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Editorial: Let Your Kids Play

The time has finally come for the children of our community to be heard and truly placed as a priority in our community. Many say they are our priority, but their actions speak differently. The silent majority will no longer be silent and ignored, and we would like to take this opportunity to provide you with all the facts from those of us who have been directly involved with improving the activities and enhancing the environment for our kids for the past two years.

The Oyster Bay-East Norwich Youth Association (OB-ENYAA) is a grass-roots organization with representatives from Baseball, Football, Soccer and Lacrosse programs whose only mission is to provide the youth of our community with a great sports experience to round out their childhood. We united over two years ago to represent the children of our fine community in all aspects of their sports activities. This consolidation has worked well for our children; improving the sports experience of over 1,500 players. Our players range in age from 4-18 years old. Most children in our community play one or more sports and also play year-round - not a bad way to spend free time and enjoy the fine characteristics and open space our great town has to offer.

The problem for our children; there is not enough open or park space for the growing number of families in our small community. As a matter of fact, there are about twice as many players now and half the amount of fields as there was 20 years ago. As a result, many of our home games and practices are held outside Oyster Bay – East Norwich. Many times, practices are canceled due to lack of, or conflicts with fields in other towns - we get booted first if another hamlet wants to use their own fields. Soccer, Football and Lacrosse do not even have their own field in OB-EN, but must rely on the OB-EN School District and St. Dominic for available times. The OB-EN School District and St. Dominic’s have ‘pitched in’ to accommodate OB-ENYAA, but with additional kids, sports and year-round programs of their own, they barely have enough playing space and time for their own activities. OB-ENYAA is grateful to both the OB-EN School District and St. Dominic’s, but this is only a temporary solution to a longterm problem that will not go away; don’t know where we would be without their cooperation.

OB-ENYAA has spent the past two years working with Supervisor John Venditto and the Town of Oyster Bay officials in addition to meeting with every local group, individual and association that has identified itself – official or not official - that has expressed an interest or had any questions. Our approach from the start has been full disclosure with an open and fair dialogue because each member of OB-ENYAA has also lived here for 15 years or more, loves it here, and plans to stay here forever. We have no agenda. Quite frankly, we are baffled that there is opposition to have kids play in the park, yet we live with oil tanks and tankers in our bay for decades.

OB-ENYAA has been working with the community groups’ consensus up until now and has looked at every possible aspect of this project and considered all the alternatives available to us to ensure we do not sacrifice the characteristics of the area and Teddy’s intention for Park. Of course, public safety and the environment have been paramount and researched fully to ensure total compliance. Initial and on-going cost comparisons have also been calculated. The Town of Oyster Bay has been instrumental in working with OB-ENYAA over the past two years on all potential issues and options. Much has been discussed and documented, but still there is a lot of miss-information being circulated from people not intimate in the details of the project, so we thought it would be helpful for everyone in town if we listed the facts only with out any opinions as follows:

1. Who - This project is being driven by OB-EN parents and children for OB-EN–no outsiders. This is not a ‘me too’ as has been suggested. It is only for our kids.

2. Open Space - all open space in OB-EN, private and public, has been explored.

3. Costs - SEA Fund has allocated tax dollars – no additional taxes are required to be levied. The allocated funds will be given to another Hamlet in the TOB if we do not use these funds.

4. Oyster Fest – TOB is working with the Rotary leadership on futures plans to accommodate the Fest where it is now in the park for years to come. It is not an either or situation. Vendors and sponsors will have a place to set up.

5. Nonprofits – to be very clear, OB-ENYAA is the only organization that is working on behalf of your 1,500+ players. OB-ENYAA funds go to benefit the children in the programs. These other organizations have their own interests for the funds they raise and will be accommodated in the TOB Fest plan.

6. For profits – benefit from the Fest. Local businesses obviously do also, with many from outside OBEN also benefiting.

7. Appropriate Use – field will be built in area of park deeded for activities and will fit in well with current facilities for sports. Tranquil areas will not be affected.

8. Drainage - the proposed field will contain its own water recharge system. The water will be held in underground wells so it can be absorbed back into the ground naturally. Right now, the parking lot plus the dirt and grass areas around it, drain directly into the sump and bay, and include chemicals and auto run-off.

9. Environment – this turf surface will not require nitrogen rich fertilizer or pesticides to maintain it as grass does. Turf does not require wasteful watering as well. Wildlife will not be harmed by the turf.

10. Turf – the newest material is safer and more cost effective than grass and other surfaces. The newer surface will be softer and more park-like than the existing parking lot. Maintenance costs are lower long term. Please avoid speculation and erroneous information and visit the following Internet link for yourself that has additional info on the affects and safety of turf - OB-ENYAA would not agree to any surface that was harmful to the environment or our children.

11. Appearance – the proposed field will not only look more uniform than the existing parking lot and softer than the current parking lot, but the overall appearance of the park will be enhanced with ancillary projects such as Firemans Field and additional TR Park landscaping. There will be no additional structures to be built in the future.

