The following is a guest post written by Chris Clapp. Chris is an estuary specialist working with The Nature Conservancy on Long Island. He works with the coastal and marine teams leading research to find the causes and possible solutions to sea grass losses, restoring shellfish populations, and engaging other partners and agencies in Offshore Marine Planning. On Nov. 6, 2011, he’s running the ING New York City Marathon with Team Nature. Help him protect Long Island’s wetlands and coasts by making a donation on Crowdrise.
On Nov. 6, when I cross the starting line at the ING New York City Marathon, I’ll be running for nature on Long Island.
When most people think of Long Island, New York they imagine non-stop strip malls, bumper-to-bumper traffic, and Levittown developments in which each house is nearly identical street after street.
But I see a different Long Island.
Yes there is traffic. Yes there are strip malls. And yes there is way more sprawling development in general than there probably should be. However, if you get beyond all of that and take a few moments to get off of a main road and wander around you find yourself wondering where in fact you really are.
I was fortunate to grow up in a family that knew how to enjoy what was around them. For local kids like myself that meant impossibly long days on beaches, either on picturesque Long Island Sound with its gravelly shores, crumbling bluffs, and amazing sunsets; or on the Atlantic Ocean beaches, which stretch on and on as far as the eye can see. In fact, there was a beautiful tidal creek and marsh system near my home. At West Meadow Creek, I could jump in a tube and ride the tide out into Long Island Sound, gazing at the fish, shellfish, sponges and crabs that found shelter in these tributaries and spotting a great variety of herons, egrets, plovers, hawks and ospreys that called the marshes home.
It was on these beaches, in these creeks, and treading for clams in Great South Bay, where I heard the early calling for a career in conservation. From the beginning I knew I wanted to do something with my life that would ensure that these great places—the places that made me who I am—would continue to thrive and inspire thousands, maybe millions, more to care for and respect the wonderful world around us.
The other day I happened to find myself very close to my childhood spot, West Meadow Creek. The surrounding area has wonderful terrain for marathon training, quiet roads, rolling hills and yes even one “climb.” I took this as a great opportunity to reconnect with an area I enjoy—and get that ever so important hill workout in. I planned a route that would keep me running up and down, and which led me past views of West Meadow Creek, Conscience Bay, Long Island Sound and Flax Pond. The smell of the brackish water and the views of my childhood playgrounds brought back the initial appreciation of the ever so important coastal habitats around Long Island and reminded me once again why I run for nature.
See you on the streets of New York.
(Image: Estuary Specialist Chris Clapp monitors oysters with LEAF interns on Long Island. Image credit: © Kara Jackson/TNC)