As Brookhaven Supervisor Mark Lesko toured the Carmans River for the first time, some local civic leaders questioned why their groups have not played a bigger role in crafting a plan to preserve the river.
A study group is expected to develop guidelines for protecting the 10-mile river from private development. There are presently no special protections for private lands that border the Carmans, which runs from Middle Island to Shirley.
MaryAnn Johnston, president of the Affiliated Brookhaven Civic Organization, said the town's pledge to include "all stakeholders" in the Carmans protection plan has not included civic activists.
"All stakeholders doesn't include representatives from any town civic or community groups whatsoever," Johnston said in an e-mail.
But Lesko - who Monday took an hourlong boat tour of the river with group members and other town officials - said the town wants an open dialogue with civic groups.
"We put ourselves on a tremendously aggressive timeline," Lesko said. "We're going to get this done quickly, but anyone and everyone who wants to will have a place at the table."
The Carmans River Watershed Protection plan will be drafted by Jan. 20, when Brookhaven's town board will consider it, town officials said. The study group working on the protection plan includes Long Island Pine Barrens Commission members, environmentalists, town and state officials, and representatives of a builders' group, officials have said.
Government officials and environmentalists called the protection plan a watershed moment for Long Island's environment when they unveiled the study group in October.
Brookhaven will not give final approval to any proposed developments near the river until the study group releases its guidelines, Lesko has said.
Lesko told the study group in a letter that Jan. 20 is a firm deadline. "The protection plan must be complete so we can move forward on those projects without jeopardizing the rights of the various applicants," the letter stated.
While touring the river Monday, Lesko marveled at a bald eagle and a great blue heron and later called the Carmans "pristine" and "an untouched ecosystem."
He added: "It kind of illustrates in dramatic fashion why we need to protect this river."