By Dana Klosner
(click on photos to enlarge)
Looks like good news for those interested in restoring the Kings Park Bluff. Last Monday, representatives from the Town of Smithtown, the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historical Preservation, State Assemblyman Mike Fitzpatrick and several community associations all met to discuss the remediation plans for the Kings Park Bluff. The meeting was called by community activist Pamela Mary Schmidt who recently started a web page called, “A Voice for the Bluff.” Schmidt and her web page advocate for federal and state funding to restore the Kings Park Bluff and prevent further erosion.
“It was a highly productive meeting,” Schmidt said. “It clarified that the Bluff is part of Sunken Meadow State Park, minus a ‘dead’ area that nobody owns, apparently. All who were present agreed to pursue identification of all agency stakeholders so that a view can be established to develop a comprehensive management plan for the mouth of the Nissequogue River.”
“We have to look at the agreement with the Town of Smithtown,” said Wayne Horsley regional director of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historical Preservation. “There was an agreement with Smithtown that they would have responsibility. We don’t know what exactly those responsibilities are.”
The result of Monday’s meeting is yet another meeting that will be held in September. That meeting will involve Assemblyman Fitzpatrick, Senator Flanagan, the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation, the Army Corps of Engineers, Fish and Wildlife and all the different constituencies involved in maintaining the Bluff, Horsley said.
“We all care to restore the Bluff,” Horsley said. “Whatever decision is made, Russell Barnett (director of Smithtown’s Department of Environment and Waterways) said the public brought five or six ideas to him on how to maintain the Bluff and they are all very different.”
For Schmidt, the idea that everyone is working together to save the Bluff is very good news.
“I’ve been going to the Bluff my whole life as many of us have that live in Kings Park,” she said. “We have so many memories that define our identity. We watched the erosion and attempts at restorations efforts. We saw the devastating effects [Superstorm] Sandy had on top of years of erosion. It’s not just the effects of Sandy. Sandy just put it over the edge. I wanted to try to do something to protect what we have left. That’s why I built my Facebook page which has been getting community support via organizations and individuals.”
For the last 11 years, Schmidt has been King Park Bluff Beach Captain for the International Coastal Cleanup day.
“I wanted to advocate for funding to preserve what we have left of the Bluff.”
The funding comes from Sandy coastal resiliency grants program that’s administered by the US Department of the Interior – DOI.
“My question is why can’t the Bluff get part of that,” she said. “I want the Bluff to get part of that funding.”
“We want to reduce our community’s vulnerability to increasing occurrence of coastal storms flooding and erosion,” she said.
Schmidt questions decisions that have been made regarding the restoration of the Bluff in the past.
In June 2002 the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) agreed to approve a geotube to stabilize the Bluff, she said. A geotube is a hard structure as opposed to soft stabilization such as sand and planting. In 2003 a notice was given that a geotube would be excessive and not necessary. Later in December of 2003 a permit was granted for stabilization of the Bluff with no geotube, just soft attempts at remediation. Although the town was required to remove some boulders in order to receive the permit.
In March 2004 a grant of $112,000 was provided by the Empire State Development Corporation to regrade the slope, put plantings in and move the parking lot back.
But the erosion continued due to the fact that there was not enough hard structural remediation, plantings, some rocks and sand has not helped. All that washed away with Sandy, she said.
“This is not just about money,” she said. “It’s about preserving memories of generations, past, present and future. “
The bluff project is not Schmidt’s only passion.
Schmidt is a Special Education and English teacher at Freeport High School. She also writes curriculum for the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights and the Center for Gifted Youth at Long Island University/C.W. Post College.
Several years ago after writing curriculum for the Robert F. Kennedy Center she created a project called “The Voice of Potential.” It is an educational program that facilitates human rights education and art to promote self-sustainability between the collaboration of students in the US and children removed from exploitative labor in Nepal, Africa and Haiti.
She’s been to Haiti 10 times in the last four years. This summer will be her 11th trip to Zami-Beni Orphanage in Port Au Prince Haiti and the third trip to the Hamor Ghar Transit Home in Katmandu, Nepal with children recently removed from exploitative labor in the rug industry.
“When I return from Africa I’m going to have them [her students] do the bracelet project in all three locations,” she said.
In the bracelet project students raise awareness about the specific global issue and sell bracelets, each person who purchases a bracelet receive their name on a “drop” of water. Each drop represents one dollar. If bracelets are sold for 5 dollars each, then that person has their name written on 5 drops. The drops build a “wave” on a hallway in the school to represent Robert F. Kennedy’s “Ripple of Hope” quote stating that each individual coming together can make a difference in the world.
The project has helped to fund a Hydroponic Fish Farm at the orphanage in Africa. In Haiti it helped build a bakery and in Nepal it went to children’s education.
Schmidt’s students at Freeport High School won Newsday’s Future Corps award for selling the bracelets. The money they raised went to children rescued from exploitative labor in Nepal and to the Interfaith Nutritional Network of Freeport.
Schmidt has recently been accepted into the Doctorate program of Interdisciplinary Education at LIU/CW Post College.