When it comes to protecting the Peconic, Riverhead residents aren't afraid to get their hands dirty and their feet wet.
On Thursday, approximately 30 volunteers gathered in boats, kayaks and canoes to help remove ludwigia peploides, commonly known as water primose, by hand pulling it from the river.
Since 2006, over 450 volunteers have teamed up in the effort to clean up the Peconic, said Julie Nace, Peconic Estuary Program Coordinator for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's Bureau of Marine Resources.
Wearing old clothes and rubber gloves, volunteers helped pull out the water primrose by hand. The water primrose, Nace said, is a non-native plant species considered invasive because it "out-competes native plants and takes over their habitat," she said.
"So, in addition to losing native plants, it also decreases water quality for native fish and other species," Nace added. "And, it grows in very large mats making any sort of boating, kayaking, canoeing, or swimming, virtually impossible. It is thought that this plant probably was released by people using it for aquariums or ponds."
The volunteer effort was organized by the Peconic Estuary Program, a partnership between the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Suffolk County and NYSDEC.
Community groups such as members of the Peconic Lake Estates Civic Association, the Freshwater Anglers of Long Island, and Students Take Action for Tomorrow's Environment, also pitched it to help maintain water and habitat quality in the Peconic.
Volunteers must be careful not to leave bits behind; those can grow into new plants downstream, Nace said. All plants were disposed of by the NYDEC into compost.