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Parks Department

Legislator Kara Hahn visits challenges residents to visit a county park everyday in May as part of her effort to promote Suffolk's green spaces. Photo from Hahn's office

Suffolk residents may not realize it, but the county has enough parkland to explore for an entire 31-day month and then some. Making sure her constituents are fully aware of their outdoor options right in their own backyard has become a mission for Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket).

Legislator Kara Hahn visits challenges residents to visit a county park everyday in May as part of her effort to promote Suffolk’s green spaces. Photo from Hahn’s office

She has been the chair of the Parks & Recreation Committee in Suffolk County since 2016, and upon getting started, said she was excited to start talking about parks. But Hahn didn’t realize how big of a job building awareness was going to be.

“Even in our neighborhood, there were people who had never been to Avalon [Park], people who had never been to the Greenway Trail,” she said. “I couldn’t believe that people didn’t know these things existed.”

In 2017 she kicked off her A Park a Day in May challenge, an initiative designed to get people out and about, visiting one of Suffolk’s dozens of parks to take a selfie and share on social media with the hashtag #APADIM. Hahn said even as the county’s parks chair, in researching and preparing for the now-annual challenge, she encounters green spaces she wasn’t aware of.

“When I became parks chair I said to all of my colleagues, ‘I want to tour all of the parks,’ thinking it was going to be so easy,” she said, adding she was totally mistaken. “It’s awesome.”

Legislator Kara Hahn visits challenges residents to visit a county park everyday in May as part of her effort to promote Suffolk’s green spaces. Photo from Hahn’s office

She said she and her family realized a couple of summers back, after taking a family trip to Cape Cod, they were traveling to enjoy experiences that were similar to what could be done back home.

“There’s so much here,” she said. “What we have here — there is no comparison anywhere else.”

Hahn admitted it would be impossible for her as a legislator to visit 31 different parks on 31 consecutive days, so the selfie’s she posts on a given day in May are sometimes taken previously and involve months of planning. She said getting out and visiting parks also affords her the opportunity to speak with constituents and gauge needs at certain parks, like monitoring ticks and funding for more benches.

In addition to her May initiative, Hahn also spearheaded a parks passport program last summer, which encourages kids to explore county parks and keep track of where they’ve been in a green, replica passport.

To see a full list of Suffolk green spaces and activities available at them — like kayaking, hiking and fishing to name a few — visit www.suffolkcountyny.gov/departments/parks/thingstodo.aspx.

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A more recent photo of the footbridge at Sunken Meadow State Park shows the love locks have been stripped. Photo by Susan Risoli

By Susan Risoli

To all the couples who attached padlocks to a footbridge in Sunken Meadow State Park: sorry, sweethearts. Your public declarations of love were removed recently by the New York State Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

Views of the footbridge at Sunken Meadow State Park, where lovebirds once saw locks representing their permanent affection. Photo by Susan Risoli
Views of the footbridge at Sunken Meadow State Park, where lovebirds once saw locks representing their permanent affection. Photo by Susan Risoli

Lovers worldwide have embraced the tradition of decorating locks with initials and other symbols of partnership, and ceremoniously attaching them to bridges. Fearing that locks would weaken structures and make them unsafe, municipalities have been removing the tokens of love. Twenty-two love locks were recently taken off the footbridge at the end of Sunken Meadow’s parking field 3. The New York City Department of Transportation removed 450 locks from the Brooklyn Bridge in April. And officials in Paris have been prying locks off bridges that span the River Seine.

A recent visit to Sunken Meadow revealed a barren bridge stripped of the locks that adorned it earlier this year. Only one lonely testament to love remained – a heart scratched into the metal railing, bearing the message “LW + GE.”

State Parks spokesman Randy Simons said in an email Tuesday that the Parks Department was concerned that, over time, an increasing number of locks could add unsafe weight to the bridge. Locks can get rusted, and that could also affect the bridge, Simons said.

Those who put a love lock on the bridge and want their memento back, he said, can pick it up at the Sunken Meadow park office.

“We encourage our visitors to express their friendship and love in other ways that do not interfere with others’ enjoyment of the natural setting and park property,” Simons said. Going forward, if park officials see anyone attaching a lock to the bridge, “We would explain to the individual or individuals that this is not permitted and have them remove the locks,” he said. “We do not see locks being placed on any of our bridges in the future.”

Views of the footbridge at Sunken Meadow State Park, where lovebirds once saw locks representing their permanent affection. Photo by Susan Risoli
Views of the footbridge at Sunken Meadow State Park, where lovebirds once saw locks representing their permanent affection. Photo by Susan Risoli

The Parks Department hasn’t seen love locks at any other state parks, Simons said.

The New York City Department of Transportation has been taking love locks off the city’s bridges since 2013, said a DOT spokesperson in an email Tuesday. She said the department removed 9,363 locks this year, from January through the end of September.

“Locks pose a safety risk for those using the Brooklyn Bridge and are not allowed,” she said. “We strongly discourage visitors from leaving locks on our bridges as it poses a danger to the infrastructure and the cars traveling below.”

“We ask that all visitors to the Brooklyn Bridge and other bridges across the city help keep our landmarks clean and in a state of good repair.”

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