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Community healing hike takes place in Merrick

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On July 10, Long Island residents gathered at the Norman J. Levy Park and Preserve in Merrick for a “healing hike,” a monthly hike that is organized by the Long Island Progressive Coalition.

Established in 1979, with headquarters in Massapequa, the coalition is a community-based organization that fights for structural change at the local, state and national levels, according to their website, lipc.org. 

Danny Hopkins, the coalition’s communications director, said that the group has been involved in many campaigns since its founding, including tackling climate change and increasing minimum wage. They are currently working on several campaigns, including state legislation changes and public power, which is an initiative that supports a fully, publicly-owned power authority on Long Island.

The coalition has 4 staff members, a board and many volunteer members, according to Hopkins.

Nia Adams, the coalition’s community organizer, works with volunteers and community members on a variety of campaigns, and also helps organize events such as the healing hikes.

“We started the hikes earlier this year as a way to reconnect with longstanding members and new members over the course of the pandemic,” said Adams. “We were trying to find safe ways that we could congregate. We felt that this was the easiest solution to get to know each other again.”

Each month, the coalition selects a location on Long Island to organize a hike. Aside from locations that the staff knows of, they also take suggestions from members or hikers.

The Norman J. Levy Park and Preserve — sometimes called the Merrick Preserve or “Merrick Mountain” — was selected for the month of July. It’s a relatively large preserve that was created on top of an old landfill. The preserve is known for its large hill that offers a 360-degree view of Merrick and sights to New York City and the barrier islands. Visitors can also see goats, which are released at night for natural weed control. During the day, the goats are kept at the entrance of the preserve in a pen.

The hike attracted about a dozen people, which is the monthly standard, and hikers ventured out onto docks at the preserve for views of the bay and Jones Beach, and climbed to the top of the so-called mountain to enjoy the surrounding scenery.

“This has been a very popular event that we’ve coordinated,” Adams said. “It attracts both new people and repeat hikers.”

The coalition plans to continue organizing the healing hikes, with possible locations for August most likely in Suffolk County. They are active on social media, and their Facebook page, Long Island Progressive Coalition, is the best place to stay up to date and see where their next hike will take place.

“Folks are now able to go out and do more things,” Hopkins said. “The hikes are a great way to build community.”