On June 3, 2022, Westchester County Executive George Latimer led a press conference to announce the completion of a $3.1 million project that repaved 6.4 miles of the South County Trailway, as well as parking lots for trail users.
For the occasion, a podium was placed on the trail alongside Life: The Place to Be in Ardsley. Latimer was joined by Deputy County Executive Ken Jenkins, County Legislators MaryJane Shimsky and Jewel Williams Johnson, and two representatives of the County Department of Parks, Recreation and Conservation — commissioner Kathy O’Connor and first deputy commissioner Peter Tartaglia.
In the distance behind them, a birdhouse was attached to a tree alongside the trail. The birdhouse was one of more than a hundred that Hastings resident Steve Pucillo and other volunteers made to improve the habitat along the trail long before the County decided to repave it. Those volunteers also built benches, planted gardens, blazed paths, and removed invasive vegetation.
Their efforts built upon a foundation laid by the Saw Mill River Coalition, a program of Groundwork Hudson Valley. Before Pucillo moved to Hastings, the coalition mustered volunteers to lop vines from trees along the trail. The area north of Farragut Avenue in Hastings became a model of that effort, which Pucillo enhanced. Groundwork Hudson Valley also musters volunteers for the annual Great Saw Mill River Cleanup.
The source of the birdhouses was not a secret. Groundwork Hudson Valley credits Pucillo for them on its website. Pucillo was also featured in a story in the Rivertowns Enterprise in August 2020. So it was perplexing, and disappointing, when the County Parks Department recently removed the birdhouses without consulting with him. The Parks Department operates out of an office building on Saw Mill River Road in Ardsley.
In an interview with the Enterprise, Tartaglia noted that the birdhouses were not being used and that some were in disrepair. If so, then repairing or relocating them was also an option. Trail users noted their removal and then contacted the Enterprise, which resulted in the front-page story published last week and the letters to the editor published this week. The story was also posted in the 10706 group on Facebook, where dozens of comments were made in support of the birdhouses.
Tartaglia also noted that the County has the birdhouses. So an opportunity exists to return some or all of them to the trail, perhaps to locations that would attract more tenants. Last June, none of the officials complained about the birdhouses while at the press conference podium. What changed between now and then?
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