For the Civic Association of the Setaukets and Stony Brook, one of the most longstanding organizations in the community, membership has historically come in waves – usually with the ebb and flow of hot-button issues within the community.
It has been challenged with issues such as open space preservation, traffic safety, and controversial development projects. Now, with 70 years of history behind it, a new challenge lies ahead: recruiting more members to keep the organization thriving.
"It’s always a challenge," said Herb Mones, who served as president of the civic association between 2003 and 2006. "People respond to single issues, and they don’t often respond to civic responsibility. ... People lead busy lives. People have a lot of different commitments."
Currently, among its approximately 280 to 300 members, only a few dozen are actively involved in the organization's day-to-day happenings. When it resumes its regular meetings in September, Mones said the civic association will begin a new push to attract new members.
"You always want to have a vibrant, rigorous, growing civic association drawing in people throughout the geographic area and throughout the demographics," he said.
The organization plans on attracting new membership through advertisements and coupons in the local news outlets, the publication of op-ed pieces, the distribution of brochures, and a social media campaign. In fact, current member and past president Kara Hahn, who now serves the area as its representative in the Suffolk County government, said she thinks the web should be the new way to get people involved.
"Whether it’s through Facebook or e-newsletters ... I think we have to find a way to tap into the new online movement," she said. "It’s harder than you think."
Membership in the Civic Association of the Setaukets and Stony Brook costs $10 per year, which offsets the cost of newsletter printing and maintenance of its website. The group meets publicly on the first Monday of each month at .
Hahn urged residents to join the organization. "I think it’s such a great way for people to get involved to learn about what’s going on and to have a voice in the community," she said.
The history of the civic association dates back to its formation in 1942 by Dr. Charles Herman. According to a history of the civic association, the organization counted Ward and Dorothy Melville among its early membership.
During the 1960s, the civic association together with other community groups along the north shore successfully fought a plan that would have turned Route 25A into a major four-lane highway. Civic organizations also battled Suffolk County over plans to install sewer systems, a move which would have led to higher-density housing. In 1975, while the Town of Brookhaven's master plan was being developed, the civic association pitched the formation of historic districts, which was eventually built into the town's zoning code.
Many of the same issues that dominated the Three Village area in the past are still relevant, including land use, development, open space preservation, housing density, and smart planning and zoning. It all contributes to the quality of life that residents enjoy today, Mones said.
"It does take a very active, involved community to protect the heritage, the resources, the feel that exists inside of the community," he said. "Facing that challenge is only possible by having many, many people involved."
Let Patch save you time. Get great local stories like this delivered right to your inbox or smartphone everyday with our free newsletter. Simple, fast sign-up here.