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Paving the Way for Citizen Projects

Posted on 25 February 2010

In the not too distant past, the Sag Harbor School District was visited by Fred Kent of the not-for-profit organization Project for Public Spaces. Kent offered ideas and information on his previous work across the globe, but his message was simple: He couldn’t give Sag Harbor cookie cutter answers to solve its spatial problems. Instead, the community, urged Kent, had to work together to create its own solutions.

Heeding this advice, teacher Kryn Olson and parents Ed Bruehl and Sam Panton have put together a commendable project. With this plan, they will turn an area that is now an eyesore at the elementary school campus into an interactive, engaging, and eco-friendly outdoor classroom. Anything that helps students understand the natural world around them is extraordinary, and anything that gets kids outdoors is a plus. The motivation displayed by Olson, Bruehl and Panton reminds us of another episode in which the citizens of the village took it into their own hands to beautify Sag Harbor.

Under the auspices of the village government, several years ago a group of about a dozen locals created the Sag Harbor Village Tree Fund. Over the years, the village had lost many of its street trees to disease, storms or old age. Seeking to diversify the village’s tree stock while ensuring the beauty of the streetscape for years to come, this group fundraised and went out to secure discounted prices on trees from local vendors. They also asked people to donate their time to plant the saplings and even provided water sacks to keep them healthy. The financial commitment to the government was minimal.

This along with Olson’s project in the pipeline, are two great examples of what committed groups of people can accomplish when focused in a common cause for the good of all. We think there is a greater place for these kinds of works to occur, as long as we have a willing government that will support the efforts. Especially in these economically strapped times, there are projects which the government simple can’t afford, and maybe shouldn’t be spending money on. But we still have a committed collection of citizens with vision and ideas. Right now, we think the government should focus on their core chores, and when these committed individuals get together as a highly skilled an organized group with an eye on an end goal that will benefit us all, they should give their blessing.

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