SUMP-THING’S HAPPENING! From a neglected and trash filled stormwater basin, locally referred to as a ‘sump,’ a community nature preserve is flourishing. The vision statement adopted by the Garden City based community group was simply "to establish a local greenspace for the demonstration of environmental stewardship through education and volunteer community services." The concept developed into the Garden City Bird Sanctuary - a protected seven acre nature refuge at a County stormwater basin (sump) next to a local playground. Since the initial volunteer led site clean-up in 1995, over 10,000 people have been active in this effort to improve the environment and educate residents on the meaning of environmental stewardship in the community.
The initial work was done under a Nassau County Adopt-A-Spot program in a program initiated by local resident Rob Alvey, a member of the Garden City Environmental Advisory Board. Technical assistance came from Hofstra University and funds were donated by local residents. The National Tree Trust awarded grants of seedlings under their Community Tree Planting program. Boy and Girl Scout troops joined to work at the Sanctuary. The enthusiasm continued to build and by 1996, "sump-thing" new began. Nassau County officially designated the sump as the ‘Garden City Bird Sanctuary.’
On April 27, 1996, Nassau County Executive Tom Gulotta led a formal dedication ceremony at the site, proclaiming it officially as “The Garden City Bird Sanctuary”. Village officials joined the nearly 200 people welcoming the birth of the new nature refuge. That November, the County Executive returned to the Bird Sanctuary to hold a press conference where, because of the continued success of Garden City’s pilot project, he extended the program on a County basis to all interested communities. At the May 1997 Anniversary Festival, attended by over 300 guests, Nassau County installed a “Pride In Nassau’s Environment” sign at the entrance to reflect the continued support for the project.
In September 1997, the Bird Sanctuary received the “Outstanding Ecological Program” award from the Long Island Leisure Services Association. In 1998, the Bird Sanctuary celebrated an “Earthfest 98", continued development of a “Memorial Walk” of trees donated in honor or memory of loved ones, and formalized an exchange program with Clark Botanical Gardens to help guide planting of native species of trees and shrubs. A Merit Award was received from 1010WINS Radio Genovese Drugs in November 1998 for the outstanding volunteer community effort.
Efforts to establish a flourishing, self-sustaining, nature refuge continue. Grants from the NYS Department of Parks have been used to install new fencing, botanical signs, and trail markers. Fourteen Boy Scouts have completed Eagle projects at the bird sanctuary, and the first Girl Scout earned a Gold Award in 2001. School and church groups continue to use the site for environmental education and community service. In 2004, Cornell Cooperative Extension and the Long Island Nursery and Landscape Association held a training workshop on control of invasive species and use of native species for landscaping at the site. In 2005, the National Wildlife Federation designated the site as a “Certified Backyard Habitat”. In December 2006, a grant was received from the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation for a Community Tree Planting Program. The Garden City Bird Sanctuary, Inc. is a certified 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. Donations are tax deductible in accordance with IRS regulations.