Nassau County is finishing a project to put new fencing...

Nassau County is finishing a project to put new fencing around most of the 35-acre Coes Neck Preserve in Baldwin. (March 12, 2012) Credit: Barry Sloan

After decades of inattention, Nassau County is finishing a project to put new fencing around most of the 35-acre Coes Neck Preserve in Baldwin.

The county designated the property -- a former illegal dump -- as a perpetual preserve in 2008, protecting it from development. It will not become a park with amenities. Instead, the property will remain a green space of ground cover and trees, but not open to the public.

The project to replace about 4,500 square feet of deteriorating fence will cost $188,000, Department of Public Works spokesman Michael M. Martino Jr. said. This year's mild winter allowed the fence-replacement project to start in early February, earlier than planned. It's expected to be completed by mid-April, Martino said.

The property east of Coes Neck Road and south of the Southern State Parkway is one of 15 preserves owned by Nassau County. The Baldwin property was once an asphalt plant and had become an illegal dumpsite for debris from the demolition of the Garden City Hotel in 1973. The preserve designation, which protects it from development for 99 years, came after community opposition to earlier plans to lease the land to Molloy College for new athletic fields.

"We are extremely happy that the county has begun the refencing and certainly that it is replacing the old rusty one," said Jackie Bell, president of the Baldwin Oaks Civic Association, which for years has sought parklike amenities for the area. "Our only regret is that the county cut down trees to do the work."

About 25 trees were removed for the fence installation. Some of the trees were dead; others had roots that were in the path of the new fence, Martino said. Nine trees were removed at Coes Neck Road and Notre Dame Court for sidewalk and curb replacement, he said.

Before the refencing project started, the preserve was used to store debris and material generated from the massive countywide cleanup from Tropical Storm Irene in August. All debris that had been dumped at the preserve site was removed in November, Martino said.

Nassau looked into extensively cleaning the property in 2007, but abandoned that plan because it would have cost more than $20 million, officials have said. The county had already spent $75,000 to remove contaminated soils and debris from the property. Some areas were covered with clean top soil and seeded.

The county has no plans to turn the preserve into a park. It will remain closed to the public, mainly because security would be needed to patrol the area and a pond on the property, officials have said.

"I am still very disappointed that the county has failed to . . . open this hidden gem to the community," said David Viana, co-president of the Baldwin Civic Association.

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