By Carol P. Bartold, Senior Reporter
Oct. 4, 2017: A group of approximately 20 protesters, dressed in multi-colored t-shirts and carrying signs that said "Save Scout Field," convened at Upper Scout Field on Saturday, September 30. It was Friends of Scout Field's second protest in an effort to preserve the county park area as an open, natural, green space accessible to the Bronxville, Mount Vernon, and Yonkers communities in which the park lies.
Started four weeks ago, and with one protest conducted in Bronxville last week, the Friends of Scout Field has grown its membership mainly through informing people at Upper Scout Field about plans to repurpose the open space, according to Susan Vurkat, one of the group's early organizers. The group is also circulating petitions and has started a GoFundMe page to gain support in preserving the park.
An intermunicipal agreement, approved unanimously by the Westchester County Committee on Labor, Parks, Planning and Housing in May of 2016, authorizes a five-year license for the Town of Eastchester to operate and maintain Upper Scout Field as a fenced soccer field.
Under the agreement, the Town of Eastchester will reconstruct and resurface an entrance road from Midland Avenue and create a new parking area east of the entrance road, as well as provide fencing around the soccer field, signage, bleachers, and benches. The county will assume the costs of earthwork, grading, topsoil, and the installation of subsurface drainage and irrigation.
The Committee on Labor, Parks, Planning and Housing approved total funding of over $2.4 million for the project.
Mount Vernon resident John Torres, a key organizer of the Friends of Scout Field, stated that the group is opposed to any type of destruction of the park's eco-friendly green space. The group's main concern, he said, is to let the public know what's going on.
"This landscape is not meaningless," Torres said. "We're here to let the public know we're opposed to this proposal and will do whatever we can to stop it."
Bronxville resident Simon Ramsey noted that a rather large constituency uses Upper Scout Field for reasons other than sports. The area is popular with dog owners and dog walkers. Birdwatchers, joggers, walkers, and people who want to enjoy open space frequent the park. "Put a gated sports area here," Ramsey said, "and the concept of what this space is for people is completely transformed."
Ramsey further noted that the baseball field installed on Lower Scout Field gets very limited usage and has caused a massive increase in garbage left behind by spectators. "I have even gone into the river to pick up the garbage," he said.
Suzanne Fedrigotti of Bronxville feels that, with the installation of a new Hayes Field at The Bronxville School, there is no need to spend further tax money on an additional sports facility that would remove open space.
The field, John Torres noted, could be as large as 130 feet by 76 feet, which would mean that two-thirds of the wildlife haven and habitat along Laurel Brook could be destroyed to accommodate it.
Although Westchester County conducted an environmental impact study for the project, Friends of Scout Field questions the validity of that study and is seeking assistance from environmental groups such as The Bronx River Alliance and Riverkeeper to review it. "We're concerned that the plan has not been properly vetted for environmental impact consequences," Torres said. He described the study as whitewashed, containing many red flags and having forms improperly filled out.
Although Friends of Scout Field has not talked with Town of Eastchester Supervisor Anthony Colavita, they have spoken with Bronxville Mayor Mary Marvin, who said she would be willing to facilitate a meeting among the Friends, Westchester County, and the Town of Eastchester.
"There are politicians and special interests who cleverly crafted this maneuver to repurpose our field for youth sports programs and take it over," Torres said. "We want to keep this space open and accessible to everyone."
Pictured here: Protesters who want to save Scout Field as an open area for the public.
Photo by N. Bower