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Aug 15, 2008 1:26 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

East Hampton Town asked to provide BMX track at airport

Aug 15, 2008 1:26 PM

As the East Hampton Town Board labors to develop a new master plan for the East Hampton Airport, it is being asked to add an off-road bicycle track somewhere on the airport’s sprawling property to the mix of options.

Martin Drew, who for years has pushed for the town to create a dirt bike motocross, or BMX, track somewhere in the town, has taken the months-long examination of the airport as an opportunity to push for his dream.

Citing the town’s leasing of nearly 100 acres of airport land to the Maidstone Gun Club, for a pittance, Mr. Drew argues the town should offer a similar deal on land for a popular, community-based activity such the riding of bikes, motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles, ATVs.

“The airport is 600-plus acres in size,” Mr. Drew told Town Board members at a meeting earlier this month. “We’re hoping that you could find some acreage for us to conduct ourselves in that area. I’m willing to use any land you offer us.”

Mr. Drew, who founded and heads a group he calls the Long Island Sports Committee, which he says has hundreds of members, thinks a BMX track would require between three and seven acres of land. Dirt would be pushed into mounds around a curving track on which primarily young riders could race each other on bikes. Creating a track for motorized vehicles would require a little more land, he said.

In recent months, the town planned to close the airport’s runway 16-34, and Mr. Drew said he had hoped a tract of land to the north of the runway—once it no longer had to kept open as a clear zone—could be turned into a bike track. But at the same work session at which Mr. Drew pitched his idea, several board members seemed to reverse their thinking about which of the airport’s two shorter runways should be closed.

Councilman Pete Hammerle, who has worked with Mr. Drew over the years to find a spot for the bike track, and Supervisor Bill McGintee both said they are hopeful that an earlier proposal, to put the track on land that is part of the former town landfill, might bear fruit.

“I still think the best alternative is to revisit the landfill,” Mr. McGintee said, noting that if runway 16-34 is closed, the land north of it would become part of adjacent land already preserved as open space and that the town wouldn’t want to clear it for the bike track.

Mr. McGintee said that a proposal by the Highway Department to save money by requiring residents to bag their leaves in the fall may free up space at the landfill that is now used for stockpiling leaves for composting. “We might be able to work something out. Maybe not seven acres,” he said.

Mr. Drew asked that his proposal be kept in mind as the town moves forward with the airport master plan in the coming months. Mr. Hammerle noted that putting the bike track at the airport could complicate things because it would have to be approved by the Federal Aviation Administration if it is going to be included in the master plan, which must receive FAA approval.

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