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West Meadow Beach

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Rain may have postponed some fun Aug. 7, but the next day, more than 400 attendees at the Three Village Chamber of Commerce Community Family BBQ made up for it on the Aug. 8 rain date.

It was the chamber’s 19th barbecue held at West Meadow Beach where members and residents played games, had the chance to win raffle prizes donated by local businesses and enjoyed music as well as catering from David Prestia of Bagel Express. Children also had the chance to get their face painted. All proceeds from the raffle tickets sold at the barbecue went to Ronald McDonald House at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital.

Michael Ardolino, president emeritus, said the barbecue ended with a beautiful sunset that was created by a storm coming over the Sound as the sun was going down. Fortunately, the barbecue was over before another rain event hit the area.

BALANCE CHALLENGE

Grace Tesoriero of Port Jefferson snapped this balance challenge photo of her daughter Kristen, son-in-law Connor and grandchildren Gracie and Jacob at West Meadow Beach in Stony Brook while they were up visiting from Delaware in July. She writes, ‘I snapped the picture just in time as right after the challenge was no longer balance, but dusting off a lot of sand!’

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Stock photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Before the summer ends, go to the beach and close your eyes. Most of us are visually dominant, so we go somewhere like West Meadow Beach and look at everything from the boats and ferries out on the Long Island Sound to the young children running back and forth in and out of the water to the light sparkling across the waves.

While all of those are spectacular sensory stimuli, they are only a part of experiences we might otherwise take for granted at a local beach. Our ears can and do pick up so many seasonal cues. We might hear a seagull calling from the top of a bathroom hut to birds flying along the shore. Apart from the music that emanates from phones and radios along the crowded beach, we can hear the wind rustling through umbrellas, the sound of a young couple laughing about the ridiculous thing their friend did the night before, or the splashes a skimming rock makes as it gets farther away from shore. On a day with limited visibility, we can listen to boats calling to each other with their deep horns.

Our skin is awash in cues. As clouds float overhead, we appreciate the incredible temperature difference between the sun and the shade. Combined with a sudden gust of wind, our skin feels unexpectedly cool as we wait for that same wind to escort the cloud away. We take off our shoes and allow our feet, which carry the rest of our bodies hither and yon, to appreciate other textures. We dig our toes into the warm sand and lift our heels, allowing the grains of sand to trickle back to join their granule brethren.

We walk to the edge of the water and feel as if we’ve left the office, the shop, the lawn or the screaming kids far away. The lower water temperature draws away the heat that’s built up inside of us. If the surf kicks up, we can slide into the soft sand, sinking up to our ankles in the moistness.

Our feet can appreciate the fixed ripples on a sandbar that are smooth, soft and uneven.

As we walk up the beach, we can test the ability of our soles to manage through rocks often smoothed over by years of wave and water. We bend our knees more than normal to cushion the impact of a hard or uneven rock.

Our noses anticipate the beach before we leave the house. We lather coconut-scented sunscreen on our bodies and across our faces. As we get closer to the beach, we may pick up the marshy whiff of low tide. When we pull into a hot parking lot, the sweet and familiar ocean spray fills our lungs.

Once we’re swimming, our taste buds recognize the enormous difference between the waters of the Sound and a chlorinated pool. When we leave the sea, we head to the warm blanket or towel to partake of foods we associate with the beach, like the sandwiches we picked up at the deli on the way over, the refreshing iced tea or the crispy potato chips.

We saunter over to the ice cream truck, looking at a menu we’ve known for years. While we scan the offerings, we lick our lips and imagine the taste of the selections, trying to get those small bumps on our tongues to help us with the decision. We know how fortunate we are when the most difficult decision we have to make resolves around choosing the right ice cream to cap off a day that reminds us of the pleasures of living on Long Island.

THE MOON AND NEST

Jay Gao of Stony Brook captured this incredible image at West Meadow Beach with a Nikon D750 on May 16. He writes, ‘It was in the late afternoon, and  a full moon was rising  while the sun was  setting on the Sound.  I was amazed to notice that the moon was sitting on the top of the osprey nest like a huge egg.  In no time, the raptor came back to the nest and I took the shot.’

