Environment & Nature

New York State's native ladybug population, coccinella novemnotata, in major decline.

By Donna Deedy

Who doesn’t love a ladybug? Everyone seems to hold at least a certain amount of affection for the insect. So, people might find the news somewhat heartbreaking: Certain species of the
polka-dotted bug are threatened and nearly extinct in the Northeastern United States.

In 1985, the ladybug coccinella novemnotata was considered a very common insect. Its range that year is shown in the gray area of the map. The Lost Ladybug Project said that sightings east of the Mississippi have become extremely rare, as indicated by the black dots on the map. Image from The Lost Ladybug Project website.

Scientists say they don’t know precisely how or why the ladybug population has declined so rapidly in recent decades or what impact it will ultimately have on the ecosystem, but they’re asking the public to assist with their efforts to both search for the bug to document the population and to help revive the species by purchasing insects to set free.

“It’s a now or never,” said Leslie Ladd Allee, an entomologist from The Lost Ladybug Project, an affiliate of Cornell University. “If citizens act as scientists, they can help.”

If you see a ladybug, people are asked to simply upload a photo of it to The Lost Ladybug Project’s website or its app, called LLP. If you don’t see any on your own land, the project organizers consider that “zero” is still important to report. Searching can be done from May to October, with June, July and August being the best time frame. 

Over the last eight years, the project has gathered more than 40,000 pictures of different species of the ladybug from every state in the U.S. and parts of Canada and Mexico. The data is providing researchers with a more complete understanding of what’s going on. 

What they’re seeing is a rise in foreign species of the insect, such as the Asian ladybug, while some native species were feared to be eliminated, according to Dan Gilrein, an entomologist with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County.

“The New York state insect is the nine-spotted lady beetle — some people call these ladybugs which is fine, too — that was once common in the state, but no longer,” he said.

Researchers initially learned that the top three most common species of ladybugs, the nine-spotted, two-spotted and transverse, were no longer found on Long Island, or New York state or New England. 

Then in 2011, during a Lost Ladybug event sponsored by the Peconic Land Trust at Quail Hill Farm in Amagansett, volunteer participant Peter Priolo found a nine-spotted ladybug living happily on a sunflower. 

Kathy Kennedy, senior outreach manager for Peconic Land Trust, said that she’s been sponsoring a search as a citizen science activity every summer since then to connect people with nature and raise awareness about the decline in native species. 

A nine-spotted lady bug found in 2011 at Quail Hill Organic Farms in Amagansett, New York. The population of native ladybugs found at Quail Hill have been the source for The Lost Ladybug Project’s breeding program to repopulate coccinella novemnotata, a native ladybug species.

“The trust runs Quail Hill Farm organically, which we think helps to actively steward the home population of the nine-spotted variety of ladybugs,” Kennedy said.

Scientists with the ladybug project since 2011 have been raising offspring from the Amagansett colony in a lab in Ithaca. For the last few years, they’ve been selling the bugs to people in the Northeast. They hope to revive the species the same way wolf populations were reestablished in Yellowstone National Park. So far, 60 people have released ladybugs on Long Island through the program. There have been 16 locations on Long Island’s North Shore.

Families and youth groups can purchase ladybug restoration kits for $50 plus shipping from The Lost Ladybug Project. Allee said that the project loses money on each transaction but wants to keep the price affordable to encourage participation. 

The Lost Ladybug Project is supported by donations, sales and grants from the National Science Foundation. Allee said the project is underfunded, but the importance of the mission keeps the people involved motivated to continue.

“There are many kinds or species of lady beetles,” Gilrein said. “Some kinds of lady beetles are black with red spots, some have other colors like orange or yellow.” 

Some feed on aphids, some specialize on pests like mites, mealybugs or scale insects, he said. 

Many are considered beneficial, including the invasive Asian ladybug.

“Yes, they also consume aphids and other crop and garden pests,” Allee said. “Each species fills a different niche with somewhat different life cycle timing and diets.”

While some species of the insect are no longer common, the abundance of certain species, such as the seven-spotted lady beetle and the Asian ladybug concerns Allee. 

“We need to preserve the biodiversity of ladybug species,” she said. “The decline of the three lost ladybugs threatens the biodiversity of ladybugs and the stability of food webs.”

A seven-spotted lady bug eats aphids from the underside of an apple leaf. Photo from Laurie McBride

Suffolk County demonstrates new denitrifying septic systems installed in county resident's homes. Photo from Suffolk County executive’s office

Suffolk County will look to address the ongoing issue of nitrogen pollution in surface and groundwater with an ambitious plan that will look to transition away from the reliance on cesspools and septic systems. 

