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Will Fees Obstruct Colonial Greenway?

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Can the City charge non-residents $250 to use the Colonial Greenway?  Can the City charge its residents, too?

LETTER TO LARCHMONT MAYOR

 

January 29, 2007

 

Hon. Elizabeth Noyer Feld

Village of Larchmont Municipal Building

120 Larchmont Avenue

Larchmont, NY 10538

 

Re:       Discriminatory permits to be required for New Rochelle park

 

Dear Mayor Feld:

 

In an effort to discourage dog walking at Ward Acres, a 62-acre public park located off Quaker Ridge Road and Broadfield Road in New Rochelle, the New Rochelle City Council has enacted regulations that will require, among other things, that New Rochelle residents purchase an annual permit to walk a dog at Ward Acres at a cost of $50 per dog.   The cost for non-residents, like me, will be $250.

 

Aside from the dubious legality of such discrimination (Ward Acres was purchased partly with New York State funds, and the Greenway portion will be refurbished using County funds, the park should be open equally to all of us), the exorbitant fee required of nonresidents sets an unfortunate precedent.  What if Larchmont decided to charge a fee to the New Rochelle residents who use our parks, take their toddlers to our playgrounds, and walk along the beach near Manor Park?  Public parks and playgrounds are required to be free.  See, e.g., General Municipal Law §144.

 

This is written to ask that you write a letter to Mayor Bramson of New Rochelledeploring the New Rochelle discriminatory dog-walking fees and pointing out the freedom with which New Rochelle residents use Larchmont’s parks and playgrounds.  It would be helpful if your letter were also released to the media.

 

There are numerous dog owners in Larchmont who would greatly appreciate your assistance in this matter.  We are involved citizens and we vote.  I am a member of the New York State Democratic Lawyers’ Council and worked as an official poll watcher/election law attorney during the recent local elections.  Thank you for your consideration.

 

Sincerely, 

 

Patricia Wild

 



COGNITIVE DISSONANCE?


      “Bramson said, 'The Colonial Greenway will quickly become one of our region’s great open space and recreational resources. I am delighted by the county’s strong commitment to this project, and look forward to making our nature trails more accessible and inviting than ever before.'”  Dec. 21, 2006


    The Mayor misspoke, he really meant to say “less accessible and inviting than ever before.” 


    WHY?  Adding a $250 fee where there was none before does not make the park more accessible and inviting.  A whole class of historically accepted hikers has just been eliminated.

 

    Here is an example:  When Saundra, a Larchmont resident who has been freely walking her leashed dog Fido in Saxon Woods, the Leatherstocking Trail, Sheldrake Lake, ambles into Ward Acres, she may be ticketed and fined (could even be jailed, we think!) by a uniformed New Rochelle police officer for walking her dog in Ward Acres without a New Rochelle Ward Acres $250 dog walking permit.  Doesn't sound very accessible or inviting to us!


MORE COGNITIVE DISSONANCE


So, will the Westchester County Colonial Greenway Brochure notify users as follows?


Welcome hikers to Westchester County's Colonial Greenway!  Hike our accessible and inviting 15 miles of open trails...dogs are permitted all along our 15 mile trail system EXCEPT if you plan to use Ward Acres in New Rochelle, you must first buy a New Rochelle Ward Acres Dog Permit for $250.  If you fail to do so, you may be fined or imprisoned...”



    We don't think this result is what the County envisioned when 5 lower Westchester municipalities banded together with County funds to create the “Colonial Greenway” which will be rolled out this Spring and includes Ward Acres.  And we don't think our Mayor really intends this either.


     Bottom line?  We ask - once City Hall or Westchester County focuses on this issue (we think they have overlooked it), will New Ro have to eliminate ALL the Ward Acres fees they just unanimously approved?





What is the Colonial Greenway?


     Sponsored and subsidized by Westchester County, five lower Westchester municipalities, including New Rochelle, are about to roll out the "Colonial Greenway," a County-wide 15 mile trail system which will knit together various Parks, open and natural areas including Ward Acres.  What a wonderful idea!  We applaud it.  The Greenway will be open to multiple uses by the public from all over the County and beyond.  The Larchmont Gazette reports that the County recently gave New Rochelle $500,000 to help complete its portion of the Greenway. 


     Unless the Colonial Greenway is planning to BAN ALL DOGS county-wide (which we doubt), we do not understand how Mayor Bramson and his Council can now impose a $250 fee for non-resident dog owners' use of its portion of the Colonial Greenway in New Rochelle.  


     Come to think of it, how can they impose ANY fee on residents' use of a portion of the same county-wide trail system?





Why is Ward Acres now different than other City Parks?


     Since New Rochelle has elected to link Ward Acres to the Colonial Greenway and accepted County funds for its creation, it would seem New Ro has a duty to treat users of Ward Acres the same as users are treated elsewhere in the county-wide, county-subsidized trail system. (Of course, any unlinked park in New Rochelle retains its right to ban dogs and impose any fees the City chooses.)


