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Brookhaven Town Councilman Kevin LaValle with boys winners Chris Witherspoon, Josh Washington and Stephen Cartolano, Suffolk County Legislator Tom Muratore and 6th Precinct Community Liaison Officer Will Zieman. Photo from Councilman LaValle

By Bill Landon

A three-on-three basketball tournament took center stage at the Centereach pool and park complex July 15.

In the second year of the Above the Rim tournament, sponsored by Brookhaven Town Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden), boys and girls competed in separate sessions for a championship title.

With new courts, backboards and rims, and a new spray park, walking trail and pickleball courts, the park complex has undergone multiple renovations since LaValle took office four years ago.

Brianna LaValle, on right, leaps for the rim during the Above the Rim tournament at Centereach Pool’s park. Photo by Bill Landon

“I grew up about a mile from here, and I grew up playing basketball, so when I got elected to office we redid this whole facility,” the councilman said. “For me, growing up here, it’s a way to give back to the community. These are new courts and the message we wanted to get out was ‘hey, the courts are back and with the pool, the playground, the tennis and pickleball courts, there’s something for the whole family.”

The park property has a cellular telephone tower on its west side that the town parks department leases to wireless communications carriers. Until LaValle took office that revenue, almost $60,000 a year according to the councilman, went into the town’s general fund. But he changed that.

“One of the first resolutions I passed was to put that money back into this park, because it’s on the park’s property,” LaValle said. “So that’s how we redid the basketball courts, the walking trail and the spray park. It’s a beautiful facility. You don’t get many parks like this in any township let alone Brookhaven.”

The Middle Country Booster Club, the Middle Country Public Library, the Centereach Fire Department, the Suffolk County Police Department’s Community Oriented Police Enforcement unit and the Selden and Centereach civic associations attended the event.

The girls had the benefit of an overcast sky and cooler temperatures in the morning, where Kanesha Strider, Jacqueline Mannix and Brianna LaValle took home the title.

Kanesha Strider dribbles the ball. Photo by Bill Landon

Strider, a Longwood junior and three-year varsity player, passed on another event to take part in the tournament.

“Basketball brings me here — I love basketball,” she said. “I could’ve went to a party today, but basketball is very important [to me]. This is a great opportunity and you don’t get stuff like this in Longwood.”

Mannix, a Sachem North junior who is on the varsity squad at her school, played in the tournament at the urging of someone else.

“It was my friend and teammate who convinced me to play today,” she said. “I played in last year’s tournament, too.”

North Babylon junior LaValle, the councilman’s niece, said she came out for the tournament for two reasons.

“It’s for the love of the game,” she said. “And I did this with my friends last year. We love to get out on the court. It’s cool that they made just a girls thing this year.”

The boys competed in the evening, where Centereach varsity boys basketball players stole the show. Senior Chris Witherspoon and juniors Josh Washington and Stephen Cartolano placed first.

“When you come down here on any day, you have kids running around, kids playing basketball, people swimming, seniors playing pickleball, so it’s a multi-dimensional park to say the least,” LaValle said. “There are so many things you can do in one place and the parents love to bring the kids down here, so it’s really a unique facility.”

Brookhaven Town Councilman Kevin LaValle with Above the Rim girls champions Jacqueline Mannix, Brianna LaValle and Kanesha Strider. Photo from Councilman LaValle

Some debris dumped at the Town of Brookhaven’s Tanglewood Park in Coram. Photo from Legislator Anker’s office

The penalty for illegally dumping on county-owned properties may soon include jail time in Suffolk County, after legislators unanimously approved on March 28 both increased fines and the potential of up to one year’s imprisonment for anyone convicted. The bill, sponsored by Legislators Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma), Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) and Kate Browning (WF-Shirley), now goes to Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) for his signature within the next 30 days. 

A no dumping sign along North Country Road in Shoreham. File photo

Once implemented, maximum fines for illegal dumping of nonconstruction, demolition and hazardous material wastes by a business or corporation will increase to $15,000 from the previous fine of $5,000. The penalty for dumping nonconstruction materials by an individual will remain at $1,000. If an individual is found dumping construction or demolition material, the misdemeanor fine will increase to $10,000 for an individual and $15,000 for a corporation or business. Under the change, both an individual and someone convicted of dumping material on behalf of a commercial entity may be sentenced up to one year in jail. Imposition of the ultimate fine or criminal sentence is within the sentencing court’s discretion.

