Our Q&A with 11-grader Ricky Stafford
We sat down to interview Save the Great South Bay’s executive director Marshall Brown, the Blue Point Community Coalition’s president Jason Borowski, and 11th-grade Eagle Scout aspirant Ricky Stafford. Borowski lead SGSB’s Creek Defender in Blue Point, a program run in nearly every town on the South Shore. It is based on the belief that cleaning our creeks cleans the Great South Bay. Stafford took the Defender to a new level. His ambitious goal is to restore part of the native ecosystem of the multi-acre Blue Point Nature Preserve. He planned and led a native planting with a little help from his friends, including Karl Auwaerter of Bayport Flower Houses. The trio believes the collaboration they are modeling is what will one day save the Great South Bay.
Suffolk County News: We’ve spoken about how you want your Eagle Scout project to have enduring value. Can you describe your project and how it will achieve your goal?
Stafford: So far we’ve taken out all invasive plants and put in all the native ones. I hope in the future that not only will the new plants fight off the invasives. I hope the natives fight back against them and create a more native ecosystem like we used to have in the preserve. The main thing we had to combat was mugwort, girdle and some Russian olive trees. We put in bayberry, winterberry, inkberry, several varieties of aster, milkweed, switchgrass, cloud nine, several varieties of echinacea, blueberry, Joe-pye weed, several native ferns, butterfly bushes and beach plum. We also transplanted a small cedar from farther back on the tree line to where I was working. We got the plants from the Bayport Flower Houses. Karl Auwaerter advised me on what plants to get and where to put them. He told me different strategies and helped me pick out the plants.
SCN: As the president of the Blue Point Community Coalition, you are committed to improving the quality of life. Why was it important to you in that role to support Stafford’s project?
BOROWSKI: Blue Point has always enjoyed a special relationship with the Great South Bay—between William Avery seeding the first oyster beds for what would eventually become world-famous Blue Point oysters, to this being the place out east that wealthy Manhattanites used to go for their summer recreation prior to the Hamptons. A lot of the history surrounding our community is linked to the access we have to the Great South Bay. With that being the case, it’s important for our community to be good stewards of the bay. As a result, when Ricky told us about his project and the impact it could have, we were all in with our group’s support.
SCN: Localism is the foundation of the organization you created, Save the Great South Bay. How does Borowski and now Stafford’s work illustrate SGSB’s commitment to localism?
BROWN: I learned early on you can’t really fight localism. It’s a force much more powerful than Save the Great South Bay. We can’t tell Blue Point how to do things. We can empower people on the ground, local community leaders such as Jason, who is the head of the local civic, by spreading the message to other people in that community. Here we have the leaders in this community doing wonderful things.
SCN: How do you think your leadership as a young person can impact our community? And how do you think this leadership experience will impact your later choices about college and work?
STAFFORD: For the community leadership, it shows how any one person can make a difference. You don’t need to be older, part of Save the Great South Bay or the Blue Point Coalition. You could just be someone who wants to make a change, do something. It already taught me how to manage multiple people doing different jobs. It taught me how to make connections, to reach out and make sure things get done. A big help was Marshall Brown, Jason Borowski and Luke Ormand. My parents and other Boy Scouts helped me. I have heard from some people about the difference it made in the preserve. Others do want to be part of projects like this that make a difference in the community.
Phase 2, according to Stafford, is cleaning up the surrounding area and to make sure in the next two months nothing comes back. He plans to go back in the spring to replace any dead plants. The entire preserve, he explained, is a couple hundred acres. His project was 5,600 square feet [three-fourths of one acre], which will serve as a pilot project for the rest of the preserve.
To contribute to Stafford’s efforts, visit his GoFundMe at: https://tinyurl.com/y38fdd4t.