New drinking stations in Hempstead Town Parks | Herald Community Newspapers

The parks of the town of Hempstead just got a little greener.

Schools are out and summer season has officially begun. Last week, the Town of Hempstead announced the opening of an eco-friendly water bottle refill station at Norman J. Levy Park and Preserve in South Merrick to help reduce the number of plastic bottles discarded in the park while also keeping residents hydrated.

The announcement was made June 26 by City Councilman Don Clavin, who was joined by City Clerk Kate Murray and Tax Collector Jeanine Driscoll.

The preserve is one of the most popular recreational areas in the Town of Hempstead. Located behind the town’s restrooms on Merrick Road, the now bustling preserve was formerly a landfill before being converted into a park in 2000. It features hiking trails, kayak docks, fishing piers, a herd of Nigerian dwarf goats, and more. It also has the highest peak on Long Island’s South Shore, offering park visitors panoramic views of Nassau County’s bays, beaches, and more.

The park’s roots lie in recycling, making it the perfect place to install the first drinking station.

“We have seen a sharp increase in foot traffic during the Covid-19 pandemic as residents sought a safe outdoor activity,” said Clavin. “Park visitation continues to increase, so we continue to introduce new initiatives, such as this environmentally friendly way to keep residents safe and hydrated while addressing the increase in single-use plastic bottles discarded in the park.”

The installation of the drinking station was made possible by a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration marine debris grant to reduce the amount of plastic dumped in waterways. The grant was awarded to a network of Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean recipients, according to city officials.

In honor of World Refill Day on June 16, the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation posted on its Facebook page saying that four water refill stations for popular parks on Long Island were purchased in partnership with the New York Department of State, the Town of Hempstead and Sunken Meadow State Park in Kings Park, thanks to the regional council, which provided funding and planning for the project.

“This is a really good, environmentally friendly program,” Clavin said.

A 2022 report from the International Coastal Clean-Up listed plastic bottles as the second most collected item and plastic bottle caps as the fourth, city officials said. Because Norman J. Levy Park and Preserve is adjacent to Merrick Bay, discarded trash can end up in waterways that flow into the ocean.

Two additional hydration stations will be installed at Newbridge Road Park in Bellmore and the Marine Nature Study Area in Oceanside. The hydration stations, all of which will offer free filtered water, will be installed in these parks in the coming months and are designed to help reduce marine debris by encouraging park visitors to use refillable water bottles instead of single-use ones.

“These are the first three, and we hope to expand them to parks throughout the Town of Hempstead with federal funding as well as special city funding,” Clavin said. “We hope our friends at the borough level and in other towns will join us.”

Clavin said the city is “committed” to the environment and clean waterways.

“That’s something I see over and over again with every initiative we do here in the city,” he said. “The residents of the city embrace it because it’s important to them.”

Clavin dispelled any concerns about the quality of water from the aid stations, stressing that it was “clean, filtered water.”

“We want you to feel good about investing in the environment,” he said, “so we make that investment for you.”

The drink station at Levy Park is located to the left of the ranger station, which is located in the parking lot just outside the preserve entrance.

For more information about the Town’s parks and environmental efforts, visit under the Parks & Recreation tab.