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West Meadow Beach at low tide. Photo by Beverly C. Tyler

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

If you ever move away from Long Island, you may find relief and a longing.

The relief could take many forms. For starters, you may find a place with magnificent sidewalks that allows you to walk for miles without needing to step out into the road. Yes, there are such places, although they are mostly in urban environments, where you can watch people, find restaurants and not just bars that are open at all hours, and where you can shift from one ethnic neighborhood to another within a few blocks.

You may also find road relief, as people in other places may allow you to merge readily, may move at a different pace, and may smile and wave at you as you pass them while they are on their lawns, walking their dogs, throwing a ball with their daughters or sitting on a rocking chair on their front porches, appreciating the flow of human and avian traffic that passes by their houses.

You also may not miss the delays at the airports or the train stations, as you wonder if you’ll make it to the job interview, the meeting, the wedding or the date on time when construction, lane closures, accidents, sun glare or road flooding slow everything around you to a stop or a crawl.

You might also find yourself relieved that the delis — if you can find ones you like outside of Long Island — are much quieter, as people in other regions may not be as compelled to raise the decibel level in public to outcompete each other for stories or to place their turkey club orders.

But, then, you might also find yourself missing some key ingredient of Long Island life. There are plenty of landlocked places you can visit that have wonderful lakes, rivers and streams, but how many of them truly have Long Island’s magnificent and varied beaches?

You might miss sitting on a bluff in Port Jefferson and staring out at the harbor or looking through the channel into Long Island Sound. You might miss the chance to visit your favorite rocky beach on the North Shore, where you can walk slowly along, looking for the perfect skimming rocks, recalling the days decades ago when your grandfather taught you how to use surface tension to make a rock bounce its way far from shore.

You might miss the toughness of feet so accustomed to the uneven rocks that you pause momentarily when you see someone struggling to navigate them, remembering that you once found these rocks hard to cross as well.

You might miss the wonderful intertidal zone, which at low tide allows you to wander across rippled and water-cooled sand far from shore.

You might also miss winter beaches, where winds whip along the abandoned dunes and where, if a cold snap lasts long enough, you can see the top layer of water frozen as it heads toward shore.

If you ever took advantage of the myriad cultural and scientific opportunities on Long Island, you might also miss spectacular performances at the Staller Center, lectures and symposia at Stony Brook University, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory or Brookhaven National Laboratory.

You might also miss the farms or vineyards on the East End, where you can admire the way rows of vines, trees or grass expand out from the road.

You might also miss the secrets hidden beneath the surface of the water. If you’ve ever had the opportunity to snorkel at Flax Pond or at a beach, you know that magnificent creatures — arthropods that live on yellow sponges and look like ancient creatures under a microscope — populate a completely different world that is within surprisingly easy reach.

The Town of Brookhaven began a capital improvements project at West Meadow Beach March 18. Photos by Rita J. Egan

While some residents are dieting and exercising in anticipation of the summer, a town beach is getting a makeover of its own.

Suffolk County plans to have a walking trail, dotted line in Old Field Farm that will wrap around West Meadow Creek and end at the beach. Photo from Kara Hahn’s office

The Town of Brookhaven will temporarily close the parking lot of West Meadow Beach in Stony Brook until Memorial Day weekend, May 25-27, according to a press release from the Town of Brookhaven Parks, Recreation and Sports and Cultural Resources Department. On March 18, the town began work on new curbs, sidewalks, plantings and pavilion renovations as part of the town’s parks capital improvement program. During the parking lot closure, residents will be permitted to park along Trustees Road.

Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said the work will address necessary repairs to maintain the park that she called “cherished” by the community.

“West Meadow Beach is not only a beautiful, relaxing recreation location, but also an environmental marvel,” Cartright said. “Each year, I work with the Parks Department to continue my commitment to making improvements at West Meadow Beach.”

In 2017, the town refurbished the bathrooms’ interiors and exteriors and added new outdoor shower pedestals and a lifeguard tower, according to Ed Morris, town parks commissioner.

In the near future, Suffolk County will begin work at Old Field Farm to create a walking path that will lead to the beach, according to Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket). She said the goal is to finish the trail by Memorial Day.

