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Mount Kisco Historian Resigns After Years of Frustration

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Long time Mount Kisco Village Historian Harry McCartney has resigned from the post he held for 13 years. McCartney has also stepped down as the Mount Kisco Historic/Nature trail team lead.

In a brief resignation letter, dated Sept. 10, to Mount Kisco Mayor Gina Picinich and Village Board trustees, McCartney wrote that his dual roles as village historian and nature trail team lead were significantly integral to one another. The letter was never read at last week’s village board meeting.  Picinich announced McCartney’s resignation, thanked him for his service and said if anyone was interested in the position to reach out to the village manager.

McCartney said his resignation was due to years of frustration in trying to obtain village support to upgrade and maintain the nature trails. Most recently, in May, Mount Kisco officials decided to use Department of Public Works (DPW) staff to monitor village walking and hiking trails. McCartney’s and the volunteer nature trail team’s request for a special dedicated ranger to oversee the trails was denied.

“That was the last straw,” McCartney said. “After several work sessions where I projected management operations and what they entailed, they decided to reorganize the DPW and have one guy to oversee the trails. When the assistant village manager subsequently held an operational meeting with the DPW they cut me out and didn’t invite me.”

Because McCartney was able to share his in-depth knowledge of local history, nature and geology while guiding folks on the nature trails, his walks and accompanying narratives offered a renewed and richer sense of place. He was able to extend the mountain trail, create what’s known as the Peninsula Trail and the Grist Mill and Early Settlement Trail. He and his trails team regularly weed wacked, cleared and created walks and trail maps. For McCartney, the village trails were outdoor classrooms for the community as well as trails for hiking, birding and strolling.

“Harry brought history to the nature trails and maintaining those trails have been one of the biggest initiatives in the town by a volunteer group,” said Mount Kisco Historical Society President Ralph Vigliotti. “His resignation as village historian and trail team lead is a double whammy.”

Email exchanges between McCartney and Picinich in early August indicate an apparent disconnect about how the trail team and DPW would work together. McCartney stressed that whoever patrolled the trails should consider public safety, fire and flooding risks and landmark protection, factors he believed were being overlooked. Picinich consistently supported the work the DPW was doing in maintaining the trails.

“That the village didn’t have a priority list indicated the village’s level of responsibility,” McCartney recalled. “We all need to be proactive.”

McCartney said he was also dissatisfied when seeking the village’s support to expand the trails by using the limited greenspace in the village.

“Our objective was to link the Mount Kisco green spaces with Leonard Park and the Marsh Sanctuary trails,” McCartney explained. “Ultimately, we could link to the Merestead and Butler Sanctuary trails. But even before we presented the idea, the mayor said ‘no.’”

At the mid-point of last week’s village board meeting Trustee Karen Schleimer

read a statement regarding McCartney’s resignation, saying that he was irreplaceable.

“It is hard to know what to say about the resignation of Harry McCartney from the post of Village Historian and Mount Kisco Historic/Nature Trail team lead. The loss to the village and its residents cannot be understated. Harry, as historian with the trails team integrated geology, history and nature….  he led docent walks, provided history lessons at the library and the Boys and Girls Club and worked with our Seniors. We think of him as the father of the Mount Kisco trail system.”

McCartney said that before he formally resigned, it had become clear to him how his level of frustration had grown. Although he will no longer serve as village historian, he said he is not backing away from sharing his knowledge with the community.

“I’ve given talks at the senior center for 10 years and held nature classes at Leonard Park for the Boys and Girls club and for Neighbors Link. I will keep doing that stuff because it’s fun and independent of any organization,” he said.



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