2003-12-26 / Columnists

On The Bayfront

By Elisa Hinken
On The Bayfront By Elisa Hinken

A little late for a Christmas or Chanukah present, but not too late for a gift for the New Year: a gift from the environment or a gift back to the environment.

I am not one to derive great pleasure from material things. I really never was. I work hard for my money and would rather see it go to good use to help my family and others than to spend money on myself. I guess that is because I have always felt very blessed by the Lord. So when the winter holidays roll around, I try to give gifts that sustain and educate.

This year, why not give a notecard and a promise? During the cold winter we like to venture out to places we’ve enjoyed during the warmer months but crowds impeded our ability to fully enjoy our surroundings. Think of sharing these gifts with others:

A drive to the Hamptons. You can enjoy walking on the beaches and picking up whelk shells (those big snail-like shells we find on our beaches – they come up during the fall and winter months).

The Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. A host of activity is on-going of you look closely. There are lots of birds that over-winter and feed on the habitat at the refuge.

The New Year’s Walk at Fort Tilden. Look for the folks at Sandy Hook N.J. trying to send "signals" using mirrors to the folks at Fort Tilden/Breezy Point. Meet at Building 1 at Fort Tilden New Years Day, 11 AM.

Buy a light fishing pole and a herring rig and go herring fishing at Canarsie Pier in Brooklyn or Magnolia Pier in Long Beach. You may be treated to a sighting of a seal or two. They come to our waters in the colder months to feast on herring.

Visit the Coney Island Aquarium or the Atlantis Marine World in Riverhead.

Take a Coast Guard boater’s course – whether you own a boat or not. It is interesting to learn about the laws of the land – and sea.

Take a first aid and/or CPR course. If you haven’t taken one in a while, now is a great time to brush up. Call your local Red Cross or Heart Association for their schedule of classes. The local volunteer fire departments may be running a course too.

Think about all the problems we have had with beach access last year and write to your elected officials letting them know that you haven’t forgotten about the problem. Don’t wait until the warmer season before complaining.

Take a ride through one of my favorite parks, Harriman State Park, located in Rockland and Orange counties. It is the second-largest park in the state parks system, with 31 lakes and reservoirs, 200 miles of hiking trails, three beaches, two public camping areas, a network of group camps, miles of streams and scenic roads, and scores of wildlife species, vistas and vantage points. Harriman State Park’s major facilities include Lakes Welch, Sebago, Tiorati and Silvermine, the Anthony Wayne Recreation Area, Sebago Cabins and Beaver Pond Campgrounds. Even though many of the facilities are closed, there are lots of scenic drives (weather permitting). Don’t forget your binoculars. Then warm up with hot chocolate at the Bear Mountain Lodge.

Take a ride to another of my favorite places, the Fire Island Lighthouse. This lighthouse is located on the Fire Island National Seashore, stretching 32 miles from east to west. This thin barrier island is home to sand dunes and saltwater marshes, a forest of 300-year old holly trees, numerous hiking trails, the only federally-designated wilderness area in New York, abundant birds and wildlife, a working 1858 lighthouse, and sandy beaches along its entire length. Activities include sightseeing, hiking, ocean beach recreation, and wildlife-viewing; tent camping at Watch Hill, and backcountry camping in the wilderness area; and canoeing, boating, and fishing in Great South Bay, along salt marshes, and between Watch Hill and Smith Point. Interpretive programs are offered at all sites. Fire Island is one of the best places in the New York area for birdwatching. Its diverse habitats support a great variety of birds throughout the year, and it is a prime "rest stop" for birds on migration. Over 300 species of birds have been recorded on this thin strip of land, around 1/3 of all the birds found in North America! Wildlife-viewing opportunities are many, with plentiful white-tailed deer, red fox, gray squirrel, eastern cottontail rabbit, long-tailed weasel, and the black racer (a snake), and off the coast, migrating whales. Please don’t feed the deer while you are there.

Whatever you choose to do, have fun and be safe. I wish you and your families Happy Holidays and a great New Year.

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