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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.

Jamie September 18, 2012 at 04:41 PM
These are injured animals that bring joy to children. If it has heavy non resident usage then make it like the parks in Smithtown and Islip towns and charge non residents and makes sure Brookhaven Residents buy their Brookhaven sticker. It is ridiculous. They should worry more about cutting political appointed jobs and leave this alone!!!
Brian September 18, 2012 at 04:45 PM
...heavily used by non-Town residents..." How did they make this determination when you show no id to get in anywhere. Nor have a special parking sticker or something similar. I seriously doubt a high number of people are coming from neighboring towns to use the site. Maybe have events that charge small fees to help cover the cost of the event and generate some funds. Maybe a resident parking sticker or use pass. You already have to pay for the pool use. Maybe eliminate paying for the cars of our public officials, eliminate unecessary road repairs and work, and find other cuts. It is centers and programs like the ecology site that must be retained. It is a gem within the community.
Jamie September 18, 2012 at 04:48 PM
Everyone needs to call their coucilperson and put pressure on them to cut from somewhere else. I called my councilman today and voiced my concern. I was told it's 835k to keep the place open. I told him there are many other things that can be cut to save things and then start charging the non residents!
john isernia September 18, 2012 at 05:17 PM
this park is a wonderful place to visit, for many years i brought my children and now my grandchildren..to all you fathers mothers and grandparents on the committee deciding it;s future ...follow what your heart tells you to do.....i know you will do the right thing..........
Bill L September 18, 2012 at 05:21 PM
Funny how the town always wants to take something away from the taxpayers. They are now charging for us to park at town facilities. Hello, The residents already pay taxes on these places to operate and maintain.Politicians, you gotta love them... NOT
Pazi Steklo September 18, 2012 at 05:21 PM
And so the apocalypse begins... Money is the root of ALL evil.
Zully Capaldo September 18, 2012 at 06:17 PM
The ecology site is one of the most wonderful family spots we have, they can't be serious? It was probably the first day trip my grandson had. It has something for everyone from infants to seniors. A parent can take their children with a sandwich from home & it becomes a picnic & a great way to spend the day. My grandchildren have gone there for the playground, the garden classes, swimming lessons & just recently they told me how "cool" the safety town was. Where else can a young family spend the day with a couple of children and not spend a small fortune? I love walking through the park, we've even taken my mother & my mother-in-law & we had a neighbor who had a heart attack & once he was home he found the walking trail a great place to exercise, he was there every morning. How can they even think about closing a park that gives so much. It's time we gave it something back, call your congressman, sign the petition, write letters, we can't let it be closed!
Jen Clark September 18, 2012 at 06:30 PM
My son loves this place! Please do not close it. I am willing to pay a reasonable fee to go here...it is a great place to see animals & picnic in the park!
diana September 18, 2012 at 06:46 PM
Facebook event page, so you can keep track of any/all events related to this!!! https://www.facebook.com/events/399969530070256/ Also, NOVEMBER 8th! There will be a hearing at Town Hall, come one come all....we need as many votes as possible!!!
lynn d September 18, 2012 at 07:02 PM
Charge a nominal fee per person or per car. It is a great place that I have been bringing my children to for the last 14 years!!
Garrett September 18, 2012 at 07:53 PM
Iv been going here since i was a kid and i had so many memories here.....please dont let this place close
Jim September 18, 2012 at 08:01 PM
If this park is closed, the voters will speak!!!
demet demirkaya September 18, 2012 at 10:17 PM
Instead of jumping the gun..why not arrange a fee to be paid at the door per person and still keep it..It is easier to break then to make..!!
linda adwar September 18, 2012 at 10:38 PM
This is a beautiful park and I am sure something can be worked out. A fee per person or per car or fundraising and also corporate sponsorships. We need to let the town know how we feel. Linda
AC September 19, 2012 at 02:48 AM
That was exactly what I wanted to know. I wonder if Lesko came down from the North Shore and didn't see any golfing/highbrow-types and that was the "analysis." If it's really an issue, a simple pass system could be implemented -- a sticker, like you say, or a badge or something. Not this knee-jerk reaction. I also love how he managed to include a $6 million tax cut (supposedly) in his budget because there was no snow removal last year. Hey Lesko, how about putting 1/6 of that in a fund for the Ecology Center to pay for one more year while your successor comes up with a better plan to manage the site so that town residents are the only ones allowed in?
AC September 19, 2012 at 02:58 AM
If it costs $835K to run for a year, let's not forget that Lesko was extremely pleased to note that this budget proposal includes "effectively a $6 million tax cut" -- so he calls it -- for the money saved by no snow removal last year. You know what Mr. Lesko? Taxpayers pay taxes for services -- roads, schools, infrastructure and PARKS. The Ecology Center is an example of something that it seems taxpayers don't mind paying for. So why should you and a handful of people be in charge of deciding it's not a priority, and that keeping taxes the same over the last few years is more important? Sign me up as someone who will pay a little more to keep this open. I'll buy an annual "family pass" if necessary to keep it open. I think there are a lot of Brookhaven residents who would agree.
Tom Hespos September 19, 2012 at 02:14 PM
It needs to be made evident to members of the Town Council that we will not allow them to simply heap the blame on Mark Lesko for this. It's a preliminary budget plan and it needs to be approved. Idea du jour: Kickstarter (or similar) campaign for a fund that makes donations to whoever runs against any councilperson voting for a budget that includes cuts to the Ecology Center.
Bill L September 20, 2012 at 11:47 AM
Look at your tax bill. Even though we didn't have snow last season we still pay a tax on the snow removal. Hence the so called 6 million tax cut. Smoke and mirrors, we still paid for something we didn't use. How politicians try to make themselves look good is sickening.
Arthur Carfora September 20, 2012 at 01:55 PM
Please dont shut down our ecology site its a wonderful place to go to get away from it all for awhile to enjoy mother nature at it 's best . To relax and enjoy all the good people of this big beautiful world what the lord has made for all of us.
AC September 20, 2012 at 02:21 PM
My wife was at the ecology center yesterday. She said there were 20 buses and children everywhere enjoying the site. I suppose these buses came in from "non-residents of Brookhaven," right? Please.
shannon curley September 21, 2012 at 10:57 AM
There are a lot of events and fundraisers also held at this park so there is a little money to be made up there. I live across the street from the park and cars are lined up every morning before dawn to get in and get there exercise. The parking lot is practically full all summer long. I also find it hard to believe it cost that much to run. We all know the town is overstuffed and mismanaged. Maybe the books should be open to the public and we can deciede what to cut. All that beautiful fencing,pagers and signage for the entrance to the playground area is beautiful but was it necessary? They spent money that they didn't have too. People love the park regardless. Waste of our money. And what about all those trucks that park in back of parking lot? Do they rent that space from the town? I am also worried about what the closure will mean to my property values here across the street with my neighbors, to have an abandoned park across from my house. And then who is going to be responsible for the rif raff that could be going on on this vast piece of property. How much will that cost me? To keep it safe? This is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard, $9000 a year in property taxes to live in beautiful suffolk county new York! People in other states think were morons for paying what we pay!
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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