The Subwatersheds Wastewater Plan, which would invest $4 billion to combat nitrogen pollution, would last more than 50 years and sets a blueprint for the county to replace hundreds of thousands of old and inadequate septic systems. 

A map detailing the phases of the proposed project. Images from Suffolk County. Click for full view.

The plan sets a goal for the county to eliminate 253,000 cesspools and septic systems by replacing them with new nitrogen reducing systems or by connecting them to existing sewers. According to Suffolk health officials, approximately 74 percent of the county remains unsewered, so individual residences and businesses rely on antiquated onsite wastewater disposal systems. Studies show that about 70 percent of the nitrogen input to local bays comes from approximately 360,000 cesspools and septic systems.

“Scientists have warned that continued reliance on primitive wastewater disposal systems is a mounting threat to both our environment and our economy,” said Dr. James Tomarken, Suffolk health commissioner. “Now, for the first time, there is a long-term plan to diminish nitrogen pollution and put Suffolk County on a path to cleaner, healthier water resources.”

The SWP has highlighted more than 190 individual watershed areas in Suffolk County and established goals and recommendations for reducing nitrogen inputs into each area. If those goals are met, health officials said it will begin to reverse the decline in water quality within 10 years and bring it back to a more pristine condition.

To get that process started, officials said the county will use more than $500 million in already allocated grant sources toward the replacement of 10,000 cesspools and septic systems and expand connections to sewer systems over the next four years as part of the first phase of the plan. 

“This plan represents the first meaningful strategy to address legacy septic nitrogen pollution since countywide sewering objectives were abandoned some four decades ago,” Walter Dawydiak, director of Environmental Quality for Suffolk County, said. “In those four decades, we learned a great deal about how toxic excess nitrogen is to the ecosystem. However, we consistently failed to solve the single largest environmental health problems of our generation. Finally, we have a response plan that will restore our ecosystems and protect our drinking water.”

In the second phase of the plan, which would begin 2024, the county would look to eliminate more than 177,000 cesspools and septic systems near shorelines and high priority areas. It also recommends a requirement that cesspools and septic systems be replaced with new technology when properties change hands, or when those cesspools and septic systems fail. Officials estimate that the requirement could increase the number of cesspools eliminated from 1,000 to more than 5,000 per year. 

The third phase of the SWP will tackle all other priority areas during a 15-year period. The fourth and final phase would address the remaining areas of the county beginning in 2068.

Currently, county grants of up to $20,000 are available for residents who qualify and wish to replace their cesspool. There is also an additional state grant of up to $10,000, which can mean a total of up to $30,000. As of July 1, Suffolk County residents who voluntarily decide to replace their cesspools will need to replace them with a system consisting of a septic tank and leaching pool at a minimum, according to previous reporting by TBR News Media. Contractors will need to register the system with the Department of Health Services.

The SWP will undergo a detailed review by the county’s Council on Environmental Quality and will include an environmental impact statement which is expected sometime in mid-August, according to officials. From there, a 30-day comment period will begin, with two public hearings being scheduled.

EMBRACING THE SEASON

Gerard Romano of Port Jefferson Station snapped this beautiful photo on Aug. 3. He writes, ‘The last few weeks I have seen many butterflies, and today there was a large monarch pollinating the blossoms at Harborfront Park in Port Jefferson. I set the camera’s shutter to 6 frames a second and attempted to capture the monarch in full flight and managed to get this close.’

Send your Photo of the Week to leisure@tbrnewspapers.com

Above, Cayla Rosenhagen, Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) and Iris Rosenhagen pose for a selfie. Photo by Kyle Barr

Walking along Cedar Beach Aug. 2, one child’s foot scuffed along something that wasn’t rock or sand. Lifting it out, Sean Hoag and his father Benjamin looked down and saw a small straw. Sean sticks it in his bucket. After walking around for 10 minutes, his small bucket is nearly full to the brim with everything from pieces of plastic to cigarettes to bottle caps.

Mermaid Mist thanks Sean Hoag for cleaning up the beach. Photo by Kyle Barr

Over two days, young people like Sean helped dig out just under 8,000 pieces of litter from Cedar Beach, according to Cayla and Iris Rosenhagen, two 14-year-old twins from Selden who helped start the beach cleanup they dubbed Beach Bucket Brigade.

From when they were around 10 years old, the girls would strike out on their own to do cleanups at their local parks and beaches, but on Aug. 2 and 3, the environmentally-minded sisters took it to the next level, hosting their own Beach Bucket Brigade to help clear Mount Sinai’s premier town beach of garbage and debris. They had planned the event for little more than two months ago.

