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Marine Nature Study Area in Oceanside reopens as part of Phase Four

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After closing for many months because of coronavirus restrictions, the Oceanside Marine Nature Study Area reopened this week as part of Phase Four of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's reopening plan.

The 52-acre preserve is nestled between Oceanside Park and the Golf Club at Middle Bay on Slice Drive, and serves as the marine and estuarine ecosystem of animal, aquatic, insect and plant life. It is devoted to environmental education and natural history, and houses more than 200 species of birds. Additionally, it receives anywhere between 15,000 to 20,000 visitors per year.

While it returned to opening from Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., there are strict guidelines attendees must follow to ensure their safety, including:

—Only six cars are allowed in the parking lot at one time.

—There are two restrooms opened to one individual per hour.

—Groups and organizations appointments are not being accepted.

—Visitors are required to wear a facemask. Those seen without one will be asked to put one on or leave under New York state law.

“The current function of this facility is to allow individuals an escape during their day in quarantine,” a message on the preserve’s website reads. “Please be considerate of your neighbors who also would like to participate in visiting. Please do not stay longer than you need to accommodate as many people during the day.”

The message went on to tell potential visitors to not be complacent in the opportunities that are being given, and to note that Covid-19 is still active, and reckless actions will have consequences on others visiting the preserve.

“You will see new employees and new faces here,” it reads. “Please treat them with respect because their job is to ensure your safety and your health, and to ensure you are following the laws and guidelines. Please comply, if people do not comply with the rules, we will close to the public once again.”

The preserve — a salt marsh cut by tidal streams — opened on Earth Day in 1970, and became Long Island’s first Marine Nature Study Area. It is operated year-round by the Town of Hempstead’s Department of Conservation and Waterways. The area is divided into eight instruction zones that deal with different aspects of the marine environment, including aquatic and terrestrial displays. Under more normal circumstances, schools and summer camps from around Long Island frequently visit to educate their students and members and partake in guided tours.

“It gives people, not just children, but people in general a sense of what the South Shore of Long Island, the natural part, was like before it was developed,” Ned Black, the former director of the MNSA who taught biology, earth science and marine science in Oceanside schools for 50 years, told the Herald in years' past. He added that particular salt marshes are important because they produce an enormous amount of organic matter.

At each site, visual aides have been installed that describe particular topics. Subjects covered include the tides, Long Island's glacial geology, barrier beach and estuarine formations, ecology of the estuary, micro and macro algae, bird life and migration, the bay community and barrier beach fauna and flora.