For one New Rochelle resident, Independence Day could have used a bit more independence. Ron Kukla, 77, said he went out Wednesday morning for his daily visit to Glen Island Park, in New Rochelle. Kukla said he lives one-sixteenth and walks or rides his bike through the park for exercise.
“These 77-year-old bones need cultivation,” he said.
But when he approached the entrance, he said, a man in uniform told him he’d have to provide his county-issued park pass and pay $5 to enter the park. That was a first, Kukla said. He hasn’t bought a county pass and he’s never been charged an admission fee. Parking fees don’t apply to him because he doesn’t drive there.
“I felt it was unreasonable to deny my entrance,” he said, adding that the county must have changed its policy regarding pedestrian visitors to the park.
So, what gives? Peter Tartaglia, the county’s deputy commissioner of parks, said park employees were not told to charge pedestrians an admission fee. But officials did slightly–and temporarily–alter their admission policy: Because of the enormous number of people expected to spend the holiday in Westchester’s parks, pools and beaches, officials were checking visitors’ residency (access to the county’s parks is, technically, limited to its residents).
“On July 4th, because of the size of the crowds, we do ask for identification. It’s the one day of the year,” Tartaglia said. “If he had his driver’s license, he’d have been fine.”
Kukla, it seems, is free to continue cultivating his bones, even on holidays, as long as he can show he’s a Westchester resident.