Tags Posts tagged with "The Ward Melville Heritage Organization"

The Ward Melville Heritage Organization

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Erik Halvorsen in his last photo, taken during a Thanksgiving weekend vacation at Bear Mountain. Photo from Britt Halvorsen

Setauket arborist Erik Halvorsen, 45, died Monday, following a tragic accident while working on a tree in Avalon Park & Preserve in Stony Brook.

The owner of Norse Tree Service Inc. was approximately 50 feet up in a tree while attempting to cut it down at approximately 11:15 a.m., according to Suffolk County Police. The trunk splintered and trapped him against the tree. Halvorsen, who was wearing a safety harness, attempted to free himself and fell 20 feet. An employee was able to lower Halvorsen to the ground. He was transported via St. James Fire Department ambulance to Stony Brook University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Suffolk County Police Homicide Squad detectives are investigating the death, although no foul play is suspected. This is standard procedure in workplace deaths, police said.

George Powers, former owner of the Hither Brook Nursery in St. James, recalled his customer’s work ethic and expertise.

“[Erik] was very good at what he did — he was not a cowboy,” Powers said in a phone interview. “He took all the precautions. And then this happened anyway.”

A woman who came to the door at the Avalon office on Harbor Road in Stony Brook declined to comment, but Avalon’s Leadership Program Director Katharine Griffiths issued a statement later Tuesday morning on behalf of her entire staff.

“Erik was a friend to many of us at the park,” Griffiths wrote in an email Tuesday. “We are heartbroken over this tragic accident. We extend our deepest condolences to his family and his many friends.”

Halvorsen did a great deal of work for The Ward Melville Heritage Organization in Stony Brook. President Gloria Rocchio expressed her horror at the accident and her admiration for the man.

“We worked with Erik for years in Stony Brook,” she said. “He was very sensitive. When we did work on the village green, he designed [the landscape]. It was like an art form, what he did. Everyone was very happy with the result. He was very passionate. All of us here at The Ward Melville Heritage Organization are devastated. He was a great man.”

“Erik was by far one of the hardest working men we knew. He was one of the good guys, a person who would lend a helping hand without a second thought.”

—Laura Brown

The folks at Sheep Pasture Tree & Nursery Supply Inc., friends and neighbors of Norse Tree Service on Sheep Pasture Road in Port Jefferson Station, said he was very easy to recommend.

“Erik was by far one of the hardest working men we knew,” Laura Brown said in an email. “He was one of the good guys, a person who would lend a helping hand without a second thought. We easily recommended him to our customers because we knew he would do a good job. When he came into our office, he was always happy, fun to talk with and a gentleman. We will miss the days of him walking into our office at 5:45 a.m. to use our fax machine. We will miss him as will so many in our community.”

Bob Koch of Koch Tree Services reflected on the impact the incident has had on the community.

“I want everybody to know that the tree community is a very tight-knit family,” Koch said in a phone interview. “A tragedy like this affects everyone in it. Our hearts go out to Erik’s family. He was a wonderful young man. We all feel it when something like this happens.”

Powers shared an anecdote about Halvorsen that spoke to his character.

“He and his wife were on vacation on some island,” Powers recalled. “He saw a dog tied up in a very bad way. So he let it loose. The next day the dog was again tied up. So he adopted the dog and brought it home. He had to go through a lot of paperwork and paid to have [the dog] flown home. But that dog loved him. You could see it. He was just a good person.”

Halvorsen leaves a wife, Britt, and three children, Liv, Leif and Lilli.

A celebration of Erik’s life has been scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 17, from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Old Field Club in Setauket. In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to Gerda’s Animal Aid Inc., a rescue organization run by Britt Halvorsen’s mother, at P.O. Box 1352, West Townshend, VT 05359, or by calling 802-874-7213.

Is it time for a second look at the reclaimed nature preserve?

West Meadow Beach as seen from clear-sky day. Photo by Donna Newman

It’s been 20 years since New York State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) authored legislation to create a nature preserve at West Meadow Beach, with a guarantee that it would not be a drain on the ongoing Brookhaven Town budget.

Englebright described a grueling and divisive battle that continued for the eight years between passage of the legislation and the eventual reclamation of the beach.

“I wanted to write state law that established, as specifically as I could at the time, the land uses going forward,” he said, adding that West Meadow Beach is now the most valuable asset Brookhaven Town owns.

Brookhaven officials agreed to take responsibility for the preserve, via a “home rule message,” to keep it a town property.

“Home rule message” is a New York State Assembly policy that, if a proposed bill will affect a municipality, before the speaker authorizes it to come out of committee, that municipality must signal its approval, Englebright said. Brookhaven Town, under then Supervisor Felix Grucci, did just that.