Hahn said there will be a pedestrian entrance on West Meadow Road on the eastern side of the farm, and the trail will run along the creek and come out on Trustees Road before visitors enter the walking section of the path. She said she’s excited about the location due to the beautiful views of the creek and historic farm.

“This is part of my efforts to make our public lands accessible to our community for recreational and respite enjoyment,” she said.

In the past, the legislator has spearheaded initiatives for a parking lot and walking path at Forsythe Meadow Woods County Park in Stony Brook and a parking lot at McAllister County Park in Belle Terre.

The Old Field Farm trail will be closed during the six horse shows that take place at the location throughout the year so as not to disturb the horses; however, the park will be open for the public to enjoy.

For more information about the town’s capital improvement project at West Meadow Beach, residents can call 631-451-8696.

3 monarch butterflies at West Meadow Wetlands Reserve

By Teresa Dybvig

We almost missed the stunning sight — hundreds of monarch butterflies in one place at our very own West Meadow Beach, or to be more precise, the West Meadow Wetlands Reserve.

 If you have walked along the beach recently, you’ve probably noticed the field of seaside goldenrod (Solidago sempervirens) lighting up the edge of the dunes all the way down the beach. 

On Thursday, Oct. 4, my husband and I happened to turn away from the water to gaze at the goldenrod glowing in the late daylight. As we approached, we saw hundreds — probably thousands — of buzzing bees and wasps on the flowers. Then we saw a flash of orange, then another, and another. To our astonishment, everywhere we looked, we could see up to 10 monarch butterflies without turning our heads!

We returned on Sunday with a camera and more time. Walking steadily down about a third of the beach, we counted 144 monarchs! I’m sure there were many more; the field is so deep we couldn’t see every flower, and when monarchs fold their wings to eat, they are as thin as a blade of grass from the front. And we didn’t even get to two-thirds of the field. I’m not exaggerating when I say there were, literally, hundreds of monarchs on the beach that day.

 If you have ever seen a monarch butterfly, you know it is gorgeous. It also has a jaw-dropping multigenerational migratory life cycle. The monarchs feasting on the goldenrods at West Meadow are fueling up to fly 2,700 miles to Mexico, at an average rate of 25 to 30 miles per day. Some have already traveled great distances to get here. 

This generation of monarchs is sometimes called the “supermonarch” because it’s the only generation strong enough to make the trip, overwinter on a cool, damp Mexican mountaintop, and fly north again to lay eggs in the earliest-growing milkweed in the southern U.S. before its life comes to an end. The eggs laid by the supermonarchs will grow into monarchs who will fly north and repeat the process, living only two to five weeks. 

The next supermonarchs are the offspring of the offspring of the previous generation of supermonarchs. Sometimes they are the offspring of the offspring of the offspring. So no monarch flying to Mexico has ever made the trip before. Yet thousands of generations have made the journey. 

 Our eastern monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus is in a heartbreakingly steep and dangerous decline. For every 10 monarchs in the sky two decades ago, there are now only two. Researchers estimate that this species could be extinct within 20 years. If the monarch ceases to exist, we humans will have been the cause.  

Monarchs are in danger because of human activities. We have cut down the trees monarchs require to overwinter in Mexico, we have killed milkweed that is critical for monarch caterpillars by spraying fields and their peripheries with herbicides like Round-up, we have paved over land where monarchs used to fuel up on nectar for their spectacular fall migration to Mexico, and we have contributed to changes in weather that can render the monarch’s route dangerous.

 But we humans have also been working to help the monarch stay in the skies. People in Mexico are growing trees to replace the ones that were cut. Government agencies and ordinary citizens in the U.S. and Canada are planting milkweed in reserves and home gardens.  And we are planting more fall-blooming native plants to fuel the long migration to Mexico.

 This is where West Meadow Wetlands Reserve comes in! The seaside goldenrod there is one of the primary foods for monarchs migrating south. The wildflower’s blooming season is relatively short, so if you want to see the miracle in action, keep a lookout next fall in late September and early October. 

