In addition to the birds, fauna, trees and topography, another typical characteristic of a nature preserve has also been earmarked for removal, and it is currently being taken out, for good: wildlife.
Shawn Love, of Loves Wildlife Removal and Pest Control, has been trapping raccoons at the site on and off for several months. He tells the Press he’s been hired by the Friends to capture and extract the furry masked mammals from Castle Gould—the new dressing rooms of Tiny Horse Productions.
The idea of any animal being hunted and trapped inside of a nature preserve twists the stomachs of many preservationists familiar with Sands Point.
“It’s habitat,” reiterates Wilson-Pines. “The concept of a preserve is that you are preserving a piece of land not as a primary use for people, that’s a park. Preserve is primarily to preserve the plants and the animals that live there. It’s a completely different mindset.”
“If you had an issue, like you had a rabies epidemic or a distemper epidemic with the raccoons, then there would be an actual health reason for doing it, but that doesn’t exist,” she continues.
Nassau County Health Department spokeswoman Mary Ellen Laurain says there hasn’t been a positive case of rabies in Nassau since 2007.
Adding to the horror for animal lovers and open space advocates, however, is that these prisoners of Love do not get set free in some other county preserve. Though a protected animal in the eyes of the NYS DEC, they can’t be transported and re-released due to the potential of spreading disease, explains Michelle Gibbons, wildlife manager for the department. So they’re euthanized.
“People don’t understand they’re causing problems,” defends Love. “This is why we don’t want to talk about it. Everything done is legal and everything done is as humane as possible.”
One Friends employee says Love joked the animals were going, “to Chinese restaurants.”
According to Gibbons, trappers must follow a stringent set of rules when performing their tasks. Among other requirements, their cages must be labeled, a certain distance away from specific buildings, and periodically checked. Love tells the Press he’s been setting them inside the building “next to the museum” and “near the dumpsters.”
Yet the Press has observed at least one trap—with no labels on it—far from the Castle, alongside a frequently traveled road, its victim long since decayed from apparent starvation, the elements and time.
An actual intruder that should have been removed from the preserve, or its presence at least pre-announced to the public and movie crews, says Hubbard and others, was a truck spraying herbicides on a windy morning in May (during nesting season). Internal documents reviewed by the Press confirm that the herbicides Triplet Selective and Scotts ProSelect were applied throughout the morning and into the afternoon.
After alerting the county about its presence and assuring that the park was closed to the public, the truck released its cargo throughout the open fields, she and another witness says. Posner has been quoted in a local news outlet as stating, “We are only spraying poison ivy shrubs, not entire lawn areas.”
Aspects of this incident, too, may be a breach of local and state pesticide notification regulations, says county health department officials and a spokesperson with the state DEC. But why anyone would even think about spraying toxic chemicals in a nature preserve boggles the mind of many.
And neither chemical states poison ivy as its primary target plant.
From the words of Nassau’s Walker, the county seems intent on reclaiming Sands Point Preserve and eliminating the embattled Friends. Whether or not they will follow through remains to be seen.
Maslow, Mills, Zamecka and a handful of others have brought their concerns—ranging from the nest massacre to the decimated trees—before a cast of local politicians several times in the past, from Nassau Leg. Wayne Wink (D-Roslyn) to Walker himself. They tell the Press the county said they were close to rescinding the Friends agreement (which can be done at any time), months ago, and then balked unexplainedly.
For sure, there is much work to be done at the site—and much benefit to the county besides its natural and historic treasures. There’s also a good deal of money to be made, money that doesn’t necessarily need a middle man such as the Friends to flow into the preserve. Television shoots and production crews bring in about $60,000 to $65,000 a month. Weddings at Hempstead House fetch $16,000 a weekend, say former board members and employees. Hubbard, who booked most of them (and again, who lives at the preserve), says they’re scheduled as far out as next June. These funds can go directly to the preserve through county employees, stress Friends critics—not to mention the $390,000 that taxpayers are already forking over to the group.
Nassau CSEA (Civil Service Employees Association) Local 830 President Jerry Laricchiuta, head of the county’s largest union, agrees.
“If they can opt out of it, we’ll be glad to send our guys back in there and try to undo some of the damage and bring back respectability,” he tells the Press. You could hire about seven of our members for that much money [the $390,000] and have them up there all year long for that kind of money.”
Walker says the county is on board with the plan, and states the following as proof:
“All you have to do is look in the budget. The money is no longer there. We’ve already eliminated that from the budget: $390,000. It’s already been eliminated.”
For those concerned with the survival of the preserve and its countless wonders, they can only hope.