The legislation — A 11008-A in the Assembly and S 7829 sponsored by former New York State Senator James Lack (R) in the Senate — included a provision for a segregated account to contain rent money paid into it by the cottage-owners who continued to occupy them during the summers between 1996 and 2004.

In 1996, nearly 100 cottages were on West Meadow Beach. The legislation required all cottage owners to pay an annual rent to the West Meadow Beach Capital Restoration Fund overseen by both the Stony Brook Community Fund and Brookhaven Town.

In 2004, that fund was used to remove the cottages to make way for the preserve, as well as restoration of the beach.

The Gamecock Cottage at the end of Trustees Road, one cottage to serve as a local museum, and two cottages for security/park protection purposes were the only buildings not removed.

Meanwhile, the Stony Brook Community Fund became The Ward Melville Heritage Organization. It has since declined to handle the responsibilities spelled out in the legislation.

According to the Brookhaven Town Department of Finance, these endowment funds are kept in a bank account separate from other Brookhaven Town funds. The current balance in this account is $1.45 million, which generates approximately $2,000 in interest per year to be used at West Meadow. If this interest is not used, it reverts back as an addition to the principal of the fund.

Jack Krieger, public information officer of Brookhaven, confirmed in an email that Brookhaven has been compliant with this law since it was created.

Englebright said he feels it might be time to revisit the management of West Meadow Beach.

“It may be time for a public/private partnership vision to be pursued,” he said. “A not-for-profit operating the Nature Center in conjunction with the town [would be preferable].”

He pointed out that the practice works extremely well for organizations like the Bronx Zoo and the American Museum of Natural History.

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This might sound peculiar since I am in the news business, but for over the past weekend I disconnected myself from all news reports. I was unplugged, you might say. Now this is a confession from an ultra news junkie. I’m normally so addicted that if I wake up in the middle of the night, I’ll switch on the bedside radio to catch up on what has happened since I went to sleep. But the past week, with the excruciating racist events and senseless killings, here and abroad, were more than I could process.

So I just turned off, or rather I didn’t turn anything on — not my radio, not the television, not the news apps on my cellphone. I didn’t even talk about the news with friends and neighbors.

What a luxury to be able to withdraw from global events for a couple of days.

I have a further antidote for all that has been happening in the world, and it’s even great fun to pursue. This Saturday is Culper Spy Day in Setauket, and it is the work of a number of local organizations committed to bringing history to life. The Culper spies, as you may know, were a small band of close friends who provided George Washington and the colonists with critically important information throughout the Revolutionary War at great risk to their lives. So engaging were their exploits, and so valuable to the eventual outcome of the war, that AMC has a cable TV drama, “Turn,” which has been drawing large audiences for three seasons to date. The series is what we call historical fiction, with the emphasis on fiction loosely — very loosely — based on real events. Those events belong to us because they are part of our local history and are a source of community pride.

This Saturday, July 23, you will be able to walk or bike or drive a designated route that offers views of key locations in the Culper story. There will be “colonists” in costume and signs along the way, helping the stories come alive. And we at Times Beacon Record have produced a multimedia map to enhance your experience. I refer to the newly released Three Village Map, complete with local roads and information from our business community. On this map is a QR code and also a link that, if you click on it with your mobile phone, will open up onto our website to seven different dramatizations of Culper stories — that we promise are historically accurate. In fact, the truth, we think, is more riveting than fiction, as we watch the dangerous exploits of these American heroes and heroines.

The actors in these episodes may be recognizable to you, and they do a fine job of conveying the gist of the story. We have used the services of a professional film crew, who shot the local scenes over the past several months. Community leaders introduce each film segment to set the scene. And in between episodes, if you are walking the route with your family, there are fun arcade-like games to play on your smartphone or laptop. The games, like the scenes, are our original creations and lots of fun. I predict your children — and you — will return to them many times to improve your score. I have.

Special thanks go to the participating organizations and their members for the vision to mount such an ambitious event and the enormous amount of time and effort that went into making history come alive. These include the Three Village Historical Society, The Ward Melville Heritage Organization and The Long Island Museum.

The Times Beacon Record has put together a special pullout within this week’s Arts & Lifestyles section with additional information about Culper Spy Day. Copies will be distributed for free in the historical society parking lot; our multimedia map is $3. Tickets for the more-than 16 attractions, including battle reenactments and colonial cooking demonstrations, are $25, with children under 12 free, from the historical society, WMHO Educational & Cultural Center in Stony Brook village and The Long Island Museum.

Have yourselves a worry free and wonderful day!