Rep. Lee Zeldin, an Army veteran, visited Warrior Ranch in Mount Sinai in October 2017 and participated in some ground training exercises. Courtesy photo.

The former Beagle Club property in Calverton may soon have a new use.

County officials have been working out terms of an agreement to allow the nonprofit Warrior Ranch Foundation use of the Edwards Avenue property, which Suffolk County acquired in 2012 for $8.9 million for passive recreation uses.

The Warrior Ranch Foundation teaches military veterans and first responders to train horses, establishing a mutually beneficial relationship for all involved, organization cofounder and president Eileen Shanahan said.

“Horses are magnificent animals that are very healing and therapeutic,” Shanahan said. “When you’re around a horse, you have to be very aware, because they are large animals. So you have no choice but to be in the moment. It’s very good for everyone — veterans and first responders especially.”

Warrior Ranch holds clinics and workshops to help veterans and first responders cope with post-traumatic stress disorder. They learn horse-training exercises from experts. And at the same time the group retrains horses so they can be adopted out, Shanahan said.

“It’s a second chance for both human and horse,” she said.

First responders that have been through the program are police, firefighters, EMS and emergency room workers.

The workshops and clinics are free of charge to the participants, Shanahan said. The program is fully paid for by the nonprofit, which does fundraising to support its operations.

Shanahan said the group’s founders are “all very passionate about our country and horses.” They are all involved because of a desire to give back, she said.

“I have a family filled with military and first responders,” Shanahan said. “These men and women defend our freedom every day. Our first responders are going into burning buildings and chasing criminals.”

Residents in the nearby community grew wary when they saw work being done at the clubhouse again — and no one had been told what was going on there. 

Four years ago, the county agreed to lease the site to L.I. Abate, a nonprofit education and advocacy group dedicated to motorcycle safety and awareness that was then headed by the county superintendent of parks. About a dozen county parks department workers made capital improvements to the clubhouse on county time, using county funds to purchase materials and supplies. After a contentious meeting of the Calverton Civic Association in June 2014, the county scuttled the deal with the motorcycle group.

The county parks department thereafter issued a request for expressions of interest in the site, without result. The property has since been used by licensed bow-hunters during deer season.

When work got underway again, local residents reached out to Legislator Al Krupski to find out what was happening. Krupski said in an interview he didn’t know very much about the agreement and had requested a copy of it from the parks department. He has not received it yet but is told it has not yet been signed, he said today.

Krupski said his office had notified the Calverton Civic Association about the proposal.

The legislator said he is setting up a meeting for residents, the parks department and representatives of Warrior Ranch. He hopes it can be held next week.

“We thought that was the best approach, where everyone can come and have their questions answered,” Krupski said.

Shanahan said Warrior Ranch is looking forward to it. “We want them to know that we’re communtiy friendly and we will be good neighbors,” she said.

The use of the site will not involve large gatherings or even horseback riding, she said.

“We’ll be doing ground-training exercises,” Shanahan said.

Warrior Ranch has been operating out of two private barns — one in Mount Sinai and one in Islip Terrace — since the organization was established in 2016, she said. She believes the Edwards Avenue site will be ideal.

Workshops and clinics will be held for small groups of four to eight people, typically, with occasional groups of 12. At the end of a weekend training, participants may have members of their families come out to see what they have learned, she said.

“Our goal is quiet and peace and calm,” Shanahan said, “for horses and humans alike.”

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