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Community Forum Agrees On One Thing -- Activism Is Alive And Spreading In Sag Harbor

Originally Posted: May 18, 2009

Aaron Boyd

President of Save Sag Harbor Mia Grosjean arranged the get-together with the assistance of April Gornick (right) as a way to convene the various local volunteer groups working in Sag Harbor to help establish healthy lines of communication between them. Photos by Aaron Boyd

Sag Harbor - Community spirit is strong in Sag Harbor, if not always well-organized, as a wash of volunteer and activist groups inhabit the village to provide locals with a way to get involved. Realizing that some services and interests may be duplicated by the many community organizations in the area, the members of Save Sag Harbor organized a Community Forum on Sunday, May 17 to ensure that they were all working together, not in competition with each other.

"We wanted to get us all together to see what we are all doing and communicate with each other," Mia Grosjean, president of Save Sag Harbor and coordinator of the forum, explained, reminding her fellow community workers that "many hands make the load light."

The coming years will be "an important time for communities across America," as a country-wide push toward green energy and sustainable living signals a move toward "finally getting into the 21st century, rebuilding village by village," Grosjean claimed. The 20 volunteer groups that attended the gathering "powerfully speaks to that point," she contended.

Gigi Morris, head of the environmental coordinating committee 725 GREEN, stressed that she didn't want the organization to be seen as the only one "taking care of the environmental issues." Community activism is about "pitching in and being part of a whole," Morris maintained, hoping to get all the groups working together to make Sag Harbor the "model green, historic village."

Gigi Morris, of 725 GREEN, hoped "people will start taking ownership" of the need to build a greener society.

"It's a shame that we all work in our bubbles," Morris added.

Valerie Justin of the Coalition of Neighborhoods for the Preservation of Sag Harbor (CONPOSH) agreed with Morris, as forums such as Sunday's allow community groups to co-opt each other's volunteers.

Several organizations found common ground in common causes, such as Safe Routes to School, a community group looking to ensure the safety of students walking or biking to school, as well as advocating the design of a "master plan for the whole village on biking and walking," according to director Ken Dorph. In the future, Safe Routes will be under the umbrella of Spokespeople, perhaps the youngest community organization in the village, which advocates healthy lifestyles for children and adults and promotes better behavior in cyclists and drivers alike.

As a representative of the Ladies' Village Improvement Society (LVIS), Eileen Tuohy explained that the society's goal was to "keep the village beautiful," which directly coincided with the activities of groups like the Dark Sky Society, working to decrease light pollution, Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt, who preserve that fragile ecosystem, and the Sag Harbor Tree Committee.

Sag Harbor is certainly not an apathetic community, Gail Slevin of the Tree Committee asserted. "You can't walk down the street without signing at least one petition," she claimed, adding that that spirit fuels the volunteerism in the village.

Twenty community organizations attended the Sunday, May 17 forum to educate the public about what they do for the village and find common interests with other groups.

Regrettably, there were a few notable absences from Sunday's get-together, namely the Sag Harbor Citizen's Advisory Committee (CAC) and the Eastville Community Historical Society, as Grosjean pointed out, though the meeting was a "beginning, not an end," she added, planning to organize several similar forums in the future where the different organizations can meet to compare notes.

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