“We really love wildlife. We’ve always been interested in conservation,” said Cayla. “We’ve been interested in beach cleanups in the past, and we’ve done some ourselves, so we wanted to find a way to reach other community members.”

Both Rosenhagen sisters were involved in all parts of the project, from collecting garbage to showing a breakdown of all the trash they collected after the fact.

“Wherever we go here, there’s litter everywhere,” Iris said. “So, it’s really a beautification project, to help the environment and help the animals.” 

The 14-year-old pointed out that just in the first few minutes of holding their event, they already had many families walking around doing their part, adding, “So it’s not just us.”

The girls reached out to Town of Brookhaven town officials to help get everything set, including Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point), who said she was more than happy to oblige.

Participants walk along Cedar Beach picking up debris. Photo by Kyle Barr

“This was all on their own, and they met with Councilman [Kevin LaValle (R-Selden)] with their own agenda, their own meeting,” Bonner said. “They designed everything, all on their own.”

From a young age, the Rosenhagen twins have been infatuated with nature, especially animals, and among those, especially birds. Their mother, Raina, said before the girls could talk, they would make animal noises instead.

“They had the idea, and I just said run with it,” she said. “They took a chance on it, and we’re very pleasantly surprised it’s been well received.” 

Within a few minutes of searching, participants were already back to the main tent, handing over buckets full of debris and trash. For each bucket of trash they returned, they were given a raffle ticket in which they could win any number of ecologically-sourced and recycled toys and products. In addition to the buckets, each bucketeer was given a bingo card, where they could strike out a patch for each different type of material they found on the beach.

The day was meant to incentivize and make enjoyable the act of taking care of one’s surroundings. Local mermaid actors, Mist and Marina, came to Cedar Beach to wish the cleanup well and give “mermaid kisses and starfish wishes” to the young people who helped clean the beach.

Making taking care of the beach fun is especially important, Iris said, as she pointed out approximately 8 million tons of plastic waste are dumped into the oceans each year, while items like plastic straws and other plastic items are either ingested by marine life or otherwise harm them by being caught in gills or other parts of sea creatures.

Participants walk along Cedar Beach picking up debris. Photo by Kyle Barr

On Friday, Aug. 2, around 60 volunteers collected 3,827 pieces of litter, a majority of which was plastic, glass and cigarette butts. The following day, volunteers collected 3,885 pieces of litter, even more of which was plastic but also a heavier amount of paper products.

The sisters’ dad, Craig, said his daughters have managed to make him even more environmentally-minded than he already was, and have even volunteered to help set up another beach cleanup at Sunken Meadow State Park for him and his company.

“Most of this is just homegrown,” the father said. “They just care so much about the animals and, obviously, the planet.”

This is only the beginning for the Beach Bucket Brigade, with them already advertising additional cleanups at the beach Aug. 29 with what’s called the Beach Bucket Brigade’s Books at the Beach that involves a story time for young kids under the age of 10 then heading out to again clean the beach of litter.

“In your head, you know there’s something you can do,” Iris said.

Stock photo

By Elof Axel Carlson

Elof Axel Carlson

Wishful thinking is part of our lives. As a guide to our hopes, it often is realized and that might mean a happy marriage, a successful occupation and a healthy mind and body.  

But reality often thwarts these ideals and desires. This may be through our faults as well as by bad luck. Scientists hope for success when exploring the unknown, but they are taught not to trust wishful thinking.

In my fields of genetics and biology I have witnessed wishful thinking when science is applied to practical ends. The tobacco industry used wishful thinking for over 50 years, denying that tobacco smoke caused cancers, emphysema and heart disease. They blamed instead an unhealthy lifestyle, an unhealthy work environment or stress itself.  

Similarly, nuclear reactor companies used wishful thinking (and still do) to minimize or deny hazards of radiation except at very high doses of exposure. Most geneticists use a linear relation of dose received to gene mutations produced. They have based this on dozens of peer-reviewed publications. Wishful thinking by those who deny harm to a population from low doses of radiation include a belief that at worst small doses of radiation lead to resistance of radiation or that small doses of radiation are negated by strengthening the immune system to repair any damage done to the DNA.  

In our generation wishful thinking has appeared in discussions of severe and more numerous instances of climate change. Here, opponents of ecological response by international treaty argue that such changes are just normal responses to Earth’s cycles of warming and cooling leading to ice ages or long arid climate or that unpredictable ocean currents might shift and bring about these changing weather patterns.  

