December 7, 2012

National designation a game-changer at Stepping Stones

On Oct. 17, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar issued the designation of Stepping Stones as a National Historic Landmark. Stepping Stones, located on Oak Road in Bedford Hills, is now one of 2,527 properties in the nation so designated because “they possess exceptional value in illustrating or interpreting the heritage of the United States.” According to Mr. Salazar, “Each of these landmarks represents a thread in the great tapestry that tells the story of our beautiful land, our diverse culture, and our nation’s rich heritage.”

With its new protections, Stepping Stones joins the John Jay Homestead Historic Site as a national historic landmark in the town of Bedford. Other National Register of Historic Places include the Katonah Village Historic District, Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts and others.

Meanwhile, at Bedford’s town house, the historic home received a new delay on its proposal to construct a new parking lot on its Oak Road property in Bedford Hills. At a public hearing on Tuesday, Nov. 20, the Bedford Town Board debated whether the site plan needed further state environmental review.

The concept of kicking the ball down the field may be appealing — look at how the state has punted the issue of the oil drilling process known as hydrofracking. However, the environmental concerns of Stepping Stones are not those of hydrofracking, where issues of scientific study are in dispute.

The primary issue at Stepping Stones has always been traffic — resolving the conflict between visitors to a national tourist attraction and the ambiance of a residential neighborhood. For nearly two years, Stepping Stones has been seeking a new 13-space driveway to serve its visitors. In considering the proposal, planning board officials voted to recommend that Stepping Stones host no more than five yearly events of over 200 people, with the exception of the 8.5-acre site’s annual summer picnic. In addition, Stepping Stones is bound by strict rules regarding the transport of guests to the property. In the Stepping Stones newsletter, the group stresses rules for visiting Stepping Stones. Stepping Stones is open Monday through Saturday for only three hours daily, noon to 3 p.m., with a guided tour each day at 1 p.m., and at other times by appointment only. Reservations are “strongly recommended.” Stepping Stones organizes group trips, “but coach buses are strictly prohibited as a means of getting to Stepping Stones.”

The Record-Review has always maintained that Bill and Lois Wilson’s property was a home first and always, just like the other residents on the road. Certainly as residents they would have been the first to lead the fight to protect the peace and privacy of a lovely suburban cul-de-sac.

What has changed is that no one could predict that Bill and Lois Wilson would become legendary figures that would bring positive change and would benefit of millions of lives worldwide, or that their influence would continue to expand exponentially.

We understand that the town board is doing their part to ensure that neighbors are protected at the same time the world retains access to Stepping Stones. To what degree additional state environmental review is relevant in this particular case is debatable. A traffic study has been completed, the county already mandates and regulates drainage and sewage regulations, and erosion measures are not at issue.

As the renown of the historic site grows, it may become more difficult to limit the number of visitors. However, we are not so sure that with its proposed uses that further environmental review is needed.

It will never be easy for neighbors to accept the “new” Stepping Stones. But now may be the time to look ahead to forging a new community partnership and maximizing the positive benefits that such a national honor may bring to our community.

Read more local coverage of your hometown in this week’s issue of the The Record-Review. Newsstand copies are available at several locations listed above, or subscribe today for convenient home delivery.

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Bedford Village

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  2. Bueti’s Deli – 526 Bedford Road (Route 117)


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Mount Kisco

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Cross River

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  3. Cameron’s Deli –  890 Route 35    

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