This past Saturday, September 26, marked a special day for not only Fire Island National Seashore, but all federal lands. National Public Lands Day was a huge success with a variety of community members donating their time to help protect the parks they hold near and dear to their hearts. Fire Island National Seashore hosted a Weed, Feed, and Seed for volunteers to rejuvenate the Patchogue-Watch Hill Ferry Terminal’s Native Plant/Pollinator Garden. This vital garden serves as a natural habitat for native pollinators and is a registered Monarch Waystation with Monarch Watch. As a way to incorporate the National Park Service’s Centennial Celebration into the mix, Fire Island set a goal of 100 volunteer hours contributing to weeding and planting 100 native milkweeds.
It was amazing to see the veteran VIPs and community gardeners take the younger participants under their wing and teach them proper techniques. It was an added bonus when a monarch caterpillar and praying mantis were found during the weeding component of the project. There wasn’t a participant in the group who didn’t wish to take a peek at what their service was protecting. Every person had a sparkle in the eye, just as a kid would in a candy store. Once volunteers put on their gardening gloves the generational gap quickly closed. It didn’t matter who had the newest cell phone or what type of music they listened to, everyone was working together to better their community and planet.
When looking at the demographics of the volunteers, it was widespread. Girl Scouts, students of all ages, gardening clubs, youth from the Patchogue-Medford library, and local families all came out to support National Public Lands Day. Since Fire Island National Seashore does not charge an entrance fee, the Fee-Free Coupons were a great way to promote the Find Your Park initiative. Participants were encouraged to get out there and visit other local parks they may have overlooked in the past. One volunteer even mentioned planning a family vacation stating, “When you have a decent sized family things get expensive quickly, so this will definitely help.” As the National Park Service gears up towards its 100th anniversary it is important to see both the large and small scale impacts our parks have around the world.