Massapequa Preserve got a sprucing up and an art show thanks to the efforts of some area residents, who took matters into their own hands after seeing the area overgrown.
Longtime Massapequa residents Art Phelps, along with his daughter, Siena, and brother Rob Phelps, cleared paths in the preserve as well as installed benches. Art, a sculptor, also installed 15 sculptures, in and around the park as well as in the lake.
While the sculptures were enjoyed by most residents, they didn’t last long; Art installed the pieces without the proper permits or insurance and took them down once the county got wind of it.
“We just did it. If I would have asked permission, I wouldn’t have gotten it,” said Art.
Construction of any kind is prohibited in the Massapequa Preserve, a federally protected land that is owned by Nassau County. Art said he knew the risk but figured it would be worth it.
“Originally the idea was to leave it up for the weekend but we got so much positive feedback, we thought, let’s see how long we can run it,” said Art. “We were flying under the radar…but I like giving back to the community and making improvements. Overall, it was a positive experience.”
Art made 15 unique pieces for the unofficial exhibit he named “Travelers,” with his daughter, a photographer, displaying some works as well. Meanwhile, Rob, a landscape architect, coordinated efforts to clear up the preserve. Over the course of three weeks, they trimmed bushes, treated poison ivy, cut back thorn bushes and installed five benches.
“We left things better than when we got there,” said Art. “It was a mess and now we installed benches, cleared the paths…and made it look nice and cleaner. Hopefully they keep up with it.”