Critics of government regulations downplay the discharge of waste into rivers, lakes and oceans, and they use wishful thinking in their arguments, claiming “nature repairs itself” whether it is chopped down forests, over farmed land, open pit mining, fracking for natural gas or lands saturated with pesticides and herbicides. They call scientists raising alarm “tree huggers.”  

It would be a wonderful world if everything we did had no harmful long-lasting unintended consequences of what we do. Wishful thinking saves money and effort to prevent toxic products from entering the environment. It allows abusers to create erosion from bad practices clearing land for agriculture. It allows the discharging of massive quantities of carbon dioxide, believing a dwindling ecosystem will sop up the atmospheric carbon dioxide, producing luxuriant plant growth with massive emissions of oxygen. 

What scientists know is that environments are more complex, and we can disturb it with bad consequences for both local and global environments. The needs of 7 billion people can create substantial changes to Earth and we (thanks to wishful thinking) tend to be unaware or choose to deny such bad outcomes.   

Elof Axel Carlson is a distinguished teaching professor emeritus in the Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology at Stony Brook University.

A peek into the closed garden along Terryville Road, currently covered in weeds. Photo by Kyle Barr

Overgrown with weeds, the lone park on Terryville Road in Port Jefferson Station looks forsaken. Where students once grew plants for harvest, now the only thing cultivated there are weeds.

A peek into the closed garden along Terryville Road, currently covered in weeds. Photo by Kyle Barr

Though that could change, if local civic leaders manage to get the community involved.

“One day, I said to myself, maybe we can get this going again,” Sal Pitti, the president of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association said.

The community garden, as it’s known, is owned by the Comsewogue school district, though it has been unused for years, according to Pitti.

The civic has asked community members for aid in repairing the garden, located just north of St. Gerard Majella Church on the other side of the street. The garden already contains an existing greenhouse, planter boxes, a gazebo and shed, though they have been unused for several years.

Susan Casali, associate superintendent at Comsewogue, said the property had been taken care of in the past by the Comsewogue Youth Center for years, but suddenly ceased operations several years ago. She added the district is looking forward to having the community revitalize the small patch of greenery along Terryville Road.

“The school district is very excited to have the community revitalize the garden and we have spoken to Sal and Ed about what we can do to help make the project a success and beautify the community,” she said.

Pitti and the civic are looking for a rotating cast of aid, with the civic president saying he did not wish for “the same five people to be doing the work every two weeks.”

The garden has been mowed enough to keep the grass from getting too long, but vines currently strangle the garden’s surrounding fence. On the inside, the greenhouse stands intact along with flower boxes, but those have similarly been surrounded by weeds.

Ed Garboski, the vice president of the civic, posted to the Comsewogue Community Group Facebook page asking if any community members would be interested in volunteering. Jennifer Dzvonar, president of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber of Commerce, said she would look into ways her group could help, while Rob DeStefano, school district board member, said he would look into getting Cub Scout Pack 354 families involved in aiding the project. Other community members mentioned getting local Girl Scout troops on board as well.

While Garboski expects they will gather enough interest and volunteers for the initial cleanup, what they truly require is people dedicated to weekly maintenance.

“Our future hope is to create a location our kids can use for school-related activities of all capacities, as well as a place our senior community members may relax,” Garboski said.

Once the project is up and running, Pitti said they could potentially donate the food they produce to local churches for soup kitchens or other such outreach programs.

Those who are interested in assisting in the project can visit the civic’s website at www.PJSTCA.org and send an email with one’s information and availability.

Tree graffiti damages trees in Avalon Park. Photo by Donna Deedy

When Avalon Park & Preserve on Harbor Road in St. James and Stony Brook first opened in 2001, it welcomed on average 50 to 550 people each week. Today, during the peak seasons of spring and fall, an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 people frequent the 140-acre preserve on a weekly basis, and its popularity has become the source of a problem: protecting the integrity of the place. 

Ducklings found in Avalon park. Photo by Donna Deedy

People are carving initials into trees, walking off trails and otherwise damaging habitats.

The park is trying to find ways to instill lessons on park etiquette without becoming too obtrusive. The task, though, according to Park Director Katharine Griffiths, has become more complicated with the rising popularity of Instagram and its geo-location features. 

Foot traffic has spiked over the last five to seven years, Griffiths said, just as the phone app’s use has increased.

“We don’t do publicity or have a social media presence,” she said. People are sharing photos of themselves at the park and certain social media posts, she noticed, seem to invite trouble.

After people climbed on top an art installation on site, she said, in violation of one of the preserve’s only posted rules, other people saw the image and tried the same antic. 

In talking with other park directors, Griffiths has found that they are experiencing similar concerns with social media.

