marked National Estuary Day this weekend, drawing hundreds of local residents to take part in an afternoon of fun-filled environmental education.
"Our goal is to enlist people to become stewards for the environment -in particular Little Neck Bay, which is just so important to the area. Most people don't know that. That's why we're here," said Aline Euler, education director at APEC.
National Estuaries Day is an annual celebration that is held the last Saturday of September to raise awareness about protecting America's coastal areas.
Among the many activities offered at APEC on Saturday were canoe rides through the wetlands, boat tours of Little Neck Bay, nature walks around the center and touch tanks in which kids could pet some of the animals that call Alley Pond home.
"People need to look at this area in a completely new light. An estuary isn't just where the rivers meet the sea. It's an incredible eco-system, heavily impacted by human waste. But by making just a few simple lifestyle changes, we can greatly alter the human impact on these areas," Euler said.
Euler's point was well-received by many who attended Saturday's awareness jamboree.
"Events like this are wonderful because they get people's interest, in particular the kids," said Erik Grumbacher, adding, "I want my children to admire, respect and love nature."
Indeed, there were plenty of children at Saturday's festival who seemed to have a genuine kinship with the many green aspects of Douglaston and Little Neck's own estuary.
"There are a lot of great trees here for climbing," said Philip Siciliano.
"I also think [APEC] is great for kids to learn about nature because there's a lot of wildlife. There's not a whole lot of that around the city," Philip's brother, Alex, added.
This last assertion was something duly noted by former state Sen. Frank Padavan, who was seen strolling through the green walkways around the nature center.
"If someone were to be dropped here without being told exactly where he or she was - that person would never guess this place was within New York City limits," Padavan said.
The senator, who long championed increased investment in Alley Pond Environmental Center, couldn't help by marvel at how far the place had come in the past 40 years.
"When you look at old photos of the environmental center and compare them to what you see here today, it is unimaginable it was ever in that bad of a shape," he said.
Equally as impressive for both Padavan and the event's organizers was the turnout for this year's Festival of Little Neck Bay.
"We've had a really nice crowd come through here today and every year we see an even bigger turnout than the one before. It's very gratifying and I can't wait until next year," Euler said.