This nonprofit keeps an eye on the beaches


They call themselves “Keepers of the Beach.”

Every year, Long Island Beach Buggy Association members bury thousands of discarded Christmas trees on specific areas at Smith Point County Park beach to help stave off erosion as one of their projects.

It’s called Operation Christmas Tree and takes place right after Super Bowl Sunday.

LIBBA’s mission, to preserve beach access for mobile fish surf fishing and conserve coastal and marine resources, started 66 years ago; they sit on the board that sets the rules for 4-x-4 permits and fishing permits applied for from the state and county.

The diligent not-for-profit does a lot behind the scenes. There are 1,660 members and a 12-person board of directors.

The Smith Point project is just one of 20 they tackle each year in the area.

“It really started out as this group of people in Sag Harbor and Montauk who were worried [that] their access to beaches was being taken away,” explained LIBBA president Cooky Rondinella of its founders. “A lot of them fished for a living; some were carpenters and fished when times were slow. They sat down and made strict bylaws. It was to keep the beaches the way they were. There were outsiders buying the land, so they saw a need.”

The Christmas Tree project takes a day and is a biggie. “There are neighborhood drop-off points,” explained Rondinella. “We average anything from 3,000 to 5,000 trees; the most we’ve done is 8,000, and the county sets up areas. They have some fencing up and we help do that, too.”

Members with pickup trucks drive the trees in and unload them. Scout troops help remove debris, like tinsel. At the end of the day, after the trees are buried, a LIBBA barbecue is the reward.

(Their hot dogs are famous. They go through 300 of them.)

Keeping to its conservation code, this January they removed striped bass as an eligible species from its future fishing tournaments because of its decline.

As for current initiatives, “We’re part of the user group who asked to establish a fishing pier at Smith Point County Park under the old bridge,” Rondinella said. Also, “We’re looking to establish a light camping ground area under the new bridge.”

They work with county, state and federal agencies, sit on boards, and meet with legislators.

They also buy the compressors and maintain them for Smith Point, Shinnecock, Cupsogue, beaches.

“Every beach has a director,” Rondinella said. “So, if we see a need, for instance, for an interpretative sign for poison ivy, we get it fixed.”

They aid two food banks and other community charities.

“We’re working with schools and are trying to establish intermural teen fishing, funding things like fishing rods, and advising them on technique,” he said.

If one of the government agencies comes to LIBBA and asks for help with a children’s fishing event, for example, they’ll supply the bait or whatever is needed. 

They are also accredited by the state to sign off on environmental projects for student time service certificates.

Chris Paparo was their first marine/environmental studies scholarship program winner for members’ children and grandchildren.

Before becoming the current Southampton Marine Science Center manager, he worked at the Long Island Aquarium in Riverhead.

“He’s a nationally known writer and a falconer,” Rondinella said. “He funded our scholarship at the Long Island Aquarium.” Other winners include one student who went around the world on sailing boats.

If you’d like to meet this group, come on down Aug. 3 to Heckscher State Park. “We’re the biggest user group in Heckscher,” said Rondinella. “So [the] first weekend in August (this year, Saturday, Aug. 3), there’s a jamboree with 300 to 400 people. We have a LIBBA band with rock and roll. The DEC even comes down.”


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