To address the problem, Griffiths is looking at the efforts of a nationwide campaign called Leave No Trace, developed by the Center for Outdoor Ethics, a nonprofit organization that is raising public awareness on how to preserve and enjoy the outdoors. 

Nine out of 10 people are uninformed about the impact they have on their environment, the center’s website states. The organization has developed seven principles that people should adopt to minimize their impact. The guidelines were founded for back-country excursions, but the center states that the approaches can be easily adapted to any park setting. Griffiths agrees.

The ideas are mainly common sense:  Properly dispose of waste, respect wildlife, be considerate of other visitors. Other principles are more nuanced and need to be more widely practiced.

Leave what you find/avoid damaging trees and plants

A major concern at Avalon centers on bark damage caused by people carving their names or initials into trees. Trees along the boardwalk at the park’s main entrance on Harbor Road in St. James at the Stony Brook Mill Pond are badly scarred. Some tree species are now suffering from disease. Griffiths said it is unlikely that the tree graffiti caused the problem. 

“But it certainly stresses trees and doesn’t help,” she said.

The park has hired park rangers 24/7, which has helped curb the issue. The problem, however, continues. 

Many of the couples who have carved their initials in hearts, Griffiths notes, are likely no longer together. The tree damage, she said, is permanent.

Stay on trails 

Avalon has carefully created meandering trails through five different wildlife habitats populated entirely with native fauna. The trails are an important part of its successful land management strategy. Straying off those trails damages vegetation or disturbs communities of organisms beyond recovery. Wildlife ecosystems are often interdependent, and when you harm one species it can cause a chain reaction. 

A Black Egret found in Avalon park. Photo by Donna Deedy

Avalon has had to incorporate fencing to rope off the nesting areas of woodland ducks, for instance, because people were venturing off its boardwalk at the park’s main entrance into the pond’s edge. Griffiths said that the park’s managers prefer to leave nature unobstructed, but the fence became essential to protect the habitat.

Dogs are welcomed at Avalon, but dog owners need to be mindful of picking up waste and keeping the animals on a leash. Frank Melville Memorial Park in Setauket, another privately owned public parkland, asks dog owners to be diligent. 

“People like that we allow pets, but its a constant challenge,” said Robert Reuter, president of Frank Melville Memorial Park. 

Respect wildlife

The center states that people should quietly observe wildlife from a distance. Do not disturb animals or plants, they say, “just to get a better look.”

Tree graffiti damages trees in Avalon Park. Photo by Donna Deedy

Lucille Betti-Nash from Four Harbors Audubon Society recommends investing in binoculars or a super-zoom camera, sometimes called a bridge camera, if people want close-up views of wildlife.

Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service park in Shirley, is dealing with similar issues. Park Director Ann Marie Chapman said that she is also trying to better educate the public. 

“The wildlife on Long Island have very few places left to go,” she said. “We should keep these public parklands pristine.”

Like Griffiths, she hopes people adopt good outdoor habits.

Carry in, carry out

“Remember we are guests,” Chapman said. “Just like when you’re visiting someone else’s home, you need to respect the surroundings when you visit parkland.” 

Suffolk County Legislator Robert Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) said that he visits and walks through Avalon once a month and has never seen a speck of garbage.

“I love the fact that there’s no garbage cans,” he said. “It forces people to carry out any trash they bring in.”

He’s looking forward to the park’s 70-acre expansion. When completed sometime next year, the park’s trails will extend to the Long Island Sound waterfront. 

“The place is heaven on earth,” Trotta said. 

Feeding Frenzy, ink, bamboo brush and pastel on canvas, by Diane Lundegaard
Diane Lundegaard reflects on life through art in latest exhibit

By Melissa Arnold

When Diane Lundegaard set off for college in the 1960s, she took business classes, dreamed of going to France and hoped to build a stable career. Those dreams would ultimately come true, but not in the way she expected. 

Diane Lundegaard

As Lundegaard marks her 70th birthday, the lifelong artist is looking back on her journey from student to teacher, environmental activist to educator at the Cold Spring Harbor Fish Hatchery & Aquarium. To celebrate, she’s put together a stunning exhibit from nearly every chapter of her life so far, on display at the Cold Spring Harbor Library now through Sept. 11.

“I had an interest in drawing from the time I was very young. It seemed like a reprieve, and a beautiful thing to enter into,” said the Dix Hills resident. “My mother loved to paint, and with eight children at home, she only truly relaxed when she was painting. That inspired me.”

