(PHOTO: Rye's Marshlands Conservancy)
Today MyRye.com received one of many regular PR missives from Westchester County government, this one bragging about upcoming nature programs across the county including ones at Rye's Marshlands Conservancy and the Edith Read Sanctuary (details below).
What the county PR machine did not say is these may be the last programs in these parks.
According to budget cuts being planned by Westchester boss Rob Astorino, both Rye spots - Marshlands and Edith Read - will be stripped of their curators (they will be fired) and for all intents and purposes have zero care taking. Sources tell MyRye.com this can lead to poor conditions, vandalism, errant behavior and even crime.
The cost of the curator at Marshlands is approximately $77,000 annually.
We contacted Chris Graseck, President of Friends of Marshlands, who told us "The county is planning on closing all six of its nature centers and letting the six curators go... A decision will be made after the Dec 6th [budget] meeting... The Executive's office has said that the parks will still be overseen by Parks department employees. I'm not sure if the County Executive realizes that the vast majority of the work done at these parks is taken care of by the curators and volunteers. The Parks Department has very little to do with the operations of parks that have curators. Residents who do not want to see the nature centers closed should attend and speak at the two remaining budget meetings and/or write to their County Legislator, Parks Commissioner Kathleen O'Connor, and County Executive Astorino."
Local County Legislator Judy Myers told us "This budget is all-consuming. The parks themselves are to remain open; what has been proposed by the county executive is to cut the naturalists/curators and close the actual "nature center" buildings. I don't believe that this is a smart move, in light of their tremendous appeal all year long and the potential for a great deal of damage without the eyes and ears of the curators, and am actively working to restore the funding as we speak."
Here is a letter sent out by the Friends of Edith Read:
"We need your help!
Westchester County Plans to CLOSE Edith Read Wildlife Sanctuary and 5 other Nature Centers, and lay off the Curators/Naturalists.
As you may be aware, Westchester County's proposed 2012 budget includes 210 layoffs and further cuts across many departments. A large percentage of these layoffs and cuts have come from the Conservation Division of the Department of Parks, Recreation and Conservation, including the closing of all six nature centers and cancellation of all wildlife monitoring, habitat maintenance, and nature education programs. This Division is entrusted with protecting the natural resources of Countyparkland, and these layoffs further erode environmental programs that have already been reduced. Further information on the budget can be found here: http://www3.westchestergov.com/news/3102-astorino-proposes-2012-budget-with-zero-increase-in-county-tax-levy
Here are the list of nature centers whose buildings will close and whose staff will be eliminated if this budget is adopted:
-- Edith Read Wildlife Sanctuary in Rye, NY
-- Marshlands Conservancy in Rye, NY
-- Cranberry Lake Preserve in West Harrison, NY
-- Croton Point Nature Center in Croton-on-Hudson, NY
-- Trailside Nature Museum (Pound Ridge) in Cross River, NY
-- Lenior Preserve in Yonkers, NY
We urge you to please make every effort to attend one of the public budget hearings listed below to let your concerns with these budget cuts be known.
The Southern Westchester County Regional Public Hearing on the 2012 Budget will take place on Tuesday, November 22 at 7pm at New Rochelle High School, 265 Clove Road, New Rochelle.
The Northern Westchester County Regional Public Hearing on the budget will take place on Wednesday, November 30 at 7pm at Somers High School, 120 Primrose Street, Lincolndale.
The third and final Regional Public Hearing on the 2012 Budget will take place on Tuesday, December 6 at 7pm in the Board Of Legislators Chambers on the 8th Floor of theMichaelian Office Building in White Plains.
Please take a moment to call, e-mail and/or send a hard copy letter to all of your legislators NOW - before you forget!
Their address is:
800 Michaelian Office Building,
148 Martine Ave, 8th Floor,
White Plains, NY 10601
Please use the attached letter as a template, and feel free to change it and personalize it - particularly the first sentence. You can also e-mail your letters. Sending both hard copy and e-mail letters would be the best option. For a directory of legislators please go to: http://westchesterlegislators.com/contact-us.html
Please also send a letter to the County Executive, Robert Astorino at:
and hard copy to:
900 Michaelian Building,
148 Martine Ave.,
White Plains, NY 10601
Please send a letter to the Commissioner of Parks, Recreation & Conservation Kathleen O'Connor at:
and hard copy to:
25 Moore Ave.,
Mt. Kisco, NY 10549
Thank you for your support!
Friends of Read Wildlife Sanctuary"
And here are what may be those last nature walks:
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 10
Edith G. Read Wildlife Sanctuary, Playland Parkway, Rye – (914) 967-8720
Winter Ecology Walk – 1 p.m.
Join us for a leisurely stroll as we talk about the ecology of nature in winter. Refreshments provided by Friends of Read Sanctuary.
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 11
Marshlands Conservancy, Route 1, Rye – (914) 835-4466
Survival at the Sanctuary – 2 p.m.
Learn hands-on techniques on what to do if you get stuck in the woods.
Bird Feeders Made Easy – 2 p.m.
Learn to make a bird feeder to attract the most interesting birds. Bring binoculars.