“For far too long, fines associated with illegal dumping were considered just the cost of doing business,” said Hahn, chairwoman both of the Legislature’s Parks & Recreation and Environment, Planning and Agriculture Committees. “For those who choose to pursue greed over the health of the public and our environment, your cost of business has just gotten a lot more expensive. The one-two combination of increased monetary penalties and potential jail time will hopefully give pause to any person or commercial entity that believes these significant fines and the potential loss of freedom is a cost effective business strategy.”

Illegal dumping on Long Island has emerged as a serious environmental issue and threat to public health following the discoveries of potentially toxic debris within the Town of Islip’s Roberto Clemente Park, Suffolk County’s West Hills County Park and a housing development for military veterans in Islandia. In February, New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation issued approximately 200 tickets for unlawful disposal, operating without a permit and other violations during stings conducted on Long Island and the Hudson Valley that also identified nine dumping sites upstate. 

“Illegal dumping of hazardous materials and construction waste on county property causes harmful chemicals to seep into our water.”

—Sarah Anker

“For decades, Suffolk County has worked tirelessly to preserve land in order to protect our environment and groundwater,” Anker said. “Illegal dumping of hazardous materials and construction waste on county property causes harmful chemicals to seep into our water, which negatively affects our health. It is important we do everything in our power to continue to protect our parklands and to ensure that illegal dumping does not occur. By doing so, we are not only preserving the environmental integrity of Suffolk County, but improving the quality of life for all residents.”

Trotta called the dumping a crime against the residents of Suffolk County.

“I want to make it unprofitable for contractors to dump this material,” he said, “and more importantly, I want them going to jail for this.”

Browning added that the parks are vital assets for Suffolk County residents, and one of the core recreational resources available to them. She doesn’t like seeing the destruction of quality of life. Legislature Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville) agrees, saying it’s an important step to protecting parks, while giving teeth to all legislation recently passed on this quality of life issue.

“I applaud legislator Hahn for her hard work toward preventing this serious problem,” Browning said. “Aggressively attacking illegal dumping head on will ensure the sustainability of our parks and preserve one of the many reasons Suffolk County continues to be a great place to live.”

State Assemblyman Steve Englebright argues that the open space where National Grid plans to put a solar farm, above, houses wildlife species and land that would be better used for parkland. File photo by Kevin Redding

More than a month ago, state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) and three others trekked across a parcel of land in Shoreham where National Grid plans to demolish 350 acres of a surrounding forest to build a solar farm.

Taking in the rolling hills, cliffs and various species of wildlife around him, Englebright thought up a different, less destructive use for the land.

“I’d prefer to see this as a state park,” he said.

National Grid, which owns the power plant property in Shoreham, above, is proposing a solar farm. File photo by Kevin Redding

On March 22, a proposal to turn Shoreham-Wading River Forest into a state park was officially written by Dick Amper, executive director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, who had accompanied Englebright that day.

Signed by 20 representatives from various civic associations and environmental groups across Suffolk County, the proposal aims to protect and preserve the more than 800 acres of land, owned by National Grid, that surrounds the permanently closed Shoreham nuclear power plant.

“The approximately 820 acres of undeveloped vegetable land at Shoreham constitutes one of the top four unprotected natural areas remaining on all of Long Island,” Amper wrote in the proposal. “Given its size, location on the shoreline of Long Island Sound, and ecological/environmental attributes, the Shoreham property strongly merits acquisitions as New York’s next ‘great state park.’”

Recreational proposals included are a “shore-to-core-to-shore” hiking trail tying the Long Island Sound coastline with the Pine Barrens forests; a number of hiking trails lacing throughout the woodlands; and the mile-long beachfront for surf casting fisherman, beachcombers and swimming.

The letter was sent to Rose Harvey, commissioner of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, in Albany, where it currently awaits approval. As of press time, there was still no response.

If approved, the proposed state park would be included in legislation put forth by Englebright.

State Assemblyman Steve Englebright. File photo

“It is an incredibly valuable ecological property — it has an importance for all of Brookhaven Town and this entire region,” Englebright said, noting the parcel’s rare plant species, large variety of woodland birds and significant watershed and clean water supply potential. “The parcel is a museum piece of our island’s natural history heritage, and its ecological and natural system benefits are immense.”

Since a solar farm on the site was proposed by National Grid last June, it’s attracted much community opposition.

