Neighbors Clean up Lake Shenorock

Credits: Gabrielle Bilik
Cleanup crews pulled some unexpected items from the lake, including these remnants of a raft made from wood and empty plastic containers. Credits: Gabrielle Bilik
Stacy Silverstein, right, is assisted by her sons, Julian Ruck,10, and Luca Ruck, 5. Credits: Gabrielle Bilik
Lou Hochman, 10, Sam Seagrist, 10, and Kate Seagrist Credits: Gabrielle Bilik
Lucas Ruck, 5, helps his older brother, Julian, and their mom during the cleanup. Credits: Gabrielle Bilik
Shells collected from Lake Shenorock Credits: Gabrielle Bilik

SOMERS, N.Y. – A group of residents who live near Lake Shenorock have banded together to form the Shenorock Neighbors, an informal organization with a mission to aid in the restoration of the once lively Lake Shenorock. In conjunction with the Somers Litter Task Force, the group held a clean-up day Saturday, April 22, coinciding with Earth Day.

While the lake is still occupied by wildlife, the space is shared with discarded debris and trash, and, in warmer months, an overgrowth of algae due to phosphorus run-off from the herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers associated with urban land-use.

Every year, the Somers Litter Task Force doles out orange bags and cleanup supplies to the residents of Somers for its month-long Litter Cleanup. While residents like Stacy Silverstein and her family have concentrated their annual efforts on the lake, this time, about 20 residents showed up to help in the lakeside initiative.

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Long-time residents remember a time when the lake was a popular destination for social activities such as swimming, picnicking and ice skating. The maintenance of the area fell to the groups of homeowners and volunteers who enjoyed it. Over the years, the upkeep of the lake has faded away along with the volunteers who aged or relocated.

Now, a new generation of residents is emerging to shoulder some of the responsibility. Silverstein helped organize the Earth Day event, and was cleaning up with her two sons, Julian, 9, and Lucas, 5. Together they pulled an old raft and a lead, hook-shaped pipe out of the water. Ironically, they collected a “no dumping” sign earlier that day.

Small debris such as soda bottles and other recyclables likely fall off the trucks, Silverstein hypothesized. Other litter, like fast-food wrappers and large debris, she thinks are discarded by people who know that much of the green space around the lake is simply unoccupied with no one to catch them.

“There’s no monitoring of this particular area and we’re trying to change that with the town,” she said. “They’re taking possession of this lake and its green space so we’re hoping as a neighborhood group to reclaim it.”

In addition to the standard recyclables and cigarette butts that typically collect along roadsides, Silverstein said bowling balls, rusted gates and tires have also been pulled from the lakeside.

Armed with a small machete, resident Michael Abegg said most of the debris is behind nine feet of thorn bushes, which makes access to it difficult at times. However, residents used tools and finished the job.

As items bobbing around the shoreline slowly disappear from view during the cleanup, it’s not hard to imagine what they are looking to restore. Still in the early days of spring, algae hasn’t formed on the lake and a swan glides peacefully in and out of view from behind the vegetation.

“It’s a beautiful lake,” Abegg said. “It would be really nice if we could get this all cleaned up and make it the heart of our community again like it was back in the day.”

In December 2016, the town was awarded $847,500 in state funds for the improvement of Lake Shenorock. Part of a $6 million windfall for 15 economic development projects in the 40th district, officials said the money will be used to put stormwater retrofits in place to reduce phosphorus entering the lake. Additionally, the town has developed a water quality improvement project.

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