My name is Nicole Goloff and I am the CVA for Fire Island National Seashore (FINS). FINS protects a 26 mile section of Fire Island. Fire Island is a barrier island, meaning that it is separated from Long Island by the Great South Bay. To get to any of the five different Fire Island National Seashore locations there are multiple options. You can take a vehicle over a bridge to Robert Moses State Park and drive to the Fire Island National Seashore Light House, which used to be the end point of Fire Island many years ago. This old and beautiful structure is maintained and run almost entirely by park volunteers and the Fire Island Lighthouse Preservation Society. Each yeah this park has the highest visitation.
You also can drive to the Watch Hill Ferry Terminal in Patchogue and then take a ferry to Watch Hill, or you can take the Sayville Ferry terminal to Sailors Haven. Both of these locations can only be reached by boat. Talisman, which is another Seashore location, does not have a visitor center, and can only be reached by private boat since there is no designated ferry that runs to that site. Accessible by car is the eastern entry to Otis Pike Fire Island High Dune Wilderness, one of the more special FINS protected areas because it is the only federally designated wilderness in New York State (and also one of the smallest in the system!). The William Floyd Estate, located in Mastic Beach on mainland Long Island, is a compelling historical site that was added as a unit to the Fire Island National Seashore by the National Park Service because it was home to one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and showcases over 8 generations of Floyd family life on Long Island.
The most unique part about the National Seashore, is that there are 17 private communities within the boundaries of Fire Island National Seashore. The history of Fire Island is long and interesting, but the seashore became established as a unit of the National Park Service in 1964. Fire Island National Seashore is home to a globally rare forest and variety of wild life. The holly maritime forest is best represented in the Sunken Forest at Sailors Haven. There are only two locations in the world (including Fire Island’s) of this forest. Each and every day I see and discover something new about the island that I had not known already. Just recently, I had the opportunity to see the eastern box turtle and a red fox.
On one of my first days as an intern, I was able to attend a horseshoe crab night program at the Fire Island Light house. This program is one of the many informative and fun events that have been scheduled for the summer season. Ranger Dave gave a short lecture on horseshoe crabs. I held the crab up to show the audience the unusual underside of the crab as he explained the sea-creatures significance and importance to the ocean ecosystem and our everyday lives. These sea-creatures are related to spiders, and the species has have been around for over 300 million years. They come ashore every year during high tides mid-May and mid-June, and especially during full moons and new moons, to mate and lay eggs. The goal of this program was to bring the public to the bay side of the beach in hope of witnessing horseshoe crabs mating on the shore. Although no horseshoe crabs were on the shore yet, the sunset view was so spectacular that most people stayed on the beach for a while just to take it all in and snap photos.
I left that night disappointed, but then was excited to witness this phenomenon on the next evening. On June 19th, a couple interns and I were able to assist Ranger Pat, on a public solstice hike to the breach, located about 1.5 miles down from the visitor center at the Otis Pike Fire Island High Dune Wilderness.
A breach is a break in the land that allows free exchange of ocean and bay waters. Breaches can occur during strong storms, such as Hurricane Sandy as this one was. Upon reaching the breach, I witnessed something that I had never seen in my life before, tons of horseshoe crabs all along shore mating! I finally got to see what everybody was talking about, and it really was such a cool experience for myself and all of the hikers.
In just just a few days, I had already experienced so many amazing things at FINS. The natural beauty of this land is certainly something that must be actively preserved today, and continued to be preserved in the future. I am proud to tell people about all that FINS and the Student Conservation Association are doing to help guide the active protection the nature on this seashore.
I have also helped out at Heckscher State Park with Ranger Dave at an ecofriendly outdoor festival, where we informed the public about many programs that were scheduled at FINS for the summer. I was also trained for two days on canoe paddling techniques and safety on how to conduct the free guided canoe tours through the salt marsh that go on every Saturday and Sunday at Watch Hill. The Division of Interpretation at FINS is passionate about being out in the field and being educated on each site and sharing it all with the public. I am very thankful to have had the opportunity to work at almost every site so far. There is still so much going on this summer and I am excited and eager to become involved in the great work that FINS does for its visitors. I will continue to be grateful for this amazing opportunity that I have to work under the Student Conservation Association, AmeriCorps, and the National Park Service. Stay tuned!