The forgotten wooded parcel of land nestled behind Main Street's Pierre Apartments and Central Drive has long been a favorite hangout for kids, itinerant lovers, and the occasional homeless person. It's also officially park land in the Village of Baxter Estates, and now it's off-limits to everyone except village residents.
In an effort to keep youths from "making trouble in the park" and give police a law to curtail unauthorized access, the board of trustees passed a law limiting use of the leafy tract to residents-only from dawn to dusk. In a 3-1 split decision at a Feb. 19 meeting, the board voted to enforce a sunset-to-sunrise ban for everyone, including residents.
"There was concern," said Village Attorney Chris Prior, "that the park was being used by non-residents. There are no signs posted in the area so the police can't act."
"The point of this law," said Trustee Jackie McGowan "is to keep children from making trouble in the park."
Discussion by the trustees, residents and other officials before the vote revolved around allowing residents to bring guests to the public property.
"Some people worried about a resident bringing in 2, 4, 6, 8 guests," said Prior, "so I omitted any mention of guests (in writing the law.)"
In the lone dissenting vote, Trustee Fred Nicholson said the law wasn't tough enough, citing late sunset times in the summer. He lobbied for a 7 p.m. closing year round.
"I feel it should be off-limits from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.," he said. "We've got spray-painting there, fire activity and kids hanging-out there late into the evening. We just want to give the police the tools to do their jobs."
Though the new law does pertain to smaller tracts of park land scattered throughout the village, it does not apply to Baxter Estates Beach on Manhasset Bay, which already has its own nighttime and non-resident restrictions. The new law does mirror the sunset-to-sunrise limitation at Nassau County owned Baxter Pond Park along Central Drive.