Town to kick in $20K for Downs Farm Preserve programs

Group for the East End's Missy Weiss prepares soil with Victoria Witczak, 9, of Cutchogue, and her sister Julianna, 3, last weekend at Downs Farm Preserve in Cutchogue.
Missy Weiss running an educational class at Downs Farm Preserve in April with the help of Victoria Witczak, 9, of Cutchogue, and her sister Julianna, 3. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder, file)

Group for the East End appears poised to receive funding from Southold Town that will support educational programs at Downs Farm Preserve, a town-owned park in Cutchogue.

As of now, $20,000 is included in the town’s preliminary 2015 budget for the nonprofit, which runs the programs.

“It is a nature preserve and the goal is to use it,” Supervisor Scott Russell said during last Tuesday’s Town Board work session. “This use is completely consistent with the intentions of acquiring properties like this that showcase Southold Town’s natural assets.”

If the funding is approved, Councilwoman Louisa Evans said the town would have to develop a contract for the group’s services.

“It can’t just be a $20,000 gift,” she said.

Group for the East End asked for the money to cover some of its costs and to fund the creation of a part-time position to assist in event planning.

Missy Weiss, a Group for the East End staffer who coordinates events for Downs Farm Preserve, said most programs at the preserve are free, with only a suggested donation for participants.

“That is not enough to cover costs,” she said of the donations.

In the past, the group has paid a small stipend to an intern to help organize events and workshops, she said.

The nonprofit’s spending proposal includes $13,000 for a new part-time employee, $2,500 for program advertising and a $1,600 intern stipend, which the organization will match in order to offer a second internship opportunity.

The remaining $2,900 would help fund office supplies, postage, professional development and volunteer management, according to the proposal.

Currently, the town pays for cleaning and maintenance costs for the preserve. Much of the funds are provided by the town’s department of public works.

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