12. Seasonal – peak seasons will be Spring and Fall – normal times to play Soccer, Football and Lacrosse.

13. Scheduling – will be consistent with current use. Only one game can be played at a time. There will be no games played beyond the current times allotted.

14. Boating – peak season for boating is the Summer, when there will be little or no activity at the field. And there are always open boat slips in the summer anyway. Enforcement of current rules and laws will also help with parking. Spring and Fall see very little boat traffic when the field will be in use.

15. Parking – ample parking in main lot or overflow to Fireman’s Field. Peak seasons for major activities during the Summer and boating months do not overlap with sports schedules which are in the spring and fall.

16. Firemans Field – TOB will improve and enhance the lot in a proposed phase 2 that is consistent with the look and feel of the downtown area, similar to Townsend Square with islands, trees and shrubs, and provide a more pleasant entrance plus a much needed direct link to the downtown area and Railroad Museum. A re-configuration will add more parking spots. Firemen’s practice lane will be preserved and improved. Drainage will be updated to eliminate flooding and current auto run-off that get into the bay which exists today.

17. Landscaping – added trees and shrubs will improve the overall appearance of the Park with landscaping consistent with the species and area near the water.

18. Lighting/Audio – Soft and downward lighting similar to what was recently installed for the ball fields will be used. No audio or PA system will be installed.

19. Commerce – more local families will visit the downtown area as they go to and from games and practices in our own area as opposed to out of town to provide much needed spending in the local economy.

So why wouldn’t we consider placing an environmentally friendly playing field in the center of a park? Kids belong in the park and that is what our beloved Teddy Roosevelt would want. As a matter of fact, the section of the TR Park for the proposed field is designated for activities and already has all types of fields and courts for baseball, tennis, basketball, volleyball and hand ball. The very thing this section of the park was deeded for – contrary to what has been said and printed. Yes the park is tranquil, and we, too, wish to preserve that, but it is also used for many activities such as fishing, boating, biking, running, walking, swimming, roller-blading, and others. It will still be tranquil!

OB-ENYAA welcomes an open dialogue and highly respects those who have publicly opposed the project – open debate is good. However, we are extremely disappointed in the individuals, organizations and businesses within our own small town that have found it necessary to work privately behind the scenes to kill this long overdue project for our kids; and have been doing so by spreading incorrect or derogatory information with hints of support from a majority of locals. Everyone must base their decision on the facts only!

We will not operate that way and this is not what we teach our players in our programs. What would our children think of us if we behaved in such a manner? Not good sportsmanship! As such, we will continue to meet with groups and individuals as we have for the past two years - our door is always open. OB-ENYAA is only looking out for all the kids so we may all be able to take advantage of the beautiful park. It is not, nor should the park ever be, for the use of a few in the community who may wish to preserve the status quo for their own purposes in the name of Teddy Roosevelt.

OB-ENYAA greatly appreciates and would like to thank the following local groups for their support over the past two years:

- Teddy Roosevelt Association

- Main Street Association

- Oyster Bay Rotary

- Oyster Bay Chamber of Commerce

- Oyster Bay Civic Association

- East Norwich Civic Association

- Friends of the Bay

- Railroad Museum

- Waterfront Center

We know the park is precious - “A Jewel”- and nothing has been done to it in decades, so please ask yourself a few questions. We would rather see kids playing in the park in the Spring and Fall than see an ugly parking lot and empty park that we see now – wouldn’t you? Do you truly believe that having kids play in the park is a bad thing? Take a ride down there right now – are there enough people enjoying this wonderful park or just the same few? Count the kids in the park….not many huh? Would it be wrong to see your kids playing a game there in April or October when the park is barely used? Do you really want our kids traveling outside OBEN to practice and play games? Does the parking lot in the park and Firemans Field look good to you – does it fit in with your vision for Oyster Bay? Or would you rather see a much more attractive area that is more appropriate for Oyster Bay?

First and foremost - let’s stop the scare tactics and miss-information folks. This is small town. We are all friends, acquaintances and neighbors who are very closely connected to each other with very few degrees of separation. This is only about putting in a field in the park for our kids to play. This is not the Avalon thing all over again. And it should not go the way of the murmurs from the Museum project. But it sure is starting to sound like it. So listen to your children - “cut it out and build the field.”

OB-ENYAA encourages you seek us out if you have any questions and strongly urges you to reach out to your TOB officials, residents, local groups, associations and businesses to show your support for the kids of Oyster Bay – East Norwich.

Let’s finally begin improving the downtown area with this first main project for the park and then build on that going forward to create an enhanced living experience for those of us who love OBEN and call it home. All of us will benefit from this beginning for a long time to come, especially your children. Once and for all, let’s prove to ourselves that we in OB-EN can work together to get things done. We can do this! If not, there is a chance we will not see any improvements for a very very long time… that would be a terrible shame and missed opportunity for all of us in our Jewel by the Bay.

Bob Santos, spokesperson for

OB-ENYAA – Let your kids play!