By Lynn Capuano
We are fortunate to live in a community where our local government recognizes the threat of climate change and chooses to take steps to protect its residents. I will be using this space over the next few months to further publicize the Town of North Hempstead’s environmental protection and environmental sustainability programs.
The Town has several efforts under the category of “Sustainability Programs.” According to the posted mission, “[t]hese programs aim to engage and inspire residents, businesses, and municipalities, throughout the Town of North Hempstead, to participate in actions that will foster ecological balance, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and help North Hempstead adapt to a changing climate, ensuring a healthy, resilient community now and in the future.”
The activities listed as part of the Town’s sustainability program begins with Native Plants. This Town undertaking encourages resident to “[u]se native plants to beautify your property, lower your yard maintenance, and help the natural environment.” After defining native plants as “those that historically and naturally occur in an area and tolerate the climate of the local environment,” the Town’s webpage offers resources for planting native plants and lists the environmental benefits of doing so. The listed environmental benefits of planting native plants include:
1. Providing food, shelter and nesting places for pollinators, birds, small mammals and other wildlife species
2. Cleaning polluted stormwater before it reaches the groundwater Long Island residents use for drinking water
3. Absorption and retention of carbon dioxide and other air pollutants
4. Water conservation and protection because native plants require little to no irrigation once established and never need any fertilizer
The Town financially supports native plant gardens through its Native Plant Residential Rebate Program. In collaboration with the Nassau County Soil and Water Conservation District (one of 58 statewide districts), the Town reimburses residents for the cost of installing native plants in their home yards.
The native plants webpage also has a series of resource documents with information on design, maintenance and benefits of native plants. These documents are created by the Town or from the Long Island Invasive Species Management Area (one of the eight Partnerships for Invasive Species Management that work across New York to track and manage invasive species), Long Island Native Plant Initiative, Inc. (an all-volunteer cooperative effort) and ReWild Long Island (a non-profit). There is a resource sheet highlighting all the native plants one can find in Town Parks.
Finally, the webpage ends with a link to recordings of workshops on native plant and rain gardening.
A second sustainability effort by the Town is Home Sustainability Workshops. In 2022, the Town sponsored a series of three workshops covering sustainable yard care, rain gardens and gardening with native plants. All workshops were recorded and recordings are available on the webpage, https://www.northhempsteadny.gov/workshops. More information about each workshop is also available at that website.
The Town’s concern for pollinators is evident in its Protecting Pollinators promotion. This is headlined by asking residents to take the Town’s Pollinator Pledge to:
1. Reduce/eliminate use of pesticides, including insecticides, herbicides and fungicides
2. Plant a garden with native plants for pollinators that bloom from spring to fall
3. Provide bee nesting areas and caterpillar host plants
4. Manage invasive species
5. Help to educate others on the importance of protecting and providing for pollinators
6. Volunteer to help other with efforts to help pollinators
7. Register habitat on the Monarch Conservation Efforts to Map by Monarch Joint Venture
8. Participate in community science projects involving pollinators
9. Anything else a resident offers to commit to do
This year, the Town declared June 20-26 as National Pollinator week, as part of an initiative by the Pollinator Partnership. The Protecting Pollinators webpage has write-ups explaining what pollinators are, how they are in trouble and how residents can help. Suggested actions are to plant native plants, reduce or eliminate pesticide use, provide nesting habitat, provide water, reduce outdoor lighting, and participate in community science.
Several links to outside organizations involved in protecting pollinators are also provided.
There are eight more ventures under the Town’s Sustainability Program as well as efforts in other Town departments. It is encouraging to see our local government addressing these global issues and taking proactive steps to address the climate crisis.
More information on everything written about here can be found on the Town of North Hempstead’s website, https://www.northhempsteadny.gov/, and by calling the Town’s 311 information line. Please call and ask questions. Let Town elected leaders and government officials know that you support these efforts and encourage expansion of them.
Join me in commending our elected leaders and Town officials for creating these programs, funding them and maintaining them. Stay tuned for more information in the coming months on all of them.