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Dozens at Robert Moses park protest offshore drilling

June 26, 2010 by YAMICHE ALCINDOR /

Hands Across the Sand demonstrators

Dozens of people from across Long Island and New York gathered at Robert Moses State Park Saturday to protest offshore drilling and encourage lawmakers to look into renewable sources of energy.

The event, dubbed "Hands Across the Sand," was an international movement in which people across the world gathered at hundreds of local beaches to hold hands at noon Saturday and voice their concerns about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico as well as other environmental problems, organizers said.

Nancy Meehan, of East Islip, and Bill Stegemann, of West Islip, put together the Robert Moses event where more than 80 people gathered on the shoreline near Field 5 at noon with signs that read "No Off Shore Drilling," "Clean Energy Is Patriotic" and "Protect Our Oceans."

"I'm really upset about this spill," said Meehan, 48, who goes to the beach weekly and also vacations in Santa Rosa, Fla., where some of the oil has begun to wash ashore. "I find it so catastrophic. We want to show our leaders that we don't want oil on our beaches."

Stegemann, 37, the conservation chair of the Sierra Club Long Island Group, agrees. "We have an industry that has held the coastal economy hostage," he said of oil companies. "We really, really need to invest in renewable energy and this situation highlights that. Today, we're really looking to make a visual statement. We want elected leaders to take notice."

Dave Rauschkolb, who owns three restaurants on the beach in Seaside, Fla., located on the northern Gulf Coast between Pensacola and Panama City, founded Hands Across the Sand in October 2009.

Since then, the organization has gained the endorsement of several organizations including the Sierra Club, Surfrider and Greenpeace.

On Long Island, Stegemann and Meehan said they promoted the event at Robert Moses park by making fliers as well as promoting the event on radio stations. Demonstrators also gathered at other area beaches including Long Beach, Lloyd Harbor, Fire Island, Greenport and East Hampton, organizers said.

Friends Krystie Rumplick, 24, of Central Islip, and Dominique Salicia, 25, of East Islip, made T-shirts for the event that read "No Offshore Drilling" and were also among those banded together by the sea.

"We need to change our lifestyles," said Salicia, who works for the New York State Legislature as a constituent representative, of America's dependence on oil. "We need to change the habits of our culture. Nothing else matters if we don't have a healthy beach."