Judy Cartwright Judy Cartwright

Judy Cartwright writes the Community Watchdog column

A grandmother who lives in Seaford cares for her grandchildren in their home in East Farmingdale, where her out-of-town status has prevented her from getting a Babylon Town recreation permit. That's the sticker that would get the grandchildren into town spray parks once summer arrives.

Sure, she could take the girls to other town parks, the ones without spray parks. Try selling that to children.

The grandmother, Susan Greenspan, learned the challenges of being an out-of-town caregiver when she asked the town how to get a permit. The refusal comes down to this: Recreation permits are issued only to cars registered to a town address, Babylon spokesman Kevin Bonner told us.

He pointed out that Greenspan could take the girls to the other parks or even trade cars with her daughter on days scheduled for a spray park visit.

There's one more option: She could pay the $15 daily fee that's charged to anyone who doesn't have a recreation permit. After only three visits, the fees would exceed the $40 cost of a seasonal permit.

Greenspan's daughter, Addie Lopez, said her children's residency, not their grandmother's, should be the determining factor. "Considering that I pay taxes, and considering my work schedule, to be able to use the parks during the week is ideal," she said.

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Lopez said she wanted to give her permit to Greenspan, but the town nixed that because the information on the permit wouldn't match up with her mom's car. Which means park entry could be denied.

"My daughter and son-in-law both work, yet their children are denied use of these parks," Greenspan said.

She suggested that it's time for an alternative permit for relatives and other caregivers who don't live within the town's borders.

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The town could charge slightly more for such a permit, she said, and require residents to sign an affidavit certifying that the applicant is the family's caregiver.

Such an option has been considered but not adopted because it would be difficult to enforce, Bonner said. He cited obstacles ranging from verifying that out-of-town caregivers are actually relatives to distinguishing which members of an extended family are actual baby-sitters. Such a policy "would most likely lead to out-of-town people abusing the system," he said.

And because town parks are popular, with parking lots often at capacity, "it is our policy to make sure town taxpayers receive priority," he said.

We can't disagree with his points, especially in a town with such appealing parks and ocean beaches. But we wonder if another town's experience could provide wiggle room.

In Huntington, families who rely on out-of-town caregivers are asked to submit a written request for a beach permit.

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"The town department of parks and recreation will issue a temporary permit or a letter allowing the resident, adult or minor, to enjoy their Town facilities," Huntington said in a statement. The fee for a resident permit applies, spokesman A.J. Carter said, and the option extends to disabled and elderly residents who rely on nonresident caregivers.

It's a policy that seems to be working so far.