Suffolk County, NY - January 24, 2017 - Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn, the newly appointed Parks and Recreation Committee Chairwoman, Suffolk County Legislature Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory and Parks Commissioner Phil Berdolt today urged passage of a pending resolution to provide greater citizen involvement in the protection of county parkland during a press conference held at the William H. Rogers Legislature Building in Hauppauge. The bill came in response to last year’s discoveries of illegal dumping in West Hills County Park.
Legislator Hahn’s resolution 1004 would establish a Parks Watch program for county parklands, similar to the highly effective Community Watch program. Pointing out that many County park holdings are surrounded by residential neighborhoods, her resolution directs the County Department of Parks, Recreation and Conservation to establish a program that recruits and encourages Suffolk County residents to protect County parklands by watching for and reporting suspicious activity. Legislator Hahn noted that it is impossible for park rangers and law enforcement officers to inspect every acre of land for signs of problems on a daily basis, therefore community based partners are needed to deter and prevent these precious lands from being spoiled.
The resolution directs the Parks Department to reach out to neighbors of County parkland, inform them of the program and encourage their participation. The department is also instructed to establish a dedicated webpage, phone number, and email address for use by the Parks Watch Program as well as any other initiative which allows residents to report suspicious activity to the department.
“We all have been shocked, saddened and dismayed by the recent discoveries of dumping within our protected lands,” said Legislator Hahn, sponsor of the Parks Watch program legislation and Chairwoman of both the Legislature’s Environment, Planning and Agriculture and its Parks and Recreation committees. “The degradation of these majestic treasures defiles the commitment that we have made to their protection and to our residents. As this illegal dumping is a threat to us all, we must continually be alert for it and live by the proven mantra that ‘if you see something, say something.’ ”
“Legislator Hahn’s proposed legislation would more actively engage the public in protecting our parklands, giving residents the opportunity to easily report any wrongdoing they might encounter while visiting our parks,” said Presiding Officer Gregory. “This law would make it much easier for residents to become effective advocates for the protection of the parks they love.”
“Illegal dumping not only negatively effects our resident’s quality of life, it also poses a serious health threat,” said Legislator Lou D’Amaro (D-Huntington Station). “I will continue to support the District Attorney’s efforts to prosecute those who participate in this activity to the fullest extent of the law and I applaud the efforts of my legislative colleagues to address this critical issue.”
“I am in full support of resolution 1004 which establishes a “Protector Program” for county parkland. The residents of Brentwood, Central Islip and N. Bay Shore know all too well the consequences of illegal toxic dumping in parks and neighborhoods,” stated Legislator Monica R. Martinez. “ Our families, in particularly, our children’s health are put at risk when these heinous crimes are allowed. As county representatives, it is our obligation to enact laws to protect our precious parkland and above all, the well-being of our residents. This resolution will allow residents to report suspicious activities without fear of retribution and be part of the solution.”
Legislator Hahn’s Parks Watch resolution will be considered by the Parks and Recreation Committee at its meeting Wednesday, February 1 at 12:30 p.m. If approved by the committee it could be voted on by the full County Legislature at its February 7 meeting in Hauppauge.