The 25-acre Faith Laursen Meroke Preserve, on the Bellmore-Merrick border, is a forest much like most of Long Island used to be. The Meroke Indians camped by its five streams, and Colonists used its tall cedars for ship masts. Legend says during the Revolutionary War British soldiers hid there from marauding Colonials. (Most of the Bellmore-Merrick area farmers were British sympathizers.)
Part of what is now the preserve was once owned by the New York City Brooklyn waterworks, with the water pumped along Sunrise Highway to the west. Part of it was owned by the county, part of it was acquired from developers, and most recently, part of it was donated by KeySpan in 1999 and declared “forever wild” in 2001, as the other 24 acres of the county preserve had been in 1991.
In 1973, residents successfully fought a plan to build a sewer line through the preserve.
The preserve was renamed for my mother, Faith Laursen, the former publisher of Bellmore and Merrick Life, in 1993, shortly after her death. Then County Executive Tom Gulotta, of North Merrick, knew it was one of her favorite causes. She had helped push to declare it “forever wild,” because as a former Girl Scout, she felt it was important for young people to have a place to learn about nature. Otherwise, why would they care about preserving it? As in other cases where she had helped form a civic action group, raising the railroad tracks or organizing a bicentennial celebration, she was, as fellow New York Press Association board member Cliff Richner, now the publisher of the Merrick Herald Life, put it, a “force of nature.”
For many years, our family had a Mother’s Day tradition of picking up litter in the preserve. One of my daughters, Carolina, wrote a letter published in Merrick Life in which she complained that the woods named for her grandmother was becoming a dump.