Volunteers and donors celebrate progress at Levy Preserve

Greg Monteleone (left), Peter Parsons, Bobbe Stultz, Shelby White and Lori Ensinger with the new plaque at the Leon Levy Preserve. — Jane K. Dove photo

Greg Monteleone (left), Peter Parsons, Bobbe Stultz, Shelby White and Lori Ensinger with the new plaque at the Leon Levy Preserve. — Jane K. Dove photo

Lewisboro is well-known for its natural beauty and hundreds of acres of dedicated open space, with the 383-acre Leon Levy Preserve in South Salem the crown jewel of the town’s 20 preserves, both large and small.

Over the years since its acquisition more than a decade ago, the rugged Levy preserve has seen a host of improvements. The parcel, one of the largest areas of preserved open space in Westchester County, was acquired under the administration of Town Supervisor Jim Nordgren.

A group of people responsible for the acquisition and improved maintenance of the preserve gathered in the spacious new parking lot the morning of Saturday, Sept. 19, to dedicate a commemorative plaque and celebrate the efforts of the volunteers who have worked so hard to make the preserve and its trails safe and accessible.

The bronze plaque reads “Lewisboro thanks the Jerome Levy Foundation for its lead gift to create this Preserve. Major valuable contributions were also made by the Dextra Baldwin McGonagle Foundation; the Westchester Land Trust; and the Lewisboro Land Trust together with the volunteers who give many hours of their time to clear and maintain the trails.”

Greg Monteleone, chairman of the town’s volunteer Open Space and Preserves Advisory Committee (OSPAC), led the brief ceremony, which was followed by a talk by Pam Pooley, who designed the native plant garden on the east side of the parking lot. The garden was made possible through a gift from Shelby White and the Levy Foundation.

The group was then invited to take a short hike, led by Anne-Marie Nordgren, to explore some of the preserve’s new trails.

Open space mission

Before the dedication, Monteleone and fellow longtime OSPAC member Steve Morowitz sat down with The Ledger to discuss the progress the group has made over the years, not only at Levy but at other preserves in town.

OSPAC committee members Mike Surdej (left), Steve Morowitz, Susan Henry, Gregory Monteleone, Stan Weil and George Scott. — Jane K. Dove photo

OSPAC committee members Mike Surdej (left), Steve Morowitz, Susan Henry, Gregory Monteleone, Stan Weil and George Scott. — Jane K. Dove photo

 

OSPAC, originally called the Open Space Advisory Committee (OSAC), originated under the administration of former Town Supervisor Tom Herzog.

“The original mission of OSAC was to identify and obtain desirable parcels of property in town for the recreational use of residents,” Morowitz said. “The approach involved using town funds combined with money and grants from other sources. The culmination of that effort was the acquisition of the old Houlihan Property on Mead Street in Waccabuc, now named the Old Field Preserve. But after the financial crisis, that approach died down because of lack of available funding.”

But the grope decided to stay together. “We are now called the Open Space and Preserves Advisory Committee and have anywhere from 8 to 12 members with two year time limits,” Morowitz said. “Our focus is now on the preservation and improvement of the open space we have already acquired.”

Monteleone, who took the helm of OSPAC four years ago, agreed. “We have shifted from purchasing to preserving,” he said. “We want to maintain what we’ve got but have no budget and must rely on completely volunteer efforts. We added ‘preserves’ to our name to reflect our larger mission.”

Monteleone said the group realized the preserves were badly in need of maintenance and, with the full and enthusiastic support of Town Supervisor Peter Parsons, decided to make that the focus.

“We came up with an action plan and broke it up in separate groups that lived near a particular preserve. Levy is our largest but we have many others, included Brownell, Onatru, Old Field and the Town Park Preserve. What we want to do is highlight what’s available in town for recreation so that residents can take advantage of it and get out with their families and enjoy. “

Monteleone said OSPAC is always in need to volunteers to help with trail clearing, maintenance and blazing. “Our preserves are an underutilized resource in town and we want to increase their use,” he said. “Our members try to pick a different preserve each month, hike it and bring light equipment for maintenance and clearing as we go.”

Morowitz said he hoped that more families would take advantage of the newly refurbished and blazed trails to take family hikes. “We need people to put down their electronic devices, and get the kids out into the open to enjoy the beauty of Lewisboro,” he said. “We want our residents to appreciate what we have here in Lewisboro.”

Since 2013, OSPAC volunteers and friends have dedicated thousands of hours to building, restoring and maintaining trails in Lewisboro parks and preserves. “We are a hardworking group but we need some young blood,” Monteleone said.

How to join in

After Pooley described the new native plant garden, the group urged anyone interested in joining in the OSPAC effort to contact Dana Mayclim, head of the town’s Parks & Recreation Department. She may be reached at 914-232-6162.

Major benefactor Shelby White (left) and landscape designer Pam Pooley with the map of the new Native Plant Garden. — Jane K. Dove photo

Major benefactor Shelby White (left) and landscape designer Pam Pooley with the map of the new Native Plant Garden. — Jane K. Dove photo

OSPAC meetings are open to the public and held the second Monday of the month at the Town House in South Salem hamlet.

Lewisboro Land Trust co-Chair Bobbe Stultz offered informal closing remarks and Sen. Terrence Murphy sent a proclamation honoring the Levy Preserve.

Stultz said “I want to thank all of our volunteers and some of the others who have really helped us, including our town Director of Maintenance Joel Smith; Randy Price; the Lewisboro Garden Club; and especially Shelby White for her vision and passion.”

Other individuals might want to explore the Friends of Leon Levy Preserve, an organization dedicated to promoting the appreciation of the extensive natural and manmade features of the Preserve. The group offers educational opportunities to study native flora and fauna as well as the effects of invasive species, with the long-term goal of sustainability. Friends of Leon Levy also provides financial and volunteer support for other educational programs and initiative to enhance the Preserve.

To learn more contact Susan Henry at s.s.henry33@gmail.com or Judi Butler at judithnoe1@aol.com.

About author
Jane K. Dove is an independent journalist and publicist working in the tri-state area. A native of Chicago, she is a graduate of Loyola University of Chicago and honed her skills as a writer working as associate director of public affairs at New York Medical College. She has reported for the Ledger for three decades.

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  • Jane Grant

    Why doesn’t our Town Board especially Supervisor Parsons become this engaged with matters concerning most of the residents of Lewisboro. If income inequality is a concern for America what about attention inequality for the citizens of Lewisboro.

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