According to the project’s fact sheet, the solar farm would generate up to 72 megawatts of solar energy, provide power for more than 13,000 homes and raise millions of dollars in tax benefits.

“We think it’s a false choice,” Amper said. “It’s like saying, we have to destroy the environment to preserve it, which is just stupid.”

Amper recognized solar as an important renewable energy in combatting global warming, but said panels should be installed on roofs and parking lots rather than ecosystems.

“The land is so valuable, environmentally, that it should be preserved,” he added. “It’s just an extraordinary treasure that has largely gone unappreciated because of this abandoned nuclear plant, a white elephant on the landscape.”

Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) has long been against the deforestation of the Shoreham site, and said turning it into a state park would be a win-win.

“There’s a dearth of recreational resources on Long Island, and so to have the public be able to access this property, take in its beauty, experience it, enjoy it, swim in the Long Island sound, boat, hike …,” she said. “We don’t want this property to be developed.”

National Grid is proposing a solar farm in Shoreham, like the one at Brookhaven National Lab. File photo

Andrea Spilka, president of Southampton Town Civic Coalition, who was among the 20 names on Amper’s proposal, echoed Bonner’s sentiment.

“[The site] is probably one of the last waterfront forests we have on Long Island,” Spilka said. “I’m a firm believer in not developing and not cutting down trees to set up solar, so to me, a park where people can go and enjoy the natural beauty that we have is a worthwhile cause. And, certainly, the alternatives are not good.”

Sid Bail, president of the Wading River Civic Association, said he didn’t think twice before signing the proposal.

“It just seemed like such a travesty and tragedy to consider that the only way we could have a renewable future was to eliminate this really unique, environmental parcel,” Bail said.

The Long Island Pine Barrens Society is holding a bus tour of the property Tuesday, April 18th, from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. For more information, call 631-369-3300.

Cordwood Landing County Park is located on Landing Avenue in Miller Place. File photo by Erika Karp

It’s a purchase that’s been six years in the making, but now, Miller Place can make room for more open space.

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) announced last week that the owner of a 5.4-acre parcel adjacent to the 64.4-acre Cordwood Landing County Park has accepted Suffolk County’s most recent offer to acquire the property for open space preservation.

Previously, the wooded piece of land was slated for residential development. Anker had submitted three separate resolutions in 2011, 2014 and 2016 for the county to appraise the parcel with hopes of expanding the adjacent county parkland. While there are still several steps in the approval process, the legislator will continue to push the acquisition forward.

“I will continue to do everything in my power to preserve this environmentally sensitive parcel,” she said. “Residential development on this property would negatively affect the character of the Miller Place historic district and infringe on the beauty of Cordwood Landing County Park.”

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said acquiring the land is a remarkable achievement for the county and its residents.

“Residential development on this property would negatively affect the character of the Miller Place historic district and infringe on the beauty of Cordwood Landing County Park.”

— Sarah Anker

“Legislator Anker has been an incredible advocate for the preservation of the open space around Cordwood Landing County Park, and this acquisition speaks volumes to the quality of leadership we strive for in our region,” he said. “Land preservation allows us to protect our environment, and most of all, improve the water quality in the region. I look forward to continue working with our local leaders to make Suffolk County a great place for all our residents.”

The county is currently in the process of obtaining an environmental site assessment survey. The Suffolk County Planning Department and the Council on Environmental Quality will then review the assessment to ensure the site is environmentally sound, in order to move forward with the acquisition. Following review and pending approval by the council, Anker will put forth a resolution to purchase the property. The purchasing resolution will be reviewed by the Environment, Planning and Agriculture Committee, and if approved by the committee, the resolution will be voted on by the legislature.

Cordwood Landing County Park is in the heart of the Miller Place historic district and is an important parcel of open space for the local community. It offers extensive hiking trails and access to the Long Island Sound, and the local community, including the Miller Place Civic Association, has been vocal in support for the acquisition.

“The Miller Place Civic Association is very pleased to see the preservation efforts of this property located between our historic district and the nature preserve is moving forward,” Miller Place Civic Association president Woody Brown said.

He added he’s grateful that the owner, developer Mark Baisch, who owns Landmark Properties in Rocky Point, was willing to let the county purchase and preserve the parcel. He also thanked local officials for their involvement.

