A grassroots movement from Sachem-area residents in protest of Brookhaven Town's possible decision to close the Holtsville Wildlife and Ecology Center has gone viral with the help of Facebook and an online petition.
Last Friday concerned residents launched the Facebook page entitled: "Save the Holtsville Wildlife & Ecology Center," and began posting news, developments, and links for visitors to contact elected officials on the Town Board.
To date, in three days time, the page has gone from three likes, to 4,367, with residents from all over splashing the page with comments and questions.
"My kids love the place."
"What the heck."
"This is a staple of my childhood-I can't stand the idea of it."
"We need to save this wonderful place I've taken my children there over the years now im taking my grand kids..."
In an email to Patch, Adrienne Meyers Wilber, of Holtsville, wrote: "I enjoy visiting the animals and walking on the exercise path. When my kids were younger we used to visit the playground very often."
In addition to the Facebook page, an online petition has popped up on the aggregation site Change.org, with more than 2,700 signatures. The petition still needs 2,300 to reach the 5,000 signature benchmark.
Meanwhile, the Brookhaven Wildlife Center, Inc., a non-profit organization that supports the animals living at the ecology site, has planned an emergency board meeting for this Thursday at the ecology site to discuss the matter.
That board meeting is not open to the public, but the Brookhaven Town Board also meets on Thursday at 5 p.m. at Town Hall.
Jack Krieger, a Brookhaven Town spokesperson, said the cuts are in the preliminary budget plan, which has not been adopted yet. He also added that closing the zoo and greenhouse alone would save the town approximately $900,000 per year.
"An analysis of the Holtsville Complex indicated that it was heavily used by non-Town residents, resulting in Town residents subsidizing that use through their tax dollars," a portion of the tenative budget, put together by now former Town Supervisor Mark Lesko, reads. "We recommend immediately planning for the safe transfer of the animals at the zoo and we have budgeted $50,000 for this transfer."
The Brookhaven Wildlife Center, in a post on its Facebook page, said it was "extremely disappointed" in the decision to include closing the site in the preliminary budget.
"This facility, unlike any other in the Town provides something for all ages and abilities, and is a treasure that should not be discarded," said the BWC, which is a separate entity from the Town. "There are some things residents don't mind paying for, and we hope the rest of the Brookhaven Town Board realizes the value of this facility and the enjoyment it provides to Brookhaven residents both young and old."
Patch will have more on this story, including from the Sept. 20 Town Board meeting, as it develops.