New Hartford town sign, from The New Hartford Facebook Page.
New Hartford town sign, from The New Hartford Facebook Page.
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NEW HARTFORD — Alison Murdock, Chairman of the New Hartford Conservation Commission, is accusing the town of destroying what she said is a preserved meadow at Brodie Park South.
According to Murdock, back in 2007, the commission worked with town officials to implement a mowing plan for Brodie Park South.
She said that the plan was designed to preserve wildlife habitat in a portion of the park by preserving 15 acres as a meadow.
Murdock claims that over the years the unmowed area was reduced to nine acres, yet by 2012 the meadow had a thriving population of birds, bees, butterflies, reptiles, mammals, and amphibians.
However, after 2012 the town mowed down the meadow and now there are only two to three acres left of it.
“The town mowed down 90 percent of the open area,” Murdock said. “It eliminated the meadow. You only mow a meadow to keep any trees or other kinds of growth that you don’t want from taking it over. It’s not a meadow anymore. Meadow is grasslands and other native plants that support the wildlife.”
Murdock said that the mowing was done over the objections of the commission, the Brodie Park South Study Committee, the Friends of Brodie Park South, and other residents.
She said that she has contacted First Selectman Daniel Jerram about the situation.
“He passed the buck over to the Recreation Committee,” Murdock said. “I emailed the leader of the Recreation Commission [Joe Petrarca] and he didn’t respond,” Murdock said. “The recreation commission tells us to talk to the Board of Selectmen, the Board of Selectmen tells us to talk to the Recreation Commission. It’s a different group every time.”
In an email to The Winsted Phoenix, Jerram very strongly disputes Murdock’s claims.
“While Ms. Murdock believes that there is a ‘preserved area’ at Brodie Park, she is mistaken,” Jerram wrote to The Winsted Phoenix. “There has never been any formal action taken (i.e. Town Meeting) to make that distinction. The Recreation Commission has the authority to make the decisions regarding maintenance of the field and they have chosen to mow the majority of the field at this point and reserves the right to change their mind at any time. Ms. Murdock has approached the Recreation Commission to ask them to reconsider this current practice, but for now, they have chosen to continue mowing.”
Jerram wrote that “several years ago, the Board of Selectmen with different membership agreed to not mow that area until August each year under the premise that birds were nesting within a specific area of the meadow (and the birds are called bobolinks I believe).”
“This was approved by the Recreation Commission at that time,” Jerram wrote. “That said, this wasn’t the whole grassy ‘meadow’ front section of the park. Again, it was just a portion and I’m not sure about the exact acreage involved. There was never any permanently protected ‘preserve’ created nor any legal documentation filed. It was just a friendly agreement at that time. For her to call it a ‘preserve’ implies a permanent procedure that just never existed. It was best called a ‘hand-shake’ style agreement.”
Jerram wrote that Brodie Park South includes about 150 acres, with approximately 135 acres of woodlands with hiking trails.
“Our parks in New Hartford are, by town ordinance, under the jurisdiction of our Recreation Commission, not the Conservation Commission,” Jerram wrote in his email. “[The Recreation Department] develops recreational programs, fees, and maintenance procedures. I work with our Department of Public Works to ensure that those programs and procedures are followed to the best of our ability.”
He wrote that “Year after year, programs and maintenance practices are reviewed and modified in an attempt to make things better for our residents and other folks who visit our parks.”
“There was never any permanently protected ‘preserve’ created nor any legal documentation filed,” Jerram wrote. “It was just a friendly agreement at that time. For her to call it a ‘preserve’ implies a permanent procedure that just never existed. It was best called a ‘hand-shake’ style agreement.”
The Winsted Phoenix attempted to contact Petrarca several times for an interview for this article.

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