Merrick-Bellmore preserve named for 'force of nature'

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New York State Sen. Norman Levy later obtained a grant, which the county used to enact many of the changes proposed by Friends of the Preserve, including fencing, a bridge over the biggest stream, lighting, dredging, benches, trash receptacles and signage. Residents Susan Johnson, Barbara and Bill Wood, and Glen Halleran on the Bellmore side and Jo Gencorelli and Frank Stibritz on the Merrick side worked hard on this project, with help from Herb Mills and Carol Ryder from the county.

Over the years, the Merrick Garden Club, Scouts and homeowners groups organized many cleanups. In 1994, Michael Zoccoli and his troop marked trails, erected a trail map sign and installed benches.

Longtime residents recall splashing in the streams, which had sandy bottoms and no broken glass once upon a time. But the neighbors are also the ones who are affected most when young people enter the preserve, not to enjoy its peace and beauty, but to build bonfires and drink. As one neighbor told the parent called by police to come pick up her son, “You need to know where your kids are.”

Superstorm Sandy caused major flooding in the preserve when waters from the stream and Farmer’s Boulevard joined, making it easy for the winds to topple dozens of majestic trees. It was sad to see the woods decimated, but we hope the preserve will renew itself in the future.

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