Bill Wood, of Orange Street in Bellmore, lives just feet from the Farmers Avenue entrance to the Faith Laursen Preserve - a green space which sits on 25 acres between Bellmore and Merrick. His wife, Barbara, also grew up a few houses away from their current home of 50 years.
Barbara tells stories of exploring the preserve’s woods, including wading through the creek. It used to have a sandy bottom. Now it’s covered in mud and broken glass.
“We kind of like to think about the way it used to be,” said Bill, 78. “We hate to see it change, because it doesn’t change for the better - it changes for the worse. It used to be filled with pristine nature trails, but now it’s a trash yard.”
Wood and other Bellmore-Merrick residents are raising concerns about the condition of the preserve, which was severely damaged by Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 and by Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
Hazard in the woods?
The Faith Laursen Preserve, formerly the Meroke Preserve, comprises 25 acres of woods and wetlands between Sunrise Highway and Merrick Road. Newbridge Creek splits in two as it enters the preserve, creating a small island in the middle of the woods. A nature trail runs through the preserve.
The preserve was named for Faith Laursen, the former publisher of Bellmore and Merrick Life, in 1993, shortly after her death. Her daughter, Linda Laursen Toscano, said that then- County Executive Tom Gulotta, of North Merrick, knew that preserving the forest was one of her favorite causes. Faith Laursen pushed to declare the area “forever wild” because, as a former Girl Scout, she believed it was important for young people to have a place to learn about nature.
Toscano said she recently brought her niece, who is a wildlife ranger in California, to see the preserve that was named for her grandmother. It was then, Toscano said, that she was reminded of one of her greatest concerns about the preserve’s condition: the large number of trees that fell in Sandy.
“Every now and again we have a tree fall over, but this was like a war zone,” she said. “It just seemed like a hazard, and it certainly isn’t that beautiful.”