Guest Spot: At Cutchogue’s Dave Allison Park, safety was the issue

Much has been said recently about the use of vehicles in Dave Allison Park. The Cutchogue-New Suffolk Park commissioners wish to clarify the facts regarding this matter in an effort to help the community fully understand how decisions were made. The town beaches and park districts noticed a dramatic increase in park usage as COVID impacted our lifestyles. The practice in Dave Allison Park had been to allow vehicles to drive through the middle of the park, in close proximity to the children’s play area, in order to access limited parking near the top of the bluff. 

As park usage increased, the heightened concern for the safety of the children and all park users became the prevailing focus. The commissioners also determined the need for additional green space was warranted. The topic was discussed at several park meetings that were publicly noticed as required. Very few members of the public attended these meetings, and no comments were offered by attendees related to this matter.

At the fall 2021 meeting the commissioners decided to discontinue the practice of allowing vehicles to drive through the park and park down near the bluff. This decision was made primarily for the safety of the children and all park users, with the added benefit of more green space and concomitant environmental concerns. It was noted that there would be a savings of taxpayer money in that the park would no longer need to employ attendants. While perceptions have been created that the primary reason for this decision was monetary, the cost savings were secondary to the safety concerns and environmental benefits.

Several residents have expressed their dismay with regard to this decision over the last several months. Demands have been made that we immediately reopen the road and allow vehicles to park near the top of the bluff. In response to their concerns, the commissioners have vetted the matter with several representatives of the town, retained professional services to obtain parking options within the park, reviewed regulations regarding ADA accessibility as it relates to the park district, observed parking at several similar local venues and have vowed to give consideration to the possible creation of limited parking within the park in the future. 

We have received legal counsel favorable to our position, including that there has been no violation of the law or the Americans with Disabilities Act. Should a new parking area be created, we understand our obligation under ADA and would comply with ADA-accessible parking space(s) including specific spatial dimensions, surfaces and associated pathways. Any plan allowing vehicles within the park may require the relocation of the children’s play area, the removal of trees and/or green space or additional safety barricades or fencing.

The commissioners have applied to the Southold Town Trustees to obtain a permit to trim the vegetation at the top of the bluff to a level where people sitting on the park benches or at picnic tables will be able to have a view of the bay. We have made efforts to market our public meetings in a more comprehensive manner. We have increased the number of meetings held each year. We have established a website: csnparkdistrict/home. We have posted past minutes and financial statements on the website. 

We are in the process of making minutes available at Cutchogue New Suffolk Library, as well as via the Southold Town website. In summary, we have taken steps to be as open, transparent and inclusive of the public as possible. We have committed resources to study this matter, to listen to the public and to make informed decisions regarding access to the park. Thank you for considering all sides of this important issue. We deeply appreciate the public’s interest in both Dave Allison Park and Nassau Point Causeway Park and welcome public input.

The authors are Cutchogue-New Suffolk Park District commissioners.