As a teen, Lundegaard would wander around her Deer Park neighborhood and the surrounding areas with a sketchbook, drawing houses and horses with a ballpoint pen, and the marshes of Babylon in charcoal. She went on to pursue a business degree at Staten Island College, and in 1967 she had the opportunity of a lifetime: a school trip to Paris.

“I didn’t have the money to travel all of France with my friends, so instead I stayed in Paris for the entire trip,” Lundegaard said. “I spent a lot of the time sketching the cathedrals and statues I could see from the room where I was staying.”

It was also in Paris where she had a chance meeting with a young man from Denmark named Hans who would capture her heart. The pair exchanged letters for several years before marrying in Copenhagen when Lundegaard was just 20. 

‘Near the Tidal Raceway’

Later, Lundegaard studied art history, education and social studies at Stony Brook University, where she received both a bachelor’s of fine arts and a master’s degree. She launched a successful writing career covering art as a freelancer in publications including Sunstorm Art Magazine, Newsday and the New York Times, ultimately becoming an art teacher at the East Woods School in Oyster Bay.

Along the way, the educator studied under the new realist painter Bill Beckman and later had the opportunity to study Asian techniques with May Wong Moy, a distinguished brush painter. 

Outside of the classroom, she continued to draw and paint but admitted she struggled to find her own personal style of artistic expression. 

In 2005, a sudden layoff forced Lundegaard to search for a new career. She found renewed fulfillment in pursuing her other great passion: helping the environment. 

Lundegaard first developed an interest in environmental activism when, as a young mother, she grew concerned with plans to build a massive, multitown resource recovery plant adjacent to the former Pilgrim State Hospital. She later became involved with local civic and environmental efforts, including a federal water study. 

In 1982, she received the Coastal Barrier Resources Act Commendation from the National Wildlife Federation.  

Her commitment to the environment and love of teaching made for a natural fit at the hatchery, where she started working as an educational assistant in 2005.

The artist with artwork from the exhibit

The hatchery would also provide Lundegaard with the artistic inspiration and unique voice she’d always longed for.

“Working at the hatchery, I got to study pond life up close on a daily basis, and learned to draw and paint what I was seeing,” she said. “I feel that undersea art hasn’t been tapped into fully in the fine art world simply because people don’t often get to see what’s under there, if at all. But the hatchery allows me to visualize aquatic habitats and creatures from a perspective that most people don’t have regularly.”

The Asian technique of painting with a bamboo brush on rice paper works especially well for underwater scenes, the artist said. Her experience with the perils affecting the local environment made painting aquatic life deeply personal and meaningful.

“One of my goals for creating art is to share a concern for protecting aquatic environments. Painting expresses the beauty of nature so well,” she said. “I also hope to touch people’s hearts and make them want to become proactive in helping the environment, even if it’s in small ways. It’s a terrible thing to see people and animals that are suffering because of harm to the environment, and beauty is a wonderful way to open people’s eyes.”

Titled Looking Back, Looking Ahead, A Retrospective of Paintings, the exhibit will feature 39 pieces of Lundegaard’s artwork, from childhood scribbles to the cathedrals in Paris and contemporary work from the hatchery.

The Cold Spring Harbor Library has hosted Lundegaard’s work in previous solo and group exhibits, and it is glad to welcome her back, said adult program director Kathy Olsen.

“We like to promote environmental awareness here at the library, so Diane’s exhibit fits well with that goal,” Olsen said. “I took my children to the hatchery many times when they were small. It’s a very interesting place, and we’re pleased that Diane is calling attention to their work. From simple line drawings to colorful, impressionistic paintings, there’s a little something for everyone to enjoy.”

A portion of the sales from Lundegaard’s exhibit will benefit the hatchery’s new Turtle Pond area, said hatchery director Steve DeSimone.

“Diane has been such an asset to us here at the hatchery. We are excited to celebrate her and her artwork,” DeSimone said. “ It has been a pleasure to watch how the fish hatchery and aquarium environments have taken on new interpretations through Diane’s beautiful work.”  

See Diane Lundegaard’s retrospective exhibit now through Sept. 11 at the Cold Spring Harbor Library, 95 Harbor Road, Cold Spring Harbor. For hours and information, call 631- 692-6820, ext. 202 or visit www.cshlibrary.org. View more of Lundegaard’s artwork at www.lakeartstudiopaintings.com. For information about the hatchery, visit www.cshfishhatchery.org. 

All photos courtesy of Diane Lundegaard

Above, Carl Zorn with two of the plaques overlooking Conscience Bay. Photo by Leah Chiappino

By Leah Chiappino

Visitors to Frank Melville Memorial Park in Setauket have Eagle Scout Carl Zorn to thank for the new informational plaques that have been installed among the tranquil scenery. They include a general welcome sign detailing the history of the park’s founding and species that occupy it and two additional signs detailing the ecology of estuaries and watersheds. The welcome sign is located at the entrance to the park, and the other two signs are located side by side near the second bridge overlooking Conscience Bay. 