“We owe a big thank you to Legislator Sarah Anker, who stood with the community throughout the entire process and continued to work diligently to save this precious parcel in its natural state,” he said. “Also, we wish to thank the Town of Brookhaven, Councilwoman Jane Bonner and Supervisor Ed Romaine for all their support and willingness to partner with the county to purchase the property.”

Anker said she is really just happy to have the community behind her.

“I would like to thank the local community for their support,” she said. “I am confident that I will be able to work with my peers to bring this acquisition to fruition.”

Cold Spring Harbor performs at the Village Center in Port Jefferson on July 21. Photo by Joseph Wolkin

By Joseph Wolkin

Thursday nights in July are for music, beautiful sunsets and good times in Port Jefferson.

The Harborside Concert Series hosted its second of four installments July 21 at Harborfront Park outside of the Village Center.

Amid the warm temperature and radient sky, the Cold Spring Harbor Band took to the stage to perform a Billy Joel tribute concert.

Led by Pat Farrell, known as “Piano Man Pat,” the band played chronologically according to Joel’s career. Starting with his first album, “Cold Spring Harbor,” the band played covers of the singer’s most popular songs.

The Cold Spring Harbor Band. Photo by Joseph Wolkin
The Cold Spring Harbor Band. Photo by Joseph Wolkin

“This is a fantastic venue,” Farrell said after the concert. “We play at a lot of places, but we’re playing right by the water. It’s just incredible and we had a great turnout. It’s beautiful here at Port Jefferson.”

Husband and wife Bill and Margie Recco attended the concert as part of a relaxing evening by the water with their friends. Margie Recco attended high school with Joel at Hicksville High School, ut the two never met.

“I think it’s great,” she said about the concert series.

Her husband agreed.

“It’s lovely here,” he said. “It has a breeze. It’s a wonderful night. There’s a free concert and it’s just really nice.”

“Every venue is different,” Farrell said. “You have great weather. It’s right on the water. Port Jefferson is world-renowned. It’s right up there.”

The Cold Spring Harbor Band ended the evening by singing “I’m Proud to Be an American,” with the crowd getting to their feet and singing along to the patriotic song.

Next up in the Harborside Concert Series is an Aug. 4 performance with Six Gun & DJ Neil Wrangler, featuring country music.

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The entrance to Blydenburgh County Park is in Smithtown. File photo

A man trying to rescue his dog from a freezing lake on Saturday morning needed a rescue himself, after falling into chest-deep water, according to police.

The 56-year-old Brooklyn resident was going after Dena the dog, who had gotten loose during a walk and ran onto a frozen lake at Blydenburgh County Park in Smithtown, the Suffolk County Police Department said. While going after the canine, he fell into the lake himself.

Park rangers as well as officers from the SCPD’s 4th Precinct, Emergency Service Section, Aviation Section and Marine Bureau responded to the park, on Veterans Memorial Highway. Police said Michael Coscia from the Emergency Service Section put on a water rescue suit and crawled onto the ice, while tethered to a rope officers Michael Simpson and Robert Stahl were holding.

After the man was in the water for about 25 minutes, Stahl, Simpson and Sgt. Michael Homan pulled both him and Coscia from the water, police said. The dog walked off the ice.

Police said the Brooklyn man was treated for hypothermia at Stony Brook University Hospital.

The property is adjacent to Cordwood Landing County Park off of Landing Road in Miller Place. Photo by Erika Karp

Acquiring land for open space preservation is usually straightforward, but that wasn’t the case for a piece of property adjacent to Cordwood Landing County Park in Miller Place.

What started as a simple purchase of the land and a quest to preserve it, ended with bad blood between a legislator and those involved with the property, after Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) accused developer Mark Baisch and Friends of Cordwood Landing of colluding together to defraud the county. The accusation, which Baisch and Tom Cramer, president of Friends of Cordwood, said is not true, was enough to discourage Baisch from following through with his initial plan to sell the property for open space preservation.

“I’m not interested in selling the property … not after I’ve been accused with stuff like this,” Baisch said. “Who in their right mind would go ahead and keep negotiating further?”

Baisch acquired the property in September 2014 for $750,000 from the original owner. When asked why Anker accused him and Friends of Cordwood Landing of conspiring together, Baisch was unsure where the accusation came from.

Anker said she thought Baisch and Friends of Cordwood Landing were conspiring together after receiving an email from Cramer that criticized Anker’s efforts regarding the property, and added he thought Baisch’s asking price was reasonable.

