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Chelsea Mansion Forum Attracts Stake Holders

Master Planning for Muttontown Preserve Brings Out Interested Parties

Almost 100 people attended the meeting as Saratoga Associates kicked off their Master Planning process for Nassau County’s Muttontown Preserve in a community presentation held at Chelsea Mansion Saturday, March 20.

They looked at the geology and ecology of the site, its history and current conditions of the preserve.

Following the presentation there was an opportunity for information exchange with the County’s consultants.

The meeting at Chelsea took place in spite of the heavy downpour on Saturday which didn’t keep interested people away. It was standing room only, said Caroline DuBois. When she left, her car was flanked with two cars stuck in the mud. Her four-wheel drive car was unaffected except for the “chocolate-pudding mud” the two cars spewed out while trying to move.

She said she talked to Matt Meng, East Norwich Civic Association president. She said, “He’s been working with the Friends of Chelsea for 10 years. He explained the headwaters of Mill Neck Creek are located along the Chelsea driveway. He explained it goes under 25A. Because of the rain you could see it was the bed of an old river.”

She said, “It’s really wonderful that the community came out. They expected about 50 people and got 150 and on short notice on an obscure topic.” She suggested that Saratoga Associates must have a template for planning. As she left she gave in a list of 20 suggestions on the card given out.

“One is about bee-keeping with the bee die-off that has been happening. We need them. They are very territorial and fly in a couple of miles of circumference,” said Ms. DuBois.

Matt Meng, president of the ENCA and vice president of the LI Drinking Water Coalition, attended the meeting. He said, “The whole idea is to put together a master plan for the Muttontown Preserve – which includes Chelsea Center. It was an introductory meeting to what will be five group meetings with the community toward creating what they hope will be a template for Nassau County preserves and properties. Each park will have its unique needs and considerations that will be applied to them.

“It is very early in the process. One of the local concerns for East Norwich is how to utilize the different entrances to the preserve and Chelsea without affecting the quiet residential areas. That is something that I will be watching carefully for the benefit of the community,” he said.

Mr. Meng has for many years been involved with the Chelsea Restoration Committee. They have helped in the restoration of the Chelsea gardens and ponds. “While we are not sure where things will go from here – all these properties that Nassau County has acquired need volunteers to help maintain them. Anyone interested in gardening at Chelsea Center can contact me (at 606-8053) or the Muttontown Horsemen’s Association (MHA) or the county directly.”

He added, “At the meeting, Kathleen Kleinman, MHS president, pointed out that while on the trails, the horsemen stop and clean up the paths as they go through.”

He said, “We are always looking for volunteers and there is always a project to do. I remember cleaning the wall at Chelsea where there was about 4 inches of leaves left there over the years, ” Mr. Meng concluded.

Kathleen Kleinman said in a telephone interview, “They are still in the fact-finding phase, reaching out to the community. They presented a load of information on their investigative findings including geology, history, flora and fauna. They told of what other preserves they had been to, and what suggestions they had for them.

“Saratoga Associates are reaching out to the educators that bring kids there to find out what they do and how they can make it more accessible. People mentioned how they have gotten lost there. I said, there were Nassau County park rangers there at one time. Now there are volunteers who are there ‘on their own dime’.”

She said there are issues such as marking the trails and their cleanup – which is really tough to keep up.

Ms. Kleinman said there were so many people who said they love the place. Originally there were 10 workers who kept the preserve in good upkeep. “Now we need help,” she said.

She said she thought a lot of people were pleased with the presentation, that there was not a hidden agenda, other than to use the site for recreational uses. “This planning group was very much into the unique nature and unique species of this natural resource that needs to be treated and maintained well and were not pushing an agenda of recreational development,” she said.

Ms. Kleinman said they seemed to be aware that, “There is a tipping point between wanting more public access and going too far – to actually wearing out the old facility. They will make recommendations down the line and the county will look at them. They seemed a nice group of people who worked hard. The MHA took three of them on a trail ride in the fall so they could see other aspects of the preserve. They also did a lot of hiking and picture-taking there.”

In the column How’s the Water?, Friends of the Bay Executive Director Patricia Aitken talked about the meeting. She mentioned many of the stakeholder groups who attended including: Stella Miller, president of the Huntington Oyster Bay Audubon Society, and Jennifer Wilson-Pines of the North Shore Audubon Society, since the preserve is a great birding location and bird habitat.

She added the concern raised by attendees included how to manage the invasive species that are a problem at Muttontown Preserve. Muttontown is not alone in being plagued by invasives – this is a nationwide problem that is disturbing ecosystems everywhere.

“The North Shore Land Alliance engaged Saratoga Associates to perform this analysis to provide Nassau County with a roadmap to guide Nassau County in how to manage the preserves they have acquired. Feedback from the public will be gathered and a further draft will be presented. The desired outcome is to have achievable recommendations for the best potential utilization of the site. The possibility of forming public and private partnerships to attain that goal was also discussed. The management plan developed for Muttontown Preserve could be used as a template for the management of other properties in the Nassau County system,” concluded Ms. Aitken.

Future meetings/workshops (to be announced) will explore future directions for the Muttontown Preserve.

The need for the plan was explained by Ralph Fumante, Jr., chairman of the Nassau County Open Space and Parks Advisory Committee (OSPAC).

Mr. Fumante said, “Over the last few years it became clear to Nassau County’s Open Space and Parks Advisory Committee (OSPAC) that the County needed to create a Master Plan to address its vast and growing inventory of parks and preserves. By utilizing this approach the County can intelligently plan and budget for their future use, capital improvements, maintenance, environmental and historical protection. The desire is that once an initial plan is completed for one property that it may be used as a template for others within the County’s park and preserve portfolio. At OSPAC’s recommendation the County has taken the first steps in creating such a plan. The County has selected the Muttontown Preserve as the site to begin the planning process and engaged the firm of Saratoga Associates to guide it along.

“A key element to the planning process is the community’s input, as these properties serve a critical role in preserving open space, providing a channel for physical activities, and enriching our quality of life.”