Residents may soon be allowed to venture into the long-banned Woodlawn Preserve, a rare wilderness area at the edge of the city that offers a glimpse of the unique Pine Bush ecology.
The preserve was declared off-limits to everyone more than six years ago, although it now appears that city officials never intended to stop walkers from entering the sandy wilderness. Dirt bikes and ATVs were wearing away the tallest sand dune in the Pine Bush, so signs were posted to keep motorized vehicles out of the area.
City officials were surprised to learn last month that the signs weren’t specific: they simply read, “no trespassing,” leading residents to believe they couldn’t even enter on foot.
City Councilwoman Barbara Blanchard proposed Monday that the signs come down — replaced with “no motorized vehicles” — and the council appears ready to support her.
“I think it’s sort of strange we have a preserve no one can go in,” Blanchard said.
The Friends of Woodlawn Preserve have entered it regularly, even holding a well-advertized study of the flora and fauna that involved dozens of scientists and children from the nearby Woodlawn School. The group has also planted Pine Bush flowers in the preserve, tried to remove the invasive species that spread into the area and held an annual cleanup day.
But the new leader of the group is worried about the signs, Blanchard said. Since the group is organizing a cleanup on June 21, she wanted reassurance that they wouldn’t be breaking any laws.
“They want to make sure they won’t be arrested,” Blanchard said.
The council won’t be able to remove the signs before the cleanup, so the group will technically be in violation, but Public Safety Commissioner Wayne Bennett said police aren’t going to enforce the rule.
“We can exercise discretion,” he said.