The accusations did not stop there. According to a previous interview with Cramer, Anker did not do what she could to help purchase and preserve the land — a statement Anker refutes. The resolution for this property was Anker’s first piece of legislation when she was elected in 2011. According to Anker and Jon Schneider, deputy Suffolk County executive, Anker did what she could within the law to acquire the property. In 2011, before the original owner sold the property to Baisch, Anker said the land was appraised for $783,000 — the owner refused to sell the land to the county for an unknown reason.

After Baisch purchased the property from this owner, Cramer approached Baisch about selling the property for open space preservation. According to Baisch, once he agreed, Cramer put the steps in motion to get the land reappraised and encourage the county to purchase and preserve the land. Baisch said he would sell the eight parcels for $1.25 million. He said he offered the property for 24 percent more than the purchase price, knowing what he could get out of the 5.5-acre property.

According to Schneider, based upon as-of-right laws, the property yielded five one-acre parcels plus an additional parcel using Pine Barrens credits, which allows a developer to add parcels to the land according to their individual credits. Baisch explained that he had several Pine Barrens credits, which increased the number of possible parcels to eight.

After Anker issued another appraisal of the property, the county offered $930,000, despite Baisch’s selling price — they did this with the understanding that six parcels were permitted on the property, as Baisch must get approval to add the two additional parcels to his plan. While Baisch claims to have said “no” to the offer, Schneider said he did not respond to the offer, and it expired.

“We can only make an offer based on land as it sits,” Schneider said. “We can’t make an offer today as though he has eight lots. He doesn’t have eight lots he has six.”

While Cramer said Anker didn’t work hard enough to acquire the property, Schneider said there is little else the legislator could have done.

“All a legislator can do is set the process in motion,” he said, “Then we make an offer based on fair market value. At the end of the day, the goal is … we want to make the best use of taxpayer dollars.”

Anker said she can’t “break the law” and get involved in the negotiations regarding the property, and added the issue, including the rally Friends of Cordwood Landing organized on Oct. 15, was political. Steve Tricarico, who ran against Anker for Legislator of the 6th District, attended the rally, according to Anker. Anker was not invited to the event.

Although Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) attended the rally and promised to pay 30 to 35 percent of the property’s cost, Baisch is currently in the process of approving his eight-parcel plan for the property with the Town of Brookhaven.

He intends to build seven homes and one Workforce home. According to Baisch, the law states that if a developer intends to establish more than five parcels, they must provide at least one Workforce house, otherwise known as affordable housing. Baisch plans to market the affordable home to a returning veteran.

According to Cramer, the property is the last remaining tract adjacent to Cordwood Landing County Park. Despite the controversy surrounding the property, officials like Anker would like to see the property preserved.

“This parcel would make an excellent addition to Cordwood Landing County Park and the nearly 65 acres already preserved by Suffolk County,” Anker said. “I know Supervisor Ed Romaine and Councilwoman Bonner share my desire to preserve this parcel, and I look forward to working with them in preserving this important piece of land.”

A West Meadow Beach bench sports a new plaque honoring former park ranger Eileen Gerle. Photo by Eric Santiago

By Eric Santiago

More than 30 North Shore residents gathered around a park bench at West Meadow Beach on Sunday for the chance to see former Brookhaven park ranger, Eileen Gerle. The bench — which now bears a plaque commemorating Gerle’s work as an environmental educator — was dedicated to her after she retired and moved to Florida last year.

“It’s hard to put into words,” said an emotional Gerle. “It’s very overwhelming and touching to be loved by so many people.”

Gerle returned this week for a special Eagle Scout award ceremony of one of her former students just in time for a group of residents and friends to seize the opportunity and formally show her the plaque and celebrate old times.

Former town park ranger Eileen Gerle is honored at West Meadow Beach. Photo by Eric Santiago
Former town park ranger Eileen Gerle is honored at West Meadow Beach. Photo by Eric Santiago

“She was the best,” said Paul Feinberg, a West Meadow watchdog who helped organize the dedication along with a handful of other North Shore natives.

They were all frequent guests at Gerle’s “Sundowner” beach parties, where they would drink wine, eat cheese and watch the sunset. When it was clear Gerle was going to retire, the group hatched a plan to honor her work.

“We just decided that a simple plaque would be the nicest thing to do,” said Naomi Solo, a Port Jefferson resident who worked on the dedication.

