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What is the Bayway?

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By Linda Freilich / Coastal Waterways Chair

What is the South Shore Estuary Reserve? It is the geographic area; the bays and their upland waterways. Jeff Fulmer is the Reserve Office Director. The South Shore Estuary Reserve is about 500 square miles. It starts at the Atlantic Beach Bridge which is where East Rockaway Inlet is. You can take a boat from there all the way to the eastern boundary of the Shinnecock Inlet and stay out of the Atlantic Ocean. It is about 75 miles. An estuary is where salt and fresh water mix. It is a biologically diverse area. “It is where the web of life begins” says Jeff Fulmer. The tributaries drain into the bay. The groundwater drains into the bays. The salt water comes from the ocean and this creates a special ecology. This is another reason for us to protect our watersheds. The water from our yards and roads drain into our bay through a complex storm water drainage system which consists of thousands of storm drains that drain into the bay. It is important for people to curb their behavior before runoff enters these storm drains. There are 107 tributaries that also drain into our bay. There are five major embayments that make up the South Shore Estuary; South Oyster Bay, Hempstead Bay, Great South Bay, Moriches Bay, Shinnecock Bay. One can actually take a boat from one embayment to another without actually going into the Atlantic Ocean.
Most people on Long Island know Long Island by one bay or another. The South Shore Estuary Reserve Council and an established group of stakeholders that have an interest in the health of the bay, implement recommendations found in the Comprehensive Management Plan. The management plan takes a holistic view of the bay and recognizes the cultural element and maritime traditions of the bay. The plan has recommendations based on maintaining a maritime tradition. There has been a large decline in the health of the bay, such as hard clam populations.
An exciting program for the Reserve is the South Shore Bayway. The Bayway Program was established by the state legislature. The government enacted a bill to create a group of stakeholders and the Reserve works closely as a facilitator. They work closely with the Department of State Division of Coastal Resources. The Bayway is a Program, an Initiative to create a network of destinations and Connectors, maritime centers, and parks so that people can go out and enjoy the Bay again. Right now there are 41 chosen sites. One might want to go on a themed tour, such as, lighthouse, tributaries, wetland, perhaps the dots are not always connected and the Bayway project is seeking to connect the dots.
They are currently working on water trails to include in the Bayway project for kayakers and canoe enthusiasts. This project will also include camping sites. One can watch this program develop at: http://www.estuary.cog.ny.us/

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