It's time for the board of education to take the Guggenheim Preserve off the table when it comes to our community's debate over athletic fields for the children of Port Washington.
At its worst, it seems to be a poorly considered solution looking for a problem. At best, it's an issue that has put emotions before reason, resulting in much debate but no real investigation as to whether or not the community actually needs additional athletic fields and, if so, where they should be developed.
Many of my neighbors have made the environment their central cause. I agree that open space, especially one with so much natural beauty, is something none of us should take for granted. While I applaud and support their efforts, I can't claim to be an expert on the environment. So while I have no doubt from walks with my son that the Preserve is home to many of nature's irreplaceable treasures, I'm not qualified to speak with authority on the topic.
What I do know, however, is that wherever I go - from The Terrace to Manorhaven, Soundview to Sands Point, Beacon Hill to Baxter Estates, Port North to Port Washington Estates - our community is more crowded by traffic today than it was when my family came to Port only three years ago. I've heard from many long-time residents, including some who have lived here for nearly 50 years, that Port Washington is starting to look a bit like Queens with all the cars and construction (a bit of a stretch in my opinion, but their point is well taken).
Developing the Guggenheim Preserve into athletic fields that will be used not only by our schools' students and teams, but by local clubs playing against teams from other towns will add to the congestion in an area that simply was not designed to handle it.
As a father with a couple of future soccer stars, I intend to be an active member of one of our local clubs (PAL, PWSC or PYA) and plan to be on the sidelines coaching just as so many parents do today. I have great respect for the parents who volunteer their time and effort. My primary concern is that for three years I've heard and read about a need for more fields with club members often being among the most vocal proponents, but never have I seen or read anything that offers real evidence that the need exists.
We frequently use the fields at both Guggenheim and Daly with our son during the week and on weekends. On most days, we have the entire field to ourselves. Even on days when a game is being played, the former soccer player in me sees room for at least one or two additional playing fields if someone took the time to study and optimize use of the existing grounds. Installing lights seems to be a more reasonable, less costly, and less disruptive first step to expand the use of fields into the early evening hours during the fall and winter months.
If the need for more fields does exist, the Guggenheim Preserve is not the solution. The increased traffic and subsequent noise and trash will increase perceptions that our community is no longer the tranquil town far from the LIE that it once was, potentially diminishing the value of homes throughout the area, particularly in Port Washington North, The Terrace, Sands Point and other areas north of Main Street.
So before the board of education decides to allocate any taxpayer money to raze the Guggenheim Preserve, let's be sure there's a need. Then, if thoughtful study determines there actually is a need for more playing fields, let's carefully deliberate where to develop these fields in the best interests of the entire community.
(Note: For those not familiar, the parcel of undeveloped woods and meadows referred to by many as the Guggenheim Preserve runs from Middle Neck Rd. to the Guggenheim School grounds with streets and homes in The Terrace and the Sands Point Golf Club serving as boundaries on either side.)