As park ranger, Gerle was responsible for maintaining the beach, the area wildlife and, critically, educating people about the environment. She worked at West Meadow from 2009 to 2014 and said she made many friends along the way.

It was for this reason Solo and the others contacted Brookhaven Town for permission to install the plaque on a bench at the beach.

Her influence was so impactful that immediately after she resigned residents campaigned for town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) to guarantee that her position would be filled with another full-­time park ranger. Their efforts were successful and Gerle’s successor Molly Hastings took over the spot at West Meadow.

A year into the job, Hastings said the response has been nothing short of warm.

“It was really nice,” she said of when she started working at the beach. “I literally pulled up with the moving van and people were greeting me and welcoming me as I was taking the sofa and bed off of my truck.”

But Gerle’s greatest legacy lies in the students she taught, those at the ceremony said.

Aidan Donnelly, 13, was one of those who attended the educational programs Gerle organized. The newly appointed Eagle Scout was also the recipient of the William T. Hornaday badge — a prestigious award for “distinguished service in natural resource conservation,” according to the Boy Scouts of America website.

Aidan attributed the work he’s done, and the work he hopes to do as a future environmental physicist, to the lessons he learned from his mentor.

“She taught me everything I know about the beach,” he said of Gerle. “I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for her.”

Village park’s redesign unites North Shore community

Port Jefferson middle schoolers Erica Graci, left, and Lucas Welinder, right, display the designs they created that will be turned into two of the tiles that will grace the walls of the park. Photo by Heidi Sutton

By Erin Dueñas

It’s been more than two years that a major renovation for Rocketship Park in Port Jefferson Village has been in the works, and according to former village trustee Adrienne Kessel, chair of the committee dedicated to the redesign, it all started with a light.

The overhaul of the park, formally known as the Clifton H. Lee Memorial Park, began after vandals destroyed some of its equipment, prompting the village to look into repairs in addition to added security features, according to Kessel.

“It began with a conversation about adding better lighting but that wasn’t the answer,” she said. “When we went to fix the damaged pieces, we weren’t able to find them. The equipment was obsolete.”

As chair of the Treasure Your Parks committee, which operates under the Port Jefferson Harbor Education and Arts Conservancy, Kessel looked into replacing the playground. During her research she realized that what was already in the park made it nearly impossible for anyone with a disability to enjoy it.

“You can’t even push a stroller through,” Kessel said of the sand that covers the park’s surface. “I thought about a child in a wheelchair or even a parent or guardian in a wheelchair or with a cane and how the park was not accessible to them. That had to change.” The goal for the new park is for it to be accessible to everyone, disabled or not. “Every child should have the chance to play. I couldn’t imagine a park a child couldn’t utilize,” she said.

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, both newly constructed and altered facilities that accommodate the public — including recreational facilities such as playgrounds — must be readily accessible by people with disabilities. Kessel said the new park will exceed the ADA guidelines with features such as a poured ground surface that will provide easier mobility, a swing that can accommodate a wheelchair and a bridge feature that even those with limited mobility can use.

“We want everyone to have full freedom of the entire park,” Kessel said.

In addition to play features including a tree-shaped climbing piece called Robins Tree House and a play pirate ship, the park will also include sitting walls, natural looking walkways and shade trees.

The Consalvo family of Port Jefferson, who lost their daughter and sister Danielle to a drunk driver 19 years ago, donated funds to create an “enchanted” entry to the park in her memory. “When we heard about the renovation of the park, we knew this would be the perfect place to sprinkle some of her fairy dust,” said her sister Monica Consalvo.

“This timeless children’s park, which was visited by Danielle herself, brings smiles and laughter to all that visit. What was especially captivating to us was how this park would become one to include all children, not just those that easily walked onto the swing or climbed up the ladder of the slide, but to those who were challenged and needed a helpful hand. How inspiring that our small village would create a park that welcomed all and embraced the opportunity for a special needs child to swing alongside their peers,” she added.

Another planned feature also caught the attention of the Consalvo family. A three-sided, free-standing wall will be included in the park, displaying tiles that can be superimposed with artwork or commemorative messages created by members of the community.

According to Monica, Danielle not only enjoyed the park as a child but was an avid artist who was always drawing or sculpting with clay. “The connection was there,” she said.

Students from Port Jefferson Middle School, where Monica teaches special education, raised funds to purchase two mosaic tiles that would appear on the wall. She then organized a contest open to all the middle schoolers calling for original artwork that would appear on the tiles.

