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Editorial: The Process Needs Focus

Rosemary Colvin spoke at the Oyster Bay Civic Association meeting on Nov. 18, asking them to join with the East Norwich Civic Association in asking Saratoga Associates to come to speak to a joint meeting of the groups.

Ms. Colvin originally spoke at the East Norwich Civic Association at the meeting when Comptroller George Maragos spoke. Ms. Colvin sent a letter to the editor that expressed her opinions and brought them to the communities attention.

We pondered where we stood in the discussion. We like that the horsemen have use of the preserve because over the years we have covered their plight. At one time riders could go from Old Westbury to Cold Spring Harbor on horse trails through private property. As the land was cut up, new residents did not have the same appreciation of equestrian sport. They closed off trails giving many excuses – valid excuses in this litigenous society.

Kathleen Klienman states in her letter to the editor: “In the large network of Nassau County parkland, the Muttontown Preserve is the only one with trails for equestrian use. (Stillwell Woods had equestrian trails that have largely been taken over by bicyclists in the absence of a local invested equestrian group.) As explained to Ms. Colvin, one hundred percent of Preserve trails are available to hikers, joggers, birders, photographers, etc. Three percent of the trail system (sites environmentally sensitive or close to the mansion parcels) is off limits to equestrians, and Scout camping is permitted at specific sites only for safety and environmental reasons. Cross country skiing is available on all the trails, but obviously, significant snowfall is a prerequisite.”

We estimate the 3 percent is about 16 plus acres and we were told by Saratoga Associates that it is the area around Chelsea and includes the trails around the Nature Center hub, the trails around the kettle ponds and the land around Nassau in the area...

Truthfully, we haven’t been sensitive to Ms. Colvin in her appeal. It seemed to us that 16 acres without horses gives most people a lot of room to walk around. However, after saying that out loud, to a person after the meeting we had second thoughts.

Not about the facts – as Ms. Kleinman says we have 550 acres to walk through, but about having Saratoga Associates come to speak to the joint group – or at least to the East Norwich Civic Association would be better. After all, the Nassau County Comptroller took time out of his schedule to speak to the group, as have attorneys and developers over the years.

But, Ms. Colvin has a great point. Today, focus groups that reach into the community are found to be more effective. Saratoga Associates did invite the community to come to all the meetings. Many did. Many did not.

Still, the point is that it would be much better if the two civics were shown the courtesy of a visit by Saratoga Associates. It is important that the stakeholder groups express their concerns. There might be a compromise to be made – or maybe just a better understanding of the facts.

Mostly, we have discovered over time is that the public needs to be stroked. At the last meeting of Saratoga Associates, Eileen Krieb Deputy Commissioner of Parks Nassau County Department of Parks, Recreation & Museums explained that they were only allowed to present the finished master plan.

We think Nassau County should reconsider that policy. If the community has doubts let them express their concerns. It is the only prudent thing to do.

The wheels of Democracy go slowly, but it gives everyone their chance to be part of the process. That is the important thing to remember, especially by our elected officials.