A new plaque welcomes visitors to the park. Photo by Leah Chiappino

Zorn, who has been a Boy Scout since first grade, chose to design informational signage for the park as his Eagle Scout Leadership Project because he wanted to do something that would have a lasting impact on the community. “I wanted something where if I moved to a different state and came back here to visit, I could look at it and say that I did that,” he said. The Scouting organization also fostered a love of nature in Zorn who described his childhood as “always being outdoors and camping with the Boy Scouts and my family.”

After getting the idea from a family friend in July, the Setauket resident began his project last September and completed it in early February.

As the Frank Melville Park Foundation, along with the Zorn family, donated the funds for the materials, most of Zorn’s time completing the project was spent researching the content for the plaques. He admits the start of the project was overwhelming. “At first, I had no idea what to do or how to learn about the wildlife here, ” he explained. 

Kerri Glynn, director of education for the park, stepped in to assist Zorn in gathering the information for the plaques with the hope they would help people become more environmentally aware. “I hope people come to understand the fragility of the ecosystem. Many people come to the park and think it is lovely, but they don’t understand the ecology of it,” she said.

Zorn consulted with Town of Brookhaven historian Barbara Russell in order to highlight the unique history of the park, which was built by Ward Melville and donated by his mother Jennie as a memorial to her husband Frank Melville in 1937. “Essentially it’s private land for public use,” she said. 

A community treasure, the 26-acre park features two ponds, an estuary and woodlands. On any given day, visitors can see swans, deer, songbirds, turtles, herons and wood ducks as they stroll along shaded paths past a simulated grist mill and a 20th-century barn. The park and its buildings are included on the National Register of Historic Places.

Local environmentalist and conservation chair of the Four Harbors Audubon Society, John Turner, also assisted Zorn with his research, and highlighted the importance of education on watersheds, or land in which below-ground water feeds into a water source. 

“People live work and play above their water supply. The quality of the waters in the aquifers underneath the Long Island surface are affected directly and intimately by the activities that we conduct on the land surface, so a clean land policy means a clean water policy,” he explained. 

From left, Andrew Lily, Joe Pisciotta, Andrew Graf, Carl Zorn, Aiden Zorn (in forefront), Tim Petritsch and Mark Muratore at the installation in February. Photo by Steve Hintze

Turner called Zorn’s project “well-conceived and well-executed.” He also praised the park’s board of trustees, as well as the park’s president, Robert Reuter, for recognizing the value of the project. “You have a captive audience in the park, but up until now there was limited information. [These plaques] have taken advantage of that captive audience to try to instill a greater appreciation and awareness of the resources around them,” he said.

After gathering the information and submitting several drafts for approval by the board, Zorn then had the task of designing the signs, with pictures provided by the park. He found a sign company, Fossil Industries in Deer Park, to make the signs, a process that took about three months. He then focused on configuring the specific intricacies of the project, such as the location, and making sure the signs were low enough to be at eye level for children but still readable to adults. 

Weather also delayed the installation, as the ground would freeze. Once the signs were finished, Zorn along with eight other Boy Scouts joined together in order to install them. 

Reuter praised Zorn’s work ethic and the final result, calling the project “a long and thorough process and a real achievement.” Russell also added praise for the finished product. “He did a wonderful job. There’s a nice combination of the history and environmental facts affecting the park [on the signs],” she added. Zorn was equally pleased with the results. “This is exactly what I wanted in an Eagle Scout project and I got it,” he said.

The 18-year-old recently graduated from Ward Melville High School and will attend Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, in the fall as a music business major, combining his passion for music with his ambition to work for the Disney Corporation.

However, according to Reuter, as Zorn wished, the plaques will have a lasting impact on the community. “Frank Melville Memorial Park is now enriched with really useful and attractive interpretive signs that inform park visitors about the park’s history and environment. But, don’t take my word for it — go see for yourself.” 

Frank Melville Memorial Park is located at 1 Old Field Road in Setauket. For more information, call 631-689-6146 or visit www.frankmelvillepark.org.

A ship Orsted plans to use to transport the wind turbines. Photo from SKDKnickerbocker

1,700 megawatts.

That’s enough to power 1 million homes from offshore wind farms to be located off the East End and South Shore of Long Island, or at least that is what New York State officials are hoping for. It’s part of signed contracts with two offshore wind power ventures, looking to set a path toward a statewide carbon-free electricity system in another 20 years.

