Tag Archive | "Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt"

Goats to Munch Away Invasive Plants in Greenbelt

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By Gianna Volpe

It’s been nine years since the Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt began their effort to transform Vineyard Field in Bridgehampton back to native grassland after it was overgrown by an invasive plant species. Now goats will join the fight in stemming the tide of the unwanted autumn olive.

Upstate New York’s Rhinebeck-based Green Goats will provide a herd of weed-eating goats next month to the South Fork to aid in the restoration of the field, which lies behind the South Fork Natural History Museum. The property is part of the greenbelt, which runs from Sag Harbor Cove to the Atlantic Ocean.

The autumn olive, a flowering plant with light silver bark, was originally planted for its beauty. It also attracts birds because its fragrant flowers become berries. But the thorny plant is also so invasive it outgrows and shades out native species, ultimately forming a an impenetrable thicket.

The FLPG believes Green Goats is an ideal choice for getting an upper hand on the autumn olive as the invasive plant reasserts itself with a vengeance during the growing season when the Friends refrain from using mowers on the field to protect the its wildlife, including snakes, turtles, and snails.

“We’re losing the battle, so we’re hoping these goats are going to help,” FLPG president Dai Dayton said of the project. “They can graze throughout the summer without hurting any animals, so we’re hoping they will put an end” to the