“We left it open as to what should be represented on the tiles. We told them what it would be used for, but they were free to put their creativity on it,” Monica said. The student body then voted on artwork entries, choosing two winning tiles last year created by now eighth-grader Erica Graci and now seventh-grader Lucas Welinder.

“What a legacy for a middle school student to have their design in the heart of our village to one day be shown to their children,” said Monica.

“As educators, we often tell our students to celebrate our differences and embrace our uniqueness, but how often do we get the opportunity to create a moment that brings this message to life?” she asked.

Danielle’s mother, Barbara Consalvo, noted that Lucas’ design struck a familiar chord with the family. “It was something very similar to what Danielle would have done. It was such a coincidence,” she said. Barbara said that her family was happy to contribute to a park her daughter used to go to. “When the opportunity presented itself, we wanted to be a part of it,” she said.

Estimates for the renovation are projected at $550,000. According to Kessel, about half of that amount has been secured, but fundraising efforts continue.

A GoFundMe site has been created and a Party for the Park Under the Harvest Moon fundraiser hosted by Ruvo, 105 Wynn Lane, and Old Fields Restaurant, 318 Wynn Lane, Port Jefferson, is scheduled for Oct. 1 from 7 to 10 p.m. The event will take place outside between the two restaurants. Rain date is Oct. 8. Tickets are $50 in advance by visiting www.rebuildrocketship.org or $60 at the door.

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Sara Leavens and Megan O’Haire hold their free pumpkins. Photo from Carole Paquette

Friends of Caleb Smith Preserve will hold its Second Annual Fall Festival on Sunday, Sept. 27. The fun-filled event will be held at Caleb Smith State Park Preserve in Smithtown, between 10 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.

There will be many activities geared to the natural and historical features of the Park. These include nature and birding walks led by popular local naturalists, such as Eric Powers, Four Harbors Audubon Society and Long Island Sierra Club; catch-and-release fishing for children under age 13, with worms and tackle provided; a fly-fishing demonstration; colonial and Native American games and crafts; antique cars and traditional music by popular entertainers.

Other events include: a mammal identification skull science program presented by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, a pond ecology program by nature illustrator and environmental educator Ján Porinchak, a honey-bee demonstration by Donal Peterson of 3 Bees Apiary, and a presentation by Volunteers for Wildlife who will bring some rehabilitated animals. Also, Mindy Block of Quality Parks Master Naturalist Program will lead a hike and have native plants and/or seeds for sale.

There will also be face painting, a 50-50 raffle and door prizes. Free pumpkins will be given to children on a first-come, first-served basis. Food and ice cream will be for sale.

Continuous entertainment will include: Maria Fairchild and Max Rowland, and Kirsten Maxwell and Mike Tedesco.

Maria Fairchild is known as one of the top “clawhammer” (Appalachian style) banjo players in the Northeast. She is popular for her singing and engaging wit, with traditional and modern material. She teaches banjo and plays with two bands, Dance All Night and Long Island Bluegrass Quartet.

Max Rowland plays music steeped in tradition and is seen locally at venues such as Old Bethpage Village Restoration, in historical re-enactments of the Civil War and American Revolutionary periods. He plays the accordion, concertina, banjo, mandolin and autoharp and is also a member of Dance All Night.

Kirsten Maxwell’s voice and writing style have been likened to that of Joan Baez, and blends a background in classical music with elements of folk, country, and contemporary genres.

Pianist, singer-songwriter Mike Tedesco’s original music is infused with jazz, pop, rock and soul influences. Most recently he was selected to be a part of the legendary New York Songwriters Circle and will be performing at The Bitter End nightclub, as a part of the group, on Nov. 2.

Visitors to the festival will also have access to the Preserve’s Nature Museum, with its interactive exhibits in individually themed rooms with wooded or pond backdrops and mounted wildlife: the Forest Room; Pond Room; River Room and Wetlands Room; and the Who Eats Whom interactive computerized food chain puzzle.

Admission fee to the Festival is $10 per carload; there will be no parking fee. There will be designated hours for children’s fishing, the fly-fishing demonstration and face-painting.

Caleb Smith State Park Preserve is located on Jericho Turnpike, between The Bull and Old Willett’s Path. For further park information, call (631) 265-1054. For more information about the Friends and their events, check their website: www.friendsofcalebsmith.org.

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