Going Native: New Trail Introduces Us to the Local Flora

Posted on 22 May 2009

So, how many native species of trees and shrubs can you recognize while hiking in the woods around Sag Harbor? Thanks to recent efforts by members of the Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt (FLPG), now even the most horticulturally challenged hikers will be able to tell the difference between, say, a black tupelo and an American beech.

Last weekend, volunteers from the FLPG headed out into the woods behind Southampton Town’s Long Pond Greenbelt Nature Center to install tree identification markers along part of the trail system. Mounted on 4” x 4” posts, the vinyl identification signs include both the Latin and common name of 20 species of native trees and shrubs found along the trail — including bayberry, high and low bush blueberry, hickory and three types of oak.

“It’s a short loop trail. There are about three markers of each type, as you circle around you see them twice again. By then you should know what you’ve seen,” said Dai Dayton of the FLPG who explained that the idea for the trail came about because of the sheer variety of species found in the area.

“Whenever I led hikes in the Greenbelt, I noticed that one trail along Crooked Pond had nearly every native tree on it,” said Dayton. “I thought it would be nice if people could see the names of the trees and we could get identification markers on that stretch.”

“We were talking about it for years and had some Scouts interested in helping us, but it never happened.”

Then Dayton applied for a Southampton Town Human Resources grant for the project.

“They must’ve liked the idea because they gave it to us,” she said. “Our next step is to do a brochure with a lot more species that you can pick up at the kiosk by the nature center and take along on other trails. We also have a big map showing a list of trees and shrubs. We’re hoping it will become an educational trail and kids will come with their school group, do the trail and go back to the nature center.”

Officially known as the William B. Sickles Tree Identification trail, the loop is named for retired Suffolk County Parks Department Supervisor William B. Sickles — the recipient of this year’s Champion of the Greenbelt award. The award was established by Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt in 2008 to recognize individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the preservation and stewardship of the Greenbelt. Sickles, explained Dayton, was the driving force behind development of an integrated management plan for the Greenbelt.

“He’s always helped us in the Greenbelt,” said Dayton. “The management plan took five years and is really the stewardship plan for the Greenbelt — and although it has not been officially adopted, the town follows it. The plan tackles the questions of use and what would and wouldn’t be appropriate because it is a nature preserve. It also defines the hydrological boundaries of the Greenbelt which helps with acquisitions.”

“It’s really a great book,” added Dayton. “It talks about coastal plain ponds and explains how the Greenbelt works. Statewide, Crooked Pond is a very special area, it’s fragile and has a lot of plants and animals you don’t find anywhere else.”

This Saturday, May 23, members of the Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt will gather at the Long Pond Greenbelt Nature Center for their annual meeting and to christen the new trail. The event starts with a hike at 10:15 a.m. followed by the meeting at 11 a.m. and a complimentary lunch at noon. New members are welcome to join that day. Annual membership is a suggested donation of $20. The Long Pond Greenbelt Nature Center is located at 1061 Bridgehampton/Sag Harbor Turnpike, Bridgehampton. Parking at the site is limited and guests are asked to park along the turnpike and walk in to the nature center if possible. For more information, call Dai Dayton at 745-0689.


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