Port Jefferson could soon become a big part of that.

Announced back in April, one of the wind power projects, whose contract was approved by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) July 18, plans to open a headquarters for their joint venture wind project right in Port Jefferson.

The project, dubbed Sunrise Wind, is being headed up by Denmark-based Ørsted, partnering with Massachusetts-based energy company Eversource. The miles of wind turbines set 30 miles east of Long Island are expected to produce 880 megawatts.

“We will lead the way in developing the largest source of offshore wind power in the nation,” Cuomo said during his speech. “We have committed to building 9,000 megawatts of wind power capacity, and we start today by designating companies to build two offshore wind farms for a combined total of 1,700 megawatts of clean energy.”

The Port Jefferson Power Station was in operation during winter cold periods as well as recent heat waves. Photo by Kyle Barr

Cuomo, also joined on stage in Manhattan by former Vice President Al Gore (D), signed on for miles of ocean off the South Shore to be used by Norway-based Equinor’s project Empire Wind which will provide 816 megawatts. This is to work alongside the Ørsted-Eversource project.

Ørsted and Eversource looked to Port Jefferson’s deep harbor as a means of loading and unloading boats making the long trip off the South Shore to make repairs on the wind turbines.

This would become the nation’s largest offshore wind power agreement in U.S. history, though the state has already awarded approximately 4,700 megawatts in renewable energy contracts since March 2018, according to a release from the governor’s office. Collectively, the combined output of renewable energy resources is expected to power nearly 10 percent of New York state homes by 2025.

What this means for Port Jefferson

When Ørsted and Eversource announced its original bid for the state contracts April 3, representatives of the companies said they expected the hub venture to produce around 100 jobs, plus temporary construction jobs while the project is being built. The headquarters and maintenance facility for the project could be run out of Port Jefferson Harbor.

Port Jefferson village Mayor Margot Garant said when approached back in April, the project managers explained service boats will use the village’s harbor and use the pier owned by National Grid. The 35 employees would come through on a two- to three-week basis, loading materials and provisions onto the vessels which would be the ones to travel out and do repairs on the propellers, staying out in the ocean for weeks at a time.

“I think it strengthens our harbor — it strengthens our site in terms of being a partner with Cuomo’s energy plan,” the mayor said. “Any time you can put your community on the map with the state, that it’s a good thing.”  — Mayor Margot Garant 

State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) said he has emphasized Port Jefferson’s deep water harbor as a hub for wind energy for years. He sees the Sunrise Wind project as a testbed for Atlantic-based wind energy. Now, he has a grand design in mind, of Port Jeff becoming a model and a wind energy headquarters for the Eastern Seaboard.

“They’re pioneering a project — the first offshore wind project of this scale for the entire Atlantic coast,” he said.

A spokesperson for the Ørsted and Eversource project said the company did not have anything yet to say on specifics relating to Port Jefferson as a hub for the wind farm, and instead referred to existing press releases about the project.

In talks about a land-based location for offices or warehouses, Garant told project managers they may need to look for space close by, but they would be hard pressed to come across thousands of square feet of space like that within village limits.

But with all the talk of green energy, the question of the Port Jefferson power station’s validity remains. The LIPA-owned plant, which recently settled in a tax certiorari agreement with the Town of Brookhaven over its tax assessments, has been running at low percentages for the past several years. It was only 11 percent in 2017, for example. LIPA has said the reduction in taxes may help move the plant toward a clean energy recourse but has not provided more details on what that could entail.

The recently passed state Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act calls for a transition to a carbon-free electric grid for New York by 2040. In response to a query, a LIPA spokesperson said the Port Jefferson power plant will be more than 70 years old by 2030. LIPA has already decommissioned fossil-fuel power plants in Far Rockaway and Glenwood Landing.

“The 880-megawatt Sunrise Wind project will be a key new source of carbon-free electricity for Long Island when it becomes operational in 2024,” said Michael Deering, LIPA director of customer service oversight and stakeholder relations.

Englebright, the chair of the state Assembly’s environmental conservation committee, said that in order to hit milestones of clean energy, plants like Port Jefferson’s will need to be phased out to make way for more renewable energy. He added that LIPA has for now been keepings its options open when it comes to future use of the plant.

“The people in Port Jeff are in need of a respite from fossil fuels and a declining plant,” the assemblyman said.

Garant said she does hope the plant remains viable into the next several years, adding it still sees use, with the stacks flaring up again as people turned on air conditioners during recent heat waves, though she looks forward to what the future may bring.

“As the world changes, things are going to change,” she said.