowners and caring youngsters are rebuilding a habitat for endangered shorebirds, and working to restore a protective barrier for local homes against surging ocean tides. This is what Earth Day is all about.”

The Supervisor directed the township’s Conservation and Waterways’ staff to acquire 21,000 American beach grass plants, also known as ammophila breviligulata, to plant along rebuilt sand dunes in Lido Beach and other shorefront communities. The plants stabilize the dunes through a root structure that knits together beneath the sand. Beach grass roots can reach depths of 20 feet.  Beyond combating erosion, the shoreline vegetation can actually help dunes grow in size by trapping sand in its elongated flowering spikes. As sand builds up around the new grass, stems grow higher, and newly sand-covered stems become part of the root structure.

“Planting beach grass on newly rebuilt dunes prevents our sand barriers from literally blowing away,” said Murray. “I think this is one of the most meaningful Earth Day projects to be presented in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.”

 “I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Earth Day than teaching young people about the environment, restoring natural habitats and protecting our community from the forces of nature,” stated Councilwoman Angie Cullin.

Hempstead Town has built up dunes in Lido Beach, Point Lookout and East Atlantic Beach over several decades. The efficacy of the dunes in protecting local homes from tidal flooding was recognized in a December 3, 2012 New York Times article. Indeed, the article observed that the extent of Sandy-related damage was less severe in Point Lookout, Lido Beach and East Atlantic Beach, contrasted with the devastation in neighboring Long Beach, because of the dunes that were constructed by Hempstead Town over the years.

“As a lifelong resident of Lido Beach, I learned early on the importance of these sand dunes, and the role they play in providing protection from the forces of this beautiful ocean,” stated Liz Murdy. “While we have had much joy living alongside these beaches, we all have seen the destruction brought by Superstorm Sandy back on October 29th, 2012. Mother Nature can turn this ocean into a force like nothing we have seen before in this area, and hope to never see again. These dunes have taken a beating. This beach grass planting will help us to restore them to their pre-storm size, and again afford us the necessary protection from future storms. It is truly fitting that we stand here today, on Earth Day, as we join forces and embark on this project, which is so vital to the communities along these south shore beaches.”

Finally, the grassy dunes of the south shore serve as a refuge for the endangered Piping Plover. By rebuilding dunes, Hempstead Town is protecting an important shorebird habitat. 

The Supervisor also invited town residents to attend two upcoming beach grass planting events on Sunday, April 28th. Volunteers will gather at Civic Beach in Point Lookout at 10 a.m., and at Troy Avenue Beach in East Atlantic Beach at 11 a.m.

“I want to thank our young people who have helped Lido neighbors to restore a protective dune structure which will safeguard their homes,” concluded Murray. “I also want to salute our local residents for partnering with us, and encourage other communities to create learning opportunities like this one, providing real benefits to the environment, boosting community spirit and building long-lasting friendships.”