Maybe we are missing something here - or maybe our City officials are...

___________________________________________________


The Colonial Greenway encompasses 5 municipalities - Eastchester, Mamaroneck Town and Village, New Rochelle and Scarsdale.  The Parks include:


Saxon Woods

Hutchinson River Pathway

Twin Lakes County Park

Nature Study Woods

Ward Acres

Sheldrake Lake/Larchmont Reservoir

Leatherstocking Trail


Parks' Dog Policies as Publicized:

http://www.westchestergov.com/Parks/Parks.htm

Saxon Woods permits dogs, no fee.

Twin Lakes/Nature Study neither prohibits dogs nor imposes a fee.

Sheldrake/Reservoir trails - signage specifically permits dogs.


 

Colonial Greenway defined by County as "Off-Road Multi-Use Path":

http://www.westchestergov.com/planning/Design/trailist.html

Map of Colonial Greenway

Westchester's Colonial Greenway

Westchester County Trail System - Colonial Greenway

Larchmont Gazette 1/11/06 - includes map of the Colonial Greenway

Larchmont Gazette 8/26/02 - go toward bottom of page - the UNLEASHED dog!

_____________________________________________

http://www.westchestergov.com/WhatsNew/Press/ColonialGreenway.htm

CONTACT:  SUSAN DOLCHIN                                                                          (914) 995-2932

DONNA GREENE                                                              (914) 995-2935

                                                                                                                                          

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                             December 21, 2006

IMPROVEMENTS TO COLONIAL GREENWAY TRAIL PLANNED IN 2007

15-Mile Trail System Loops Through New Rochelle, Larchmont, Mamaroneck and Scarsdale

 

            Westchester County residents who enjoy biking, walking, running and horseback riding will soon see major improvements to the 15-mile Colonial Greenway Trail that runs through five municipalities in the Sound Shore area of Westchester County.

         Under an arrangement announced today by County Executive Andy Spano, the focus of the initial improvements will be in New Rochelle where approximately 50 percent of the trail is located. Proposed improvements will be made to a segment that runs through the City’s Ward Acres Park along with pedestrian safety enhancements on Pine Brook Blvd. and Quaker Ridge Road in New Rochelle.

 Also included in the proposed plan will be the improvement of a small vacant parcel of land on Flandreau Road that will be leased to the city for use as a park in conjunction with the trail. The city will be responsible for the operation and maintenance of the trail segments in New Rochelle. Funding for this portion of the project is expected to be in excess of $500,000 and will be part of the county’s Legacy Program that fosters partnerships between the county and its municipalities to promote active recreation and trailway development.

As part of the overall plan, the county will also be looking to spend another $1 million on improvements to other segments of the trail that run through county facilities in adjoining municipalities including the Town and Village of Mamaroneck, the Town of Eastchester and the Village of Scarsdale. These facilities include trails in Saxon Woods and Twin Lakes county parks as well as the trails along the Hutchinson River Parkway that are managed by the county parks department.  Funding for this part of the project is already in the county’s capital program.

A third component of the overall plan will be the improvement of a small segment of the trail in the Town of Mamaroneck.  It is anticipated that these improvements will funded through the federal Community Development Block Grant Program that is administered by the county Planning Department.

“The Colonial Greenway is a wonderful scenic 15-mile loop system of nature and neighborhood trails linking numerous open spaces, wooded areas, and five Sound Shore communities,” said Spano. “By taking a comprehensive approach to the Colonial Greenway project, we will be able to enhance the existing trails and make new connections that are needed to establish a continuous trail that can become part of the very popular county trail system.” 

Spano credited  New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson and Mamaroneck Town Councilwoman Nancy Seligson for their efforts in planning and advocating for the Colonial Greenway, and New Rochelle Councilwoman Marianne Sussman for leading efforts to preserve parkland on Flandreau.

Bramson said, “The Colonial Greenway will quickly become one of our region’s great open space and recreational resources. I am delighted by the county’s strong commitment to this project, and look forward to making our nature trails more accessible and inviting than ever before.”

Seligson said, “After years of hard work and planning, we can now look forward to opening the Colonial Greenway to our entire extended community. I applaud County Executive Spano for his personal commitment to this initiative.”

Sussman applauded the county’s action, saying, “This is welcome news for the neighborhood and for all people in New Rochelle who value open space protection. Linking the Flandreau property to the Colonial Greenway will ensure that it is preserved for generations to come, and will also provide our residents with outstanding access to parks throughout our region”

The Greenway links existing trails such as the Leatherstocking Trail with other existing pathways such as the Hutchinson River Pathway along with county and local parks and nature preserves. The City of New Rochelle and the Town of Mamaroneck will be working with the county departments of Planning, Parks and Public Works on the proposed improvements including landscape enhancements, signage, educational maps and brochures.

             To learn more about the County’s trail system and initiatives on the web, go to: http://www.westchestergov.com/planning/Design/trailway.html

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