Attendees at the Clarkstown Environmental Summit found a wealth of information and resources for improving the environment waiting for them in West Nyack on Saturday.
Clarkstown Town Supervisor Alex Gromack welcomed everyone saying, “It’s gratifying we are all here to learn about our environment.” Throughout the day more than 35 workshops and presentations covered the broad spectrum of environmental issues and conservation programs for hundreds of people who visited the summit.
“We’re really doing this to have a more sustainable Clarkstown and we can do more,” said Councilwoman Shirley Lasker, D-Upper Nyack, who explained the summit is part of an ongoing process. “We’re asking people to be part of the solution. Do people want more bike paths, more walking paths? We want to find out.”
People had their chance to share their thoughts on the environment by writing on large blank posters placed in the lobby of Clarkstown South High School, the site of the summit. Attendees were asked to write what they learned from the summit, what they will do to protect the environment and what they think is the most important environmental issue facing the town.
Jessica Levinson of Upper Nyack said, “I think it’s a wonderful event for awareness. Education is the best way to combat this problem.”
The summit provided outreach opportunities for those actively involved in environmental programs to educate town and Rockland County residents. During the Back to the Future session, people were encouraged to start their own vegetable and fruit gardens. Rockland Farm Alliance members spoke about the disappearance of farms in the county. While more than 900 farms dotted Rockland in the 1930s that number fell to five in 2003. The panel held out hope for farming in the future.
Alex Spadea, Alliance co-founder, said “I think it’s important that people find a way to incorporate growing their own food. Children should know where a carrot comes from.”
Naomi Camilleri, Alliance assistant director, said they hope to start an educational component at Cropsey Community Farm. “By educating people about growing their own food, that’s the best thing we can do.” There has been considerable interest from teenagers and young adults who contact the alliance for information about farming.
With open land scarce and costly in the county, Pam Yee and Charlie Paolino’s experience drew considerable interest. The Upper Nyack residents started a micro farm in 2008. On a tennis court sized part of their property, they grow 1,600 pounds of produce.
“We were able to grow enough food to feed ourselves and others,” said Paolino. Hook Mountain Growers produces potatoes, onions, shallots, leaf vegetables, melons and herbs.
Other presentations included: Starting and Maintaining a Resource Management Program; Rockland’s Drinking Water: Alternatives to Desalination; The Hackensack River and its Keeper; Environmental Health and Justice, and Indian Point - Where Does All the Electricity Go?
Children filled the Eco Camps joining in nature games and scavenger hunts, learning about how water travels from storm drains to streams and working on crafts. Numerous food vendors in the cafeteria did a brisk business offering organic, vegan, biodynamic and locally prepared food choices.
More than 50 exhibitors lined the gym and offered information about their organizations, brochures, memberships and volunteer opportunities. Visitors could get applications for an energy audit to make their home more energy efficient, register for the Great American Cleanup, take a quiz to learn about their air quality IQ and find out about new bike and hiking routes.
People did attend to learn. “Any type of energy that is non traditional is of interest to me,” said Victoria Trotta who was looking at a solar energy display with her son.
As he was leaving the summit, Richard Feminella of Upper Nyack said it served the important purpose of informing people. “It’s not always big but small steps that make a big improvement. You can’t expect county government, state or federal government to solve everything.”