From the Long Island Greenbelt Trail Conference’s Spring 2023 newsletter:


In the Winter issue Rick Whalen reported on the Town of East Hampton’s proposal to acquire 14 acres of Suffolk County parkland in the Laurel Canyon section of Hither Woods to install a sewage treatment plant to serve the Montauk business area. We won’t rehash the many reasons this is a cockamamie idea. Suffice it to say, opposition has been plentiful and vocal. 

The Coalition for Hither Woods counts thirteen organizations as members, including the Greenbelt Trail Conference. The Coalition created a well-researched and professional-quality publication outlining its objections and presented the material to the Suffolk County Parks Trustees at meetings on January 26 and February 23. (The latter gathering was scheduled for Southaven County Park, but the prospect of a large turnout caused the Trustees to shift to Parks HQ at West Sayville, where we still packed a larger room.)

Several Coalition members offered cogent, on-point arguments against precedent-setting alienation of parkland, a perceived lack of transparency on the part of the Town of East Hampton, and other issues such as the lack of alternative plans or a SEQRA environmental review. Sandi Brewster-walker, a Montaukett, spoke with feeling about Indigenous heritage and culture in the area as being at risk.

Former Parks Superintendent Bill Sickles, a Trustee, was forceful in cautioning against the “slippery slope” of park alienation, and Legislator Kara Hahn added that when the County acquired Laurel Canyon as parkland, “We made a promise to the people.”

The Town, for its part, contended that they wanted to assemble a plan before going to SEQRA, and that there was no alternative site or Plan B.

Ultimately, the Parks Trustees voted against recommending the Town’s plan. Now it’s up to the County Legislature, which is certain to hear plenty of opposition.     

Residents of Suffolk, please make your County Legislator aware that alienation of parkland, meaning developing it for other purposes, is a non-starter. Nationwide, it’s a rarely-used process and sets a terrible precedent.

The bottom line is we are now paying for the past overdevelopment of Montauk, and something needs to be done to address sewage issues. But the answer lies not in alienating parkland and building a centralized plant that will burden the taxpayers of Montauk and only encourage more growth in an area that cannot sustain it. 

Let us permit nature to have her way. She understands her business better than we do. 

—Michel de Montaigne

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