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Residents Fuming Over Possible Closure of Holtsville Ecology Site

Group forms Facebook group to protest proposed Brookhaven Town budget cuts, which include a plan to shut down the Holtsville Wildlife and Ecology Center.

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.

JOANNE MANGONE September 21, 2012 at 07:20 PM
Yes, that's right. Schools and visitors from all over the Island visit the Ecology Center. Try going to the Long Island Game Farm. Adults pay $16.95 & Children $14.95. The Petting Zoo in Manorville...Adults $13.50 & Children $11.50. The Ecology Center is currently free to everyone until they close it. The animals are fed and cared for by donations that the Brookhaven Wildlife Center folks work all year for, NOT the town. If you're going to complain about paying a few dollars, don't come.
annette kattau September 23, 2012 at 12:27 PM
This not going to happen, Lesko GONE they will be hearing the people and taking a look at everything including the jobs at town hall wrong people axed!!!!!!This is a bad move it would cost each taxpayer 2.00 a year more in taxes to keep this open. Brookhaven town doesn't take care of the animal an outside group feeds, medicates them the other programs run by the town are essential for our youth and families, just as the youth bureau service are they he also cut. The landfill would cost the residents 20.00 more in taxes to close it would ten years to do that so we should certainly be pushing for that. The problem is that when issues like this are absent so are the taxpayers and they need to be at town board meeting and planning board meeting there is alot going on folks this is nothing. So let all vow to get more involved and follow our councilpeople and give more input enough input given and they have to listen. They have had free reign....Speak up. Do you know about our water problems, why we have them and how desperate they are? The Baykeeper held a press conference re same last week at the Quogue Wildlife and only Ed Romaine appeared and listened infact he has legislation inm re same and it just sits our legislatures are as bad as our council people they need to hear from us. Go the the baykeepers fact book and see whats going on. If you get involved things will change and only them. I am in a lone fight in my neigborhood people just fade. Lets not fade let get involved.
Ted DiSalvo September 23, 2012 at 06:58 PM
Ted DiSalvo: My suggestion is to charge a minimal admission fee for Brookhaven residents and a reasonable fee for everyone else. It should be a "break even" situation or close to it with those fees.
jv September 26, 2012 at 04:08 PM
I am my family have always enjoy the Ecology center,when my children were babies my wife and I would take them to see the animals,walk the rails,used the play ground. To me this is break to nature and tranquility. This is a valuable asset to families,and should continue. THIS PARK IS MADE UP MOSTLY DONATIONS AND VOLUNTEERS,SO WHAT'S THE PROBLEM. Why not set a small fee to enter park or yearly fee. By the way I thought our short term political leader is leaving office, would make a nice gesture of keeping the park,instead of taking it away as his going way gift
Scotty September 27, 2012 at 07:25 PM
The 'nearly a million dollars' has already been shown to be a blatant lie. According to those who know--the Highway Department who've been running Holtsville Ecology all these years, the cost is actually closer to $140,000 per year--at max it would be $200,000. So the extreme figures of upwards of $800,000 to $900,000+ are just so much smoke and mirrors. Don't believe it. The far smaller figure can be made up with a very nominal charge per car for out of town residents --say $4.00 per vehicle? --the rest could be achieved via fundraisers, now that we know this particular board was going to destroy this gorgeous site on a whim. If we want to keep it, we'll find a way. There are enough of us who can sign up as donors. There ARE ways to get this done. FIRST we need to stop this board in its tracks: there was absolutely NO need to put Holtsville Ecology on the chopping block first without the remotest bit of discussion with the residents of Brookhaven--how did THAT come about? Do these people think they have carte blanche to do ANYthing they like without our input? If so--where's the recall button? They went so far as to allocate $50,000 to relocate the animals without any of us knowing their 'master plan'. Doesn't anyone smell something really stinky about all of this?-(and I'm not talking about guano)?

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