By Kathryn G. Menu
Two weeks ago, The Nature Conservancy took title to a 29 acre property in North Haven Village that will be transferred to Suffolk County sometime next month and will be preserved as parkland.
North Haven Village will manage the parkland on behalf of Suffolk County.
According to The Nature Conservancy’s conservation advisor Randy Parsons, property owner Andrew Lack agreed to sell the parcel to the Conservancy for $3.7 million. In 2010, the Conservancy and Suffolk County struck a deal where the county agreed it would re-purchase the property for the same price with monies from the county’s water protection fund.
The deal was not without its headaches, noted Parsons, including a veto on the purchase by then Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy. That veto was overridden with help from Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman, enabling the county to announce it had a formal deal with the Conservancy to work on purchasing the property together in August of 2011.
“He was really instrumental in this coming together,” said Parsons during a walk throughout the new preserve, which includes two-acres of wetlands at Fresh Pond and wooded uplands Parsons said he hopes will be used for passive recreation like hiking. The property connects Fresh Pond and the Peconic Estuary across from the Conservancy’s 2,039 acre Mashomack Preserve on Shelter Island through a narrow tidal creek that on Tuesday afternoon was home to two blue herons.
Lack, the former president of NBC News, had subdivided 12 acres of the land into five building lots, according to a map produced by the Conservancy and was once zoned for two acre residential development. Now, those lots, along with the remaining 17 acres, have been merged and protected.
“In addition to providing a beautiful place for peaceful walks, this parcel is important for shoreline and water quality protection,” said The Nature Conservancy’s Executive Director Nancy Kelley. “The salt marsh on this parcel plays an important part in filtering land-based sources of pollution to the Peconic Bay. The upland areas provide a spot for salt marsh migration in the face of accelerated sea level rise.”
According to Legislator Schneiderman, while purchasing the property has been a priority of the Conservancy, it was really North Haven Village Mayor Laura Nolan who brought the property to the county’s attention.
“This is a critical environmental area and she recognized that,” said Legislator Schneiderman. “It creates a large block of open space and I think there is habitat value as well. This was very important to North Haven Village. Certainly a top priority for that board.”
The land is nestled between the Peconic Estuary, as well as a 64 acre stretch of land on which the Peconic Land Trust holds easement and close to 40 undeveloped acres in private ownership.
“This parkland has the potential to grow,” noted Parsons. “It could even double in size.”