Looking at old photographs of East Hampton Town, you are struck by a nearly complete absence of trees and other tall vegetation. In part, this is due to the long history of grazing animals on the South Fork, as well the use of wood for cooking and heating. The practice continued here until the early 20th century and even later in some households.
One man, at least, would like to return the landscape, at least on some public land, to the windswept prospects of old. East Hampton Town Councilman Dominick Stanzione is the main backer of what he calls Project Open Vista, and he said he has had favorable responses from other board members.
Mr. Stanzione would like the town to clear selected acreage of invasive plants and other brush tangles to bring back views of land that in some cases cost millions to preserve. He argues that there has been unconscious acceptance of the loss of some of the town’s valuable public vistas. In his opinion, neglect by successive town administrations may have cost this community emotional and spiritual visual sustenance. He said taxpayers have a vested interest in preserved lands, and, at the very least, should be able to see them. A pilot program on Bluff Road, Amagansett, was the subject of a recent meeting with the town architectural review board.
For talking about such a program when East Hampton is struggling to pay for a sharp property tax cut through hiked fees, layoffs, and other measures, Mr. Stanzione has taken some criticism. However, his response is that the costs of restoring certain views could be funded creatively and spread over many years. One could envision tapping the community preservation fund for clearing some properties acquired through the fund and perhaps public-private partnerships on others. If the money cannot be found, so be it. But the idea, at least, should not be dismissed out of hand.