Editorial: Misguided proposal was rightfully squashed

Hallock State Park Preserve sits on 225 acres of shorefront property off Sound Avenue in Northville.

Currently closed for construction of a visitor center and parking field, it will soon reopen with hiking trails leading to Long Island Sound. Purchased by the state from KeySpan Energy for $16 million nearly 20 years ago, it’s sure to remain a nature lover’s paradise for many years to come.

There is, however, one thing that could kill the park’s rural appeal: the state’s recent insistence on turning every visitors center and rest area into a tourism super stop under the Taste NY umbrella.

Yes, that’s the same Taste NY marketing effort that brought us a series of signs to nowhere on the Long Island Expressway and at Orient Point. If not for a sudden push by local elected officials to halt a portion of the state parks department’s plans for the Hallock preserve, those signs might soon have directed you to the park for beer and wine.

An ongoing debate across the North Fork about the number of venues that serve alcohol across Riverhead and Southold towns continues to simmer. There are the prohibitionists who want to see none of it and many others who like every proposal they hear for a new tasting room. Even more folks land somewhere in between. One thing we’d hope everyone would agree on is that there’s no need for the State of New York to enter into a partnership to serve alcohol at a state preserve.

Yet the state issued a request for proposals this month for a vendor to serve beer and wine at the new visitors center at the park. The market, they presumably believed, would be people looking to picnic there.

Town supervisors Sean Walter of Riverhead and Scott Russell of Southold argued against the RFP this week and, thanks to their efforts and some intervention from state Sen. Ken LaValle, the plan now appears to be dead. The state parks commissioner reportedly told Mr. LaValle the RFP would be pulled.

If people want to pour beer or wine for a picnic they’ll probably still stop at one of the dozens of wineries and breweries along the route to the park. Or they can just do what most people do when they visit a preserve: take in the scenery, breathe in the fresh air, watch the birds fly by or dip their toes in the water. Not everything needs to be about beer and wine.

Photo caption: The visitor’s center at Hallock State Park Preserve, which is still under construction. (Credit: Kelly Zegers)