A Marine Nature Study Area is ideally a portion of the natural tidal wetlands preserved and managed to enrich community life and add to the well being of the public. The Town of Hempstead, through its Department of Conservation and Waterways, developed a Marine Nature Study Area, which was a first for Long Island and possibly for this section of the mid-Atlantic seaboard.
Plans for the area began in 1964 when the Director of the Department of Conservation and Waterways presented a program for the preservation and management of the entire town wetlands. This nature area named the "Oceanside Marine Nature Study Area" is a salt marsh cut by tidal streams, which if not placed under the preservation program would have become a development site.
Marine Nature Study Areas differ from the most other community undertakings in that the design provides for education, research preservation and management practices. Objectives of such an area program include: an outdoor laboratory for elementary and secondary schools, salt marsh ecology, marine conservation practices, earth science, marine biology, and nature study. The program provides opportunity for research in marsh ecology and management to local college students and opportunity for art and photographic studies.
The Oceanside Marine Nature Study Area covers a 52-acre salt marsh bordered on the south by Middle Bay, on the west by Bedell Creek, on the east by an unnamed tidal watercourse and on the north by developed home sites. An additional tidal creek cuts the area nearly in half flowing from Bedell Creek to the easterly unnamed watercourse.
Initially, the two tidal watercourses were connected by a shallow canal to provide circulation of salt water through the area. Excavated material was utilized to create an earthen walkway along this canal. A two acre tidal pond was also created at the southerly side of the marsh.
The area has seven designated observation and study sites equipped with visual aides. At the Study Area Center, indoor science rooms completes the nature study area complex. The first room is equipped with live tanks with aquatic displays and the second includes terrestrial displays and dioramas.
In order not to destroy marshes, elevated board walkways have been constructed to provide access from the "Salt Marsh Ecosystem Site" to the "Marine Algae Site" and to the "Dune Community".
Alterations of the marsh for the purpose of creating the study area were minimal. As indicated, a canal was dug to connect two tidal watercourses and a pond created for waterfowl habitat. The only other man-made feature is a dunal vegetation community. This site has as a base former dredge spoil deposited in the 1920's when Bedell Creek was dredged to provide for navigation. Sand topping the dune was transported from Lido Beach, and dune plants are those native to Long Island barrier beaches.
Slopes around the pond and along earth walkways have been planted with high meadow plants and seed producing grasses, These plantings have successfully arrested the growth of reed plants (Phragmites australis ). Additional plantings of bayberry are made on higher ground throughout the area as deemed in keeping with the program. Also, additional plantings of conifers and upland food plants are made from time to time to add to the rustic atmosphere surrounding the Study Area Center. These plantings are in anticipation of continuing a suitable habitat for song birds.
The Oceanside Marine Nature Study Area was completed and opened on Earth Day, April, 1970. Use of the area has exceeded expectations. During weekdays, guided tours may be scheduled by school classes and adult groups. Tours for school groups include demonstrations and opportunity for individual participation. The area is available for individual use by youths and adults in connection with academic studies, or may be enjoyed by those wishing to carry on their observations without guides.
(excerpts from the Marine Nature Study Inventory 1977,HAROLD F. UDELL COMMISSIONER DEPARTMENT OF CONSERVATION & WATERWAYS July 1977)