Many aren’t aware of the bird sanctuary just off Tremont Place in East Meadow. This area of land, behind Speno Park, has been left to wildlife for more than 25 years.
More than 50 species of fish, birds, snakes, turtles, and more call this place home. But now, some trespassers have damaged the sanctuary.
Bird and bat houses were knocked down, graffiti is seen throughout the area, and two fires have been started that resulted in responses from the North Bellmore Fire Department. The Council of East Meadow Community Organizations is asking for residents to help them maintain the sanctuary once again.
The land received some TLC over the years after it was adopted by CEMCO. It was once a Nassau County storm recharge basin, but was transformed in 1997 after a relationship was formed between CEMCO and the county.
When the site was first preserved, CEMCO and local Boy Scout troops conducted the initial clean up. Over the years, East Meadow Kiwanis joined the cleanup efforts, and Troops 469 and 362 constructed wooden bird, owl, and bat nesting boxes, among other projects.
There are only two people who have keys to the bird sanctuary, but over the years trespassers have dumped trash and old appliances, cut down trees and have even brought in invasive species that could harm the area.
Recently, the trespassing has increased according to Joe Parisi, CEMCO president, and Dan Gregory, a member of the bird sanctuary committee.
On top of the fires, graffiti and several broken habitats, an increased amount of trash such as beer cans and wrappers have been left on the grounds. There was a cross bow found in the water that might’ve been used to hunt certain animals living in the sanctuary.
“This is not something new,” Parisi said. “But in the last six months, it went to a level that I never saw before because they were going in there very brazen.”
Parisi noted that the trespassers are typically area children, but they’re rarely seen because they enter the sanctuary at night. But, Parisi added, they’ve conversed with some of the neighbors who have caught the trespassers, to which they say that the bird sanctuary is “their place.”
“It’s disappointing for us, because of all the hard work that we put into it,” Parisi said. “The thing that bothers us most is that we’re just trying to create an environmental jewel, and then for people not to realize how valuable it is, it’s disheartening.”
Gregory, who has been a part of the bird sanctuary committee for more than five years, tries to walk around the area once a week to see the animals and inspect the land.
“We knew kids were hanging out there from the spray paint, and beer bottles and all sorts of fires and things like that,” he said. “But never before had anyone damaged the Eagle (Scout) projects, and this was the first time, and it was vicious.”
Gregory got involved with the bird sanctuary because his three sons were Boy Scouts and for their big Eagle Scout project chose to better the sanctuary in some way. He stuck around, though, because he was fascinated by the species he would see.
“I was just amazed at all the wildlife that was in East Meadow,” he said. “I would go there with my camera, and I have hundreds of photographs of all different birds, which I’ve never seen before in my life, at least in person. It’s really amazing what’s in there. The average person has no idea that it has wood ducks and egrets and mergansers.”
Parisi and Gregory spoke with some of the neighbors surrounding the sanctuary and CEMCO has sent out a letter urging them that if they see something, to say something.
“We told them that if they didn’t want to call the police then just tell CEMCO and we’ll call,” Gregory said. “I think it’s because some people quite frankly are just afraid of getting the kids upset at them because they want to go to bed at night and not worry about someone messing with their house.”
Trespassers are entering the sanctuary by climbing the old fencing. CEMCO has been trying to have the County to replace the fence for years.
“It’s a safety issue,” Gregory said. “Kids are jumping around in there and if they fall into the water even in the summer — with how deep and cold is it — they could cramp up and drown.
“In regard to the animals, East Meadow doesn’t really have much open space, the biggest is maybe Speno Park and it doesn’t have any water, so this area is really, really unique for a natural habitat in East Meadow.”
Since the sanctuary was a sand mine before it became a storm basin, Gregory said, there’s mining equipment and other sharp metal objects still underneath the surface.
“We really need the community to help us because I can’t just be hanging out there at night waiting for kids to come so I can call the cops,” he said. “But the people who live there, they see it and they can tell us.”