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Three-and-a-half years of diligent work have finally paid off for the Port Washington residents who, at the request of County Supervisor Thomas Suozzi, organized and founded the Friends of the Sands Point Preserve (Friends) because of concerns that the county was not able to properly maintain the property and a desire to save it before it was too late. Last October the Nassau County Legislature unanimously approved a comprehensive, 17-page agreement that gives the Friends the mandate to initiate all plans and to be the operating entity for the preserve. Since then details have had to be ironed out, but the agreement is now ready for enactment.

The county will still have to approve the Friends' recommendations, but the all-volunteer citizens group is to help implement everything that the county approves. Some uses of the Preserve must also be approved by the Village of Sands Point because of prior agreements involving the federal government, Nassau County, the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation and the Village of Sands Point.

Nassau County Legislator Craig Johnson, who lives in Port and whose vote helped confirm the agreement, hailed its passage, saying "The preserve is one of the county's most valuable open spaces and has great potential for cultural activities in addition to passive recreation. The county alone, however, doesn't have the personnel or extra tax dollars to give the property the devoted attention it deserves. I am hopeful that the Friends group will help in the endeavors necessary to ensure the success, as well as preservation, of the preserve."

The Sands Point Preserve is the largest property in Sands Point and Port Washington, with a mile of beachfront on Long Island Sound and 216 acres that include a large pond, specimen trees and miles of trails that wind through hills, valleys and woods. The preserve was once the estate of Howard Gould and then Daniel Guggenheim and finally his son Harry. The family gave 128 acres to the federal government in the mid-1900s, which later gave it to Nassau County. The remaining 88 acres were given to the county in 1971 when Harry died, thus completing the preserve. Included were the estate's four major residences - the main mansion (Hempstead House), the carriage house (Castlegould), Falaise and Mille Fleurs.

"We are very grateful for this generous gift," said Bob Berens, president of the Friends and chair of its Ideas and Uses Committee, "but the grounds and buildings need to be properly maintained, and this requires both careful management and adequate funds. Now that we finally have approval from the county, our board of directors is working on missions, projects and programs to encourage the individual, corporate and governmental support needed to restore the magnificent buildings and grounds to their original glory."

Friends also aims to enhance the preserve with facility improvements and innovative programs so that it can be enjoyed by more people in the community. In the visionary words of Mr. Berens, Friends "is dedicated to restoring the Sands Point Preserve to its rightful status as one of the jewels of the eastern United States, a natural treasure for Sands Point, Port Washington and Nassau County residents."

Toward these goals, Friends' ten board members have formed the following committees and are now seeking volunteers from the community to work with them: Buildings and Grounds (Stan Merjan, Jane Stern and Jolanta Zamecka who also serves as secretary), Development and Capital Projects (Jean-Marie Posner who also serves as treasurer), Finance (Harry Manko), Events (Marcia Forman), Communications (Brian Cohen who also serves as vice president), Nominations (Brian Cohen), Legal (Phil Newman), Government Relations (Jean-Marie Posner), Membership, and Ideas and Uses (Bob Berens). The newest board member, Carol Langstaf, also serves on the board of the Harry F. Guggenheim Foundation and is the granddaughter of Harry Frank Guggenheim.

This small group has laid firm groundwork to make the preserve a local treasure, but now they are initiating their first membership drive to ask residents in the area to join Friends and to volunteer their time and talent. Current membership levels are $75, $125, $200 and above, but donations in any amount are welcome. All membership fees and donations are tax-deductible.

Those interested in joining, volunteering or just asking a question, can write or call: Friends of the Sands Point Preserve, 121 Middle Neck Road, Sands Point, NY 11050; preservethepreserve@yahoo.com, 944-2000.


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