The beauty of Port: Don’t take our nature for granted

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Port Washington residents are no strangers to natural beauty.  From nighttime beach views to breathtaking sunsets, we are beyond privileged to live in an area with such sights.

Living in a town so close to nature gives life to a lot of outdoor activities. From driving to the docks at sunset to take in breathtaking shades, to spending a Sunday afternoon walking around the Sands Point Preserve, enjoying the serene beauty of the remotest trails and reveling in the mystic grandeur of ancient tree trunks, there are multiple ways to get in touch with nature in Port. 

For instance, in the summer, the town offers a variety of outdoor events.  You can take advantage of living by the water by renting a paddleboard or kayak.  Rentals are available at most marinas around town for easy access to some maritime merriment.  

Because of our temperate autumn temperatures, these activities are ready for you to partake in well into the fall.  Also, running or biking by the water, especially at the recently expanded Bay Walk on Shore Road, can be a great way to get out of the house and experience all that the beautiful views Manhasset Bay has to offer. 

Yet, as we descend ever deeper into the depths of fall and the days begin to get shorter, we dust off our heavy boots, sitting exactly where they were left at the end of the last season, and happily find that Port’s outdoor appeal only goes uphill from there.  

The fall foliage makes the Sands Point Preserve all the more exciting on a cool autumn day as the vibrant colors of the canopies and fallen leaf litter create an artist’s palette straight out of a Bob Ross painting: perfectly serene and intensely beautiful; engrossing to all the senses as your eyes remain mesmerized and your feet crunch over the fallen leaves of an ending season, creating a rhythmic drone that can bring you not only in touch with your own thoughts, but with the spirit of nature herself.  

There is clearly no shortage of outdoor adventures to be had in Port Washington, all of which are an extremely worthwhile use of time.  

Our proximity to nature brings this love for the outdoors into the forefront of our community’s attention, but also proposes a dilemma: how do all these activities affect how clean our town is?

This issue of pollution is certainly a worldwide one. Though we’ve all likely seen short clips on Facebook and photos on news websites of garbage covering the ocean in faraway countries, it’s likely that most of us felt very distance from this reality.  

A 2017 study from Science Advances found that 9.1 billion U.S. tons of plastic have been produced since its introduction in the 1950s.  

According to an article from National Geographic from the same year, a startling 91 percent of that plastic is not up being recycled.  Moreover, the United States Environmental Protection Agency reported that 1.2 trillion gallons of sewage from industries, households, and restaurants are dumped into U.S. water every year.  

As these statistics clearly demonstrate, pollution is certainly a real-life problem that we must face as it has the potential to ruin not just the coming generations but us as in the near future as well.  

In regards to Port specifically, it has already become apparent that beaches are not as clean as they used to be.  With 72.3 percent of students who responded to The Schreiber Times’ poll claiming to appreciate sunsets most out of several aspects of Port nature, it is important to note that one’s ability to enjoy this view can be hindered if the coastlines are covered in litter.  

Plastic waste has become a ubiquitous sight on almost all of our coastlines.  

Furthermore, the woods behind the school are almost always filled with refuse, ranging from soda cans to evidence of more illicit activities.  

Most of the bodies of water around town are also quite polluted, with pesticide and herbicide runoff from peoples’ lawns causing immeasurable harm to our marine ecosystems. Many also suffer from a thin coating of oil slick across the surface, a symptom of the heavy use of motorized watercraft all around Port and neighboring towns.

One bright spot that had often made our town feel as if it was more in touch with nature and eco-conscious were the beautiful, old trees which line many of our streets. From the dominating London Plane’s on Beacon Hill to the towering oaks which populate much of Sands Point, these offer a lush canopy providing shade and a lovely aesthetic to much of the town.

Yet, not all of our beloved, woody friends could be protected from the relentless axe of “progress.”  Many trees all along upper main street were recently cut down as part of a new, “Streetscapes Improvement” plan. The rationale behind cutting down 19 trees in just the span of just four blocks was keeping the sidewalks cleaner for pedestrians. 

“The removal of 19 nature Pin Oak trees on Main Street, with the planned replacement of only 14 is just the latest in a common trend,” said the Treehugger Club Vice President junior Max Goldman. 

This argument does not make much sense considering they were the ones who had initially proposed removing trash cans from public streets which has greatly increased street litter since its enactment.  Reducing the trees in our town not only decreases the air quality but also population of  local species.  This plan does not seem to meet muster when it comes to value.  

