The Ernst Marine Conservation Center in the 88-acre West Meadow wetlands preserve stands five feet above ground level – but when Hurricane Sandy swept through the area and delivered a six-foot storm surge locally, the conservation center suffered major flood damage when close to a foot of water flowed through the building.
"It destroyed walls, floors, sheetrock, insulation and caused destruction throughout the building," said Gloria Rocchio, president of the Ward Melville Heritage Organization, which owns the conservation center and has conducted programs there for more than 50 years.
"This is the first time water has ever come up and and through the building," Rocchio said.
Now, the WMHO is turning to the community for help via an Indiegogo.com campaign called "Rebuild a Classroom in the Heart of the LI Wetlands." Rocchio said the organization hopes to raise $10,000 for the repairs needed to restore the Marine Conservation Center (MCC) so it's ready for the spring, when classes begin again.
"The program has had a major impact on many students as they experience the wonders of marine life," she said. "Many that have taken the class went on to careers in marine sciences because of the experiences they had at the MCC."
The organization writes on its Indiegogo page: "Nature can be a beautiful and a terrible thing, and we've learned both of these lessons at the Ernst Marine Conservation Center (MCC) in the past few months. ... The MCC was nearly destroyed by Superstorm Sandy in late October, and we are struggling to rebuild this 'living classroom' for the community."
While new sheet rock and flooring has already been installed, several repairs are still needed:
- Carpeting for the classroom floors
- Vinyl flooring for the bathroom
- Heating and air conditioning units
- Trim work
As of Wednesday afternoon, the WMHO has raised $530 of the needed $10,000, with 48 days left to accept donations. Supporters can make donations between $5 and $1,000, and receive thank-you notes and other perks when donations are made.