Making their community beautiful
Susan Boudreau (right) and Gail Farrell are the force behind the Bay Shore Beautification Society.

Courtesy photo

Making their community beautiful


BAY SHORE—A walk down Main Street today is a lively and colorful experience due to the diverse shopping and dining opportunities available there. However, that stroll is also a visually beautiful one as well, thanks in large part to the good work of the Bay Shore Beautification Society. This past spring, the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Bay Shore honored this group at their annual Distinguished Citizen Award Dinner, paying homage to the two ladies who have led the organization for nearly 20 years, Susan Boudreau and Gail Farrell.

Donna Periconi, president of the chamber, referred to the society as “an extraordinary group of citizens.” She added that under the leadership of Boudreau and Farrell, “…the society has been a driving force in Bay Shore’s legendary revitalization.”

“It was thrilling,” said Boudreau upon receiving the award. “But we could never do this without other people pitching in.”  Farrell concurred. “It was a lovely award. It makes you feel good that your work is appreciated. But I’m happy to do it; it’s my hometown,” she added.

The organization was born out of the first Bay Shore Summit, a school district-based gathering that brings various community groups together annually. At the helm, Boudreau and Farrell have spearheaded a number of projects, such as hanging geranium baskets from the decorative lampposts every spring and summer. The posts are then decorated for the holiday season with evergreen wreaths. Money for the plants is garnered through fundraising and donations.

The Light the Night initiative, where more than 30,000 luminaries line the streets of Bay Shore and Brightwaters one Sunday in December, was started by the society. They also present Winter Fest, a fun, family-oriented event in addition to the Haunted Halloween festival that draws families to Main Street for seasonal fun activities such as pumpkin carving. And last year this group introduced a new initiative, “Pumpkin People,” which decorate the lampposts during the month of October.

Both Boudreau and Farrell are retired Bay Shore school teachers. Farrell, a native of the hamlet, has been responsible for a number of school-based plantings such as the garden at the middle school dedicated to the victims of the Sept. 11 tragedy. A piece of what had been the World Trade Center is incorporated there, as is a seedling from what is now known as the Liberty Tree, which once stood outside one of the felled buildings in Lower Manhattan. 

Farrell said she has always encouraged her students to plant and take care of gardens. In fact, as a student in Bay Shore she became a junior member of the local garden club. “I’ve always had dirt under my nails,” she remarked with a laugh. 

Boudreau said of all the gardens they have brought to Bay Shore and continue to maintain, the Wellness Garden on Main Street at the beginning of the Wellness Trail, and the Community Reflection Garden, also on Main Street, stand out. “We raised $250,000 to build [the Reflection Garden],” she said. It is in an area that had once been occupied by a scuba diving training facility that had burned down. Boudreau noted that the cleanup of the property, which involved digging up several buried tanks, was a very costly challenge. However, now with the lovely verdant landscape and benches occupying that space, it has become a place of solace to anyone who enters.

Boudreau said the society’s next project is an award program that recognizes residential gardens. The society also hopes to build a garden at the Bay Shore Railroad Station, where they installed an irrigation system. However, Boudreau said the society would need to get more young people involved.

“We depend on the goodness of people,” she said. “If they want their town to be beautiful, they have to take ownership. It is very rewarding.”