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Suggestions Abound for Master Plan for Muttontown Preserve

Saratoga Associates held its second public meeting in its planning process for the Muttontown Preserve. The first meeting, a community presentation, was held at Chelsea Mansion Saturday, March 20 to an overflow crowd, therefore, in case of a second large crowd, the spacious Hoffman Center conference room was the venue on Saturday, May 22. The attendance was smaller, but everyone was a truly interested participant. Bill Knoll, principal of Saratoga Associates, was the moderator. People sat at tables with maps and a packet on the issues to be discussed listed as: Chelsea; Patterson Center; King Zog area; trails and preserve; equestrian area; rental properties.

 

The first meeting allowed Saratoga Associates to share the knowledge they had accumulated about the preserve through research and visits to the sight, and to get some input from user groups. Kathleen Kleinman, president of the Muttontown Horsemen’s Association, met with them earlier in the process and had shown them around the horse trails. They did a great deal of research into the geological background of the preserve.

The second meeting was for Saratoga Associates to gather specific input from the community or “insights”, as Bill Kroll said. They will continue collecting information at further workshops. The next meeting will be held on June 30, at which SA will make a PowerPoint presentation presumably including the material gathered at the meeting.

“We are looking for all things you consider critical; this is a fabulous preserve,” said Mr. Kroll. He suggested the participants should generate and test ideas amongst themselves. In June they will have a plan and programs report. A final meeting will refine the master plan.

The discussions at the tables were informed and interesting. After about 90 minutes Mr. Kroll asked for the suggestions, table by table. An overall suggestion for the various sites was the creation of “Friends-of” organizations to focus on each portion of the preserve. Another general suggestion was to have bathrooms, and food service available in the various locations. Good signage was another pervading suggestion as was general maintenance, and a dedicated staff for each area.

Chelsea Mansion

The groups suggested: increased support from Nassau County; a Friends group; a café; a community garden; a garden club facility and exhibits; for blood drive and quilt show locations; repair the driveway; add public bathrooms; maintenance; signage, with a good map of the trail system; get volunteers to the site (an existing problem that may soon be solved); it is too expensive to rent Chelsea for events; bring in NY Botanical Gardens courses; more history information; a native plant garden; get the cooperative extension and Nature Conservancy to be involved. The use of Chelsea was suggested to be with a lower impact use – and that bus tours bring in fewer cars; charge for those tours as a fund raiser for Chelsea; move the entrance on 25A to conform with Mill River Road for easier access; no permit needed for volunteer workers; have a dedicated staff; air condition Chelsea; add a lawn chess game; use Chelsea at night; have a Halloween Costume Ball; and get an American Girl tie-in for events; historic tennis games, a la a Gatsby party.

Nassau Hall

Suggestions for Nassau Hall, located south of Muttontown Road, included using it for offices; corporate annual events; a farm; petting zoo; partner with schools for programs; restore the miniature Williamsburg Village; encourage interactive education programs; return the stables to use; give horticultural tours; clean up termite problems; remove previous “bad” restoration work; better access through signage; find volunteer gardeners; encourage a NY Botanical Garden connection; respect the delicate condition of Nassau Hall and restore it; is there room on the property for a ball field for community use; and get a membership group of “Friends.”

Bill Patterson Area

Suggestions for the Bill Patterson area of the Muttontown Preserve that is reached through Muttontown Lane include: clean up the trails; get dedicated trail workers; put in trail markers; see if the Greenbelt volunteers could help here – they earn credit for helping clean up trails; continue the parking lot availability for the Oyster Festival for which the community pays a fee to Nassau County; get a lock box system such as is used at Target Rock for parking fees; offer night tours if possible – not allowed now; there is currently a vast user group of schools and Scouts for the preserve with tours offered – they might be extended to more weekend tours on several subjects including orienteering, bird watching, plants, invasive species and flowers; geological tours. A suggestion was to make the maps more available; hold a paid lecture series; get foundation grants; and do some grant writing for the preserve; cross country skiing is to be encouraged; and to offer community service credit to schools and others; better signage; a face lift for the building which is tiny and inadequate for any group over 30 school children – it should be used as a lunchroom; there should be a dedicated staff for the preserve; add docents who work part time.

Trails and Preserve

Trail maintenance is a big issue in the preserve, as is signage; a key is needed to explain the length of the trails and their difficulty; benches for resting while on the trail; restrooms; paths for horses and paths for people – defined; open the Christie property to the preserve [about one third of it is a DEC designated wetland]; portable bathrooms were suggested; get rid of invasive species such as mudwort and bittersweet; connect the north and south parts of the preserve with a pedestrian signal at Muttontown Road; get dedicated equipment for maintaining the site including wood chippers – and dedicated workers who will know what not to cut down; fix the wet muddy trails with “wood cookies” (circular sections of cut dead trees); clean out the pipe that drained the wetland area – a tree fell on it; possibly put in raised cedar platforms for walking over difficult terrain; clear markers; better fire emergency access; some wanted the muddy trails maintained as more natural; solve the tick problem – which some consider natural in summer; [“There is nothing like a little friendly tick bite,” said Mr. Kroll – a naturalist at heart.]; there are flat paths and old paved roads – to consider when thinking of making the park handicap accessible; an adopt-a-trail program – with naming rights; a composting toilet; a paid volunteer coordinator.

Equestrian Concerns

The equestrians want ample parking; linear connections between trails that flow into each other rather than overuse of some trails; better drainage; a handicap mounting ramp; bringing in Horseability or the Palomino project for handicapped riders; trail patrols; equal treatment for horsemen and walkers in that the Muttontown Horsemens Association does clean and maintain the trails; bring in arts and crafts shows; hold a movie night such as is held in Eisenhower Park; solve the fact that there has been difficulty in getting permits for horse shows and as a result they have lost the opportunity to generate funds – and they make donations to the preserve yearly; there was talk of a stable which was to be a source of income; working with the existing Equestrian Center on Route 106; get equipment on site for maintenance; maybe add a small stable with a caretaker on site for safety; there is a septic system on site that was available and should be maintained for field events; the field used for horse fairs is in bad shape; add benches; hold hay rides for revenue generating; have photo contests and better marketing; expand the education about invasive species such as poison ivy and others; more tours on weekends.

King Zog Area

When considering the King Zog area, the groups suggested more historical information should be available; hold Halloween Spooky Evenings including on the weekends; have a climbing wall; put in a revenue producing food service in the area – it would be a good area for commercial use; there is a Theodore Roosevelt connection to Charles Hudson who built the original Knollwood on the site – exploit it; increase the Internet information on the site; give architectural and history tours; someone suggested the King Zog estate was the site of potential accidents because of its deteriorating condition; add interpretive signage; hold photo classes; restore the walled garden that had vegetables and flowers growing there.

Rental Properties

There are several rental properties at Chelsea and at the Nassau Mall where non-profits are located. The comment on the residential rental properties was that having someone living on the property adds better security. Someone asked where the rental money goes – does it go to the preserve? The answer is that the funds go into the Nassau County General Fund. There was a suggestion that a staffer is needed for the stable at Nassau Hall; the concept of a community garden near the rental properties at Chelsea was suggested which would teach people about gardening.

Next Event

Mr. Kroll thanked everyone for their suggestions. He said they welcome additional comments. The group will re-convene on Wednesday, June 30 at 7:15 p.m. at the Hoffman Center for a Power Point presentation. At the meeting a suggestion was made to look up Wikimapia on the Internet and check out the Old Long Island Blog where you can zoom in and see areas of the Muttontown Preserve in detail.