3,000 Trees Part Of Project; Volunteer: 'Everybody Wants This Place Rebuilt'

LONG BEACH, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Some Christmas leftovers are being put to good use on storm-ravaged Long Beach.

The coastline that was decimated by Superstorm Sandy has left thousands of Long Beach residents dangerously exposed to the weather.

So a new plan to rebuild the dunes using discarded Christmas trees is under way in the beach town.

Not since Hurricane Gloria in 1985 has a dune restoration project been launched on Nassau County’s South Shore, CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan reported.

“So there were hundreds of people coming that came down and the people, just in line formation, just dragged the trees from piles and off the backs of trucks,” Long Beach volunteer Allison Kallelis told McLogan. “We put it out through Facebook, the event.”

Kallelis and two other stay-at-home moms are spearheading the volunteer effort to restore the dunes that were flattened by Sandy.

“The trees act as a catcher for the sand to create the dunes, that will hopefully — God forbid if we have another storm — stop the water from breaching, compromising people’s homes,” volunteer Jackie Wilkinson told CBS 2’s McLogan.

In all, 3,000 Christmas trees — lights and ornaments removed — now line the beach. The briny smell of the surf is now mixed with the smell of pine, McLogan reported.

“We took recycled Christmas trees, we took donated Christmas trees from Home Depot which we’re so grateful for and we had dozens of people out on the beach,” Long Beach City Manager Jack Schnirman told McLogan.

Schnirman said the 17-foot high dunes were washed away by Sandy.

The trees were placed at the front edge of the old dune in V-shape formations.

“Basically, because everything is so bare right now, those Christmas trees are acting as if it were live vegetation,” like a natural fence, Long Beach Public Works Director James LaCarrubba told McLogan. “Everybody lost so much during the storm.”

“It’s very emotional. It’s my home, this boardwalk, this beach. My husband proposed to me on this beach. We both lived here our whole lives. I want it rebuilt. Everybody wants this place rebuilt,” volunteer Heather O’Grady said.

If all goes well, the sand will naturally cover the Christmas trees, creating dunes again. And in the spring, the volunteers will get together and plant protective sea grass over the growing dunes.

There are other projects to help with the recovery and lift spirits in Long Beach. Volunteers will be planting “recovery bulbs” which will bloom into flowers in the spring.

Also Monday, it was announced that crews from the Army Corps of Engineers will dredge 2.5 million cubic yards of sand from Fire Island Inlet, which will then be used to help replenish the beaches at Gilgo and Robert Moses State Parks.

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