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Preservationists: Tough Mudder is too much for Old Bethpage Village Restoration

Participants take part in the Tough Mudder endurance

Participants take part in the Tough Mudder endurance event at Dalkeith Country Estate on Aug. 24, 2013 in Edinburgh, Scotland. Credit: Getty Images / Jeff Mitchell

Preservationists are outraged that Nassau County is allowing an obstacle course for an international tough guy competition -- complete with waist-high mud and an ice bath -- at Old Bethpage Village Restoration.

The county and representatives of the event, Tough Mudder, say the re-creation of a mid-19th century Long Island farm village will be restored to what it looked like before an estimated 10,000-plus men and women wade through electrified wires and swing over a pool of water Aug. 15-16.

But Natalie Naylor, president of the Nassau County Historical Society and a history professor emeritus at Hofstra University, is worried. "It's going to destroy the village," she said.

The 209-acre village, which includes 51 historic buildings, will be closed to the public for the event, said Mary Studdert, a spokeswoman for the Nassau County parks department.

But, she said, the event is being held at a time when fewer people visit the park -- the summer.

The Long Island Convention and Visitors Bureau and Sports Commission recruited Tough Mudder during a November 2013 trade show, visitors bureau sales manager Jennifer Rothman said. The village's location, layout and availability were among the reasons the site was chosen, Tough Mudder spokesman Ben Johnson said.

Visitors bureau officials estimate the event will pump more than $2.5 million into the area's economy. Tough Mudder is paying the county $30,000 for use of the grounds, plus a $20,000 security deposit to cover potential damage, Studdert said. And the for-profit Tough Mudder plans to donate $15,000 to the nonprofit Friends of Nassau County Recreation.

Studdert said the obstacle course will not go near historic buildings.

Tough Mudder officials said the 10-mile course, though still being determined, passes about eight houses, but no closer than 10 yards away from the structures.

Ropes, and volunteers and staff members, will prevent participants from veering off course, officials said. No mud obstacles will be near the historic buildings, said Hilary May, the event director for Tough Mudder.

Naylor said that despite the precautions, "I can't imagine this [the village] is going to come through unscathed."

Jason Crowley, preservation director of the Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities, said he's concerned about possible damage to buildings and land.

"The roads, the open space, the buildings themselves are part of one integral landscape design as an open-air museum," he said.

Two holes to be dug in grass fields will be filled in and grass replanted, Johnson said, adding that any damaged grass and fields will need time to recover.

Johnson said competition officials are willing to meet with preservationists to discuss their concerns; but Tough Mudder already changed parts of the route after people who grow produce on the site worried crops would be trampled.

Participants pay between $100 and $220 per day for the event and spectators pay $20 to $40 -- depending on when they buy the tickets, Johnson said. Between 10,000 and 11,000 participants and 2,000 spectators are expected over the two days, he said.

One participant, Nickolaos Kourounis, 37, an accountant from Queens, will be on a team with about two dozen others that will raise money for Wounded Warrior Project. "This allows me to separate myself from a fast-paced world," he said. "I'm constantly answering my cellphone and responding to emails. This allows me to disconnect from that."

The obstacle course is a challenge rather than a race, Johnson said. There are no trophies for finishing quickly. Team-building and camaraderie are the focus, he said.

There now are about 60 Tough Mudders each year held around the world, and the event has been held in seven countries since it launched in 2010, he said.

On Long Island, participants will run, walk, climb and swing over, through and above 21 obstacles.

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