On Jan. 14, 2004, the Park Advocacy & Recreation Council of Nassau (PARCnassau) met with Deputy County Executive Mike Klein, Special Assistants Robert Cataldo and Charles McKinney and First Deputy Park Commissioner Reggie Magwood. PARCnassau had requested an update from the county. This additional new team came on board last year and we were interested in knowing their assessment and plans for the county park system. What we found was largely disturbing.
It is the intent of the county to open the park system to nonresidents of Nassau County. Whether by stated policy or by just not policing the park gates, they intend to "fill the parks," regardless of the residency of the "fillers." We find this unacceptable for numerous reasons including making Nassau residents, organizations and teams compete with non-residents for parking, playgrounds, ball fields, tee times, picnic areas, tennis courts, pools, etc. It also flies in the face of the taxpaying residents of Nassau who have never wanted an open park system.
Traditionally, Nassau museums, preserves and historic sites are open to the general public, regardless of residency. Most are educational sites, which impose a fee for attendance. However, active parks such as Eisenhower, Cantiague, Wantagh, Inwood, Bay Park, North Woodmere, Morley, Hempstead Harbor, etc., have been reserved for Nassau County residents and their guests (Closed Park System). The recreational amenities we taxpayers have paid for in these parks were for the enjoyment of those who did the paying and who would most likely take care of these facilities, which are viewed as neighborhood parks.
Leisure passports were developed years ago by the County to readily identify residents for park access, use of park amenities such as marinas, launch ramps, golf courses, pools, ball fields, beaches, etc. One hundred thousand passports are currently issued, each for a three-year period. The policy has merit except for the following: The Leisure Passports cost the county $3.45 to have produced by a contract company in New Jersey. The County charges residents $15 a piece for the passport. This is over a 400 percent profit! This is punitive especially to sports leagues that must get passes for players, managers, league officials, etc., in addition to paying exorbitant fees for the ball fields and lights. Adding insult to injury, the County does not regularly monitor park gates or ball fields to check leisure passes of those entering, anyway.
Now the County is considering discontinuing the passes completely in the belief this will eliminate their responsibility to monitor entrance to the parks at all. This is patently wrong. Whether to have leisure passes or not can be argued but gates and facilities must be monitored no matter what ID is checked to ensure residency. If leisure passes are to be continued, the cost of a three-year pass should be about $4 instead of $15. The benefit of the passes is they are an easily recognized standard of identification that even the least experienced park employee can check.
The active parks of Nassau County should be reserved for the very people who paid for their acquisition, creation and maintenance - Nassau County residents. Residents and their guests should never have to compete with nonresidents for use of these parks.