Moreover, some also argued that these trees were having a detrimental effect on Main Street’s telephone poles, growing into and being damaged by the wires above.  Although this may be true, town administrators should consider looking to move the electrical lines underground rather than taking down these beautiful trees which make it the scenic spot that it is. 

In addition, burying these telephone lines would also offer a solution to the hideously large “hurricane-proof” telephone poles which line Northern Boulevard, creating a similar result without being such an eyesore.  

If the town was going to cut down the trees and tear up the sidewalk anyway, as they indeed have, they may as well have taken that opportunity to move our town’s power grid at least slightly into the 21st century, that would have them allowed them to replant trees which may one day reach the true size of those which have been lost, unlike the dwarfed saplings which are due to be planted. 

“Move the power lines underground where they belong and plant more trees everywhere,” said an anonymous student.

This may be quite the expensive project, but with the full support of the community, including the reduced maintenance costs which it would entail, it is absolutely within reach.

The amount of money that is going towards cutting down trees could be redistributed in various ways that would contribute to our local environment rather than take away from it. The Island Now reported that the Town of North Hempstead committed to spending approximately one million dollars specifically to make “improvements” on Main Street, a sum that could be used to make a substantial positive impact if spent in a more useful fashion, such remediating some of the slew of other environmental issues facing our town, from erosion to aquifer pollution.

“Local campaigns like “Skip the Straw” and “Bag the Bag” are playing their role in helping reduce our plastic waste, and programs run by a a variety of environmental organizations including Rewild Port Washington, Port Washington Monarch Butterfly Alliance, Grassroots, PW Green, and Residents Forward are all helping with a variety of issues in town,” said Goldman.

It should also be acknowledged that the efforts of environmental organizations often seem to be largely focused on well-travelled, high-value areas, such as places like Main Street. 

Other areas, notably lower income neighborhoods, such as Manorhaven and Cow Bay, are sometimes neglected and tend to build up obscene amounts of litter in certain spots as well as going years without any of these beautifying projects gracing their streets. 

These areas deserve just as much attention as the commercial districts, as they tend to be far more populous and in certain need of a clean up.

It is well known that everyone in our town loves the views and our easy access to nature, yet, what are we doing to preserve such beauty?  One would think that because we cherish these natural wonders we would do more to keep it alive. There is a fairly small, but highly active community of environmentalists in our town and they do much of the good work which is necessary to upkeep of a beautiful natural environment in our area.  

The Schreiber Treehuggers Club, led by seniors Hannah and Sophie Roth, is making big strides in keeping the community green. 

Events such as beach cleanups and courtyard gardening not only beautify our environment, but also protect the wildlife as well. 

Moreover, other groups such as Koastal Paddle and Hempstead Harbor Protection Committee hold similar events that keep various areas consistently clean. 

Although these groups are doing an excellent job, there is always room for more and we should all look for opportunities to play our part in preserving the beautiful scenery of Port Washington.

“We should spread the word about cleanup events in Port to get bigger turnouts,” said freshman Asher Charno.    

Clean drinking water.  Good air quality. Beaches devoid of any litter. These are all luxuries that we take for granted, without pausing to think about the amount of effort that goes into keeping Port beautiful—or even the obstacles that have been overcome over the past decade to do so. 

“We might not have been the ones who caused all of the issues we face today, but it is our responsibility to clean them up,” said Goldman.  

So, then, what are the steps that we as students can take to keep Port beautiful?  Join clubs like Treehuggers, which partnered with local organization Residents Forward earlier this year to organize a Youth Climate Summit with the goal to teach students about how they can engage in projects.  

The club meets Friday mornings at 7:30 a.m. in room 131.  You can also attend beach cleanups, which may be physically exhausting but certainly rewarding.  

Consider going on nature walks at places like the Sands Point Preserve.  It’s a great way to support a worthy cause while at the same time appreciating nature.   Since 63.8 percent of Schreiber students are willing to reserve some time out of their week to help clean up Port, it seems as though many will take these measures.  

“There has been a growing number of concerned people in town who are willing to do their share in helping the environment,” said junior Sally Hirschwerk.  

So the next time you are driving past the superb skyline views at “The Spot” or parked at the docks looking out across the Long Island Sound, take a moment to appreciate Port not only for its nature, but also for the people that maintain it.  Better yet, take time out of your week to become one of those people. 

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