Walk past the left end of the swimming area until you see the shining field of yellow flowers. Stand facing it for about a minute, and you will see a flash of orange, then another, and another. “We did this,” you can say to yourself. Our community. We set aside land for these flowers to grow, and they are helping these amazing creatures stay in the sky.

The author is a resident of Stony Brook.

SPARKLING SUNSET

Pamela Murphy of Stony Brook took this serene sunset picture at West Meadow Beach on Aug. 5 on her iPhone. She writes, “I never tire of gazing and capturing on film the sunsets we are privileged to enjoy at this jewel in our community. The brilliant saturation of colors, in addition to the way the sun was reflecting on the water leading right up to the shoreline, was beautiful to behold.”

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Girl Scout Lauren Reitano, second from right, before installing monofilament recycling receptacles at West Meadow Beach with environmental educator, Nicole Pocchiare; Robyn Reitano and Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine. Photo from Town of Brookhaven

A local Girl Scout’s project has been a golden opportunity to help make one beach a little bit cleaner and safer.

Lauren Reitano, a Girl Scout with Troop 2547 in Centereach, installed two monofilament recycling receptacles at West Meadow Beach Aug. 7 for her Gold Award project. The award is the highest a Girl Scout can achieve, and the project challenges high school students to identify and solve a community problem.

Lauren Reitano with one of the receptacles installed at West Meadow Beach. Photo from Lauren Reitano

Reitano, 16, said she knew her undertaking would involve West Meadow Beach. She said she visits the Town of Brookhaven beach frequently and notices people leaving fishing lines behind. She decided to install the durable plastic receptacles made of polyvinyl chloride pipes at the town beach to provide a place for fishers to properly discard their fishing lines.

“A beach cleanup is great, but that’s not going to last,” the soon-to-be senior at Centereach High School said.

Reitano said the receptacles, which are located at the beginning of the nature path when entering from the parking lot, look like candy canes, and fishers can place lines in the top part of it. Every other week she will go to the beach to empty them, and in the future she can pass the project down to a younger Scout.

The Girl Scout said Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) stopped by the beach while she was installing them and chatted with her about the project.

“Installing the monofilament receptacles is doing a great service to the environment and protecting the wildlife in and around the water,” Romaine said in a statement. “Fishing line is one of the most frequent and hazardous forms of marine debris, and I thank Lauren for helping to prevent more plastics from getting into our waterways.”

To begin her project, Reitano sat with Brookhaven environmental educator Nicole Pocchiare who walked her through all the steps of the project, which involved working with the town to get approval for placement of the containers. Reitano said while the process with the town took a few months, the actual construction and installing of the receptacles was about a half-hour each. On Aug. 7, she spent approximately two hours at the beach with her mother and Pocchiare finding the ideal spots and measuring for proper placement.

“Installing the monofilament receptacles is doing a great service to the environment and protecting the wildlife in and around the water.”

— Ed Romaine

As they were completing the installation, Reitano said a bicyclist thanked them and told her he witnessed people handling discarded lines and hooks getting cut by the hooks.

“It’s dangerous for people and animals as well because when it gets in the water, it can strangle them,” Reitano said.

Her mother, Robyn, who is a co-leader with Troop 2547, said she was proud of her daughter, who is usually quiet, being persistent enough to get the job done by going through the proper channels with the town for approval and waiting for a response.

“It makes me feel good as a life lesson
because she was able to really see it through,” the mother said.

Lauren Reitano said Girl Scouts should choose something they are interested in when looking to earn a Gold Award because the project can take some time.

“If you really don’t have an interest in what you’re doing, then it’s going to drag on,” she said. “If you have an interest in the topic — like I have an interest in the beach and the environment — it’s going to be super fun.”

Sun, food and fun were on the agenda at West Meadow Beach in Setauket.

The Three Village Chamber of Commerce hosted its annual family barbecue at the town beach Aug. 8. Bagel Express was on hand to serve the food, and the store’s owner Dave Prestia donated all the hamburgers and hot dogs. Attendees had a chance to win a variety of raffle prizes, and the Stony Brook Rotary provided a golf simulator.

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) and Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) joined residents at the barbecue which has been an annual tradition of the chamber for nearly 20 years.

For more information about the Three Village Chamber of Commerce, visit www.3vchamber.com.