Written by Patricia Aitken, Friends of the Bay executive director Friday, 12 November 2010 00:00
When I first started at Friends of the Bay, one of the aspects of the job that most attracted me was the leadership role Friends of the Bay was taking in urging the Town of Oyster Bay to acquire the Mill Pond Overlook Property. For those readers who may not have lived here then, or may not recall the circumstances, a developer proposed to construct a 68-unit senior housing complex on the property. I honestly have to say that out of all the people I spoke to regarding this possibility, the most common reaction was “oh no, how do we stop that?” As a long term resident, I have to agree that it would have been distressing to see the hill behind the pond destroyed, the trees removed, and the beautiful view of the Mill Pond gone. That was before I fully understood the negative consequences that these actions could have had on the water quality of the bay. After I began to understand the implications of development, it became even more important to me.
Under the leadership of then Executive Director Kyle Rabin, Friends of the Bay, with strong support from community members and many local organizations such as the Mill River Rod & Gun Club, North Oyster Bay Baymen’s Association, Oyster Bay Historical Society, The Nature Conservancy, the WaterFront Center, Frank M. Flower and Sons, the Oyster Bay and East Norwich Civic associations, among others, nominated the property for acquisition through the Town of Oyster Bay’s SEA Fund. The Town Board unanimously passed a resolution on April 25, 2006 to authorize Supervisor John Venditto to acquire the property. I can remember how jubilant the community members were when the announcement was made at the Town Board meeting that the property would be preserved. It was a very good example of Town government being responsive to community concerns. In his announcement, Supervisor Venditto alluded to the “inherent environmental sensitivities” of the property. He went on to say that “This kind of land is precisely what I had in mind when I proposed the SEA Fund. Preserving open space and protecting the environment are always good investments.”
In late June of that year, Supervisor Venditto announced the Town was seeking a state grant to fund the cost of developing a comprehensive habitat management and restoration plan for the Mill Pond Overlook Property. The project would be conducted as a partnership, to include the Town of Oyster Bay, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Friends of the Bay and other parties which would be invited to join.
Fast forward to November of 2010. Draft alternative plan concepts have been prepared and reviewed by the steering committee, and the next step is to conduct a public meeting to present these concepts and seek input. The public meeting is scheduled for November 18th at 7 PM at Friends of the Bay office at 2 Townsend Square. We at Friends of the Bay are looking forward to the next steps in this process. I hope that you will be able to attend this meeting, review the different plans prepared and provide input on the Overlook property. I think we also should, as we drive by the Mill Pond, stop to think “what might have been” if not for committed leadership, community support and a responsive government.
It was a very cold and windy morning for the last full water quality monitoring run of the season. Where is Indian Summer when you really need it? Thank you to Clint Smith for being our captain, and to Lorna Mann and Denise Wurtz for coming out and helping to conduct sampling and record measurements. It was rough enough at the entrance to Cold Spring Harbor to make me worried as we leaned over the side of the boat. But as Clint said “I went out with three passengers, and came back with three, so its okay.” It was really more than okay, it was great to be out with people who are so committed to their environment and community, and who enjoy what they are doing. I’ve always said working with the volunteers is the best part of my job.
Friends of the Bay does do monitoring in Mill Neck Creek all during the winter. It gives me a great opportunity to see the changes in the population of birds who live there. The ospreys, egrets and terns are long gone. But on Monday, I did see the first of the season buffleheads, which are my favorite waterfowl. They will be living on the Refuge all winter in increasing numbers. Soon the long tailed ducks, and large flocks of black ducks will be in until they migrate away in March and April and the cycle begins again.
For more information about Friends of the Bay please call 922-6666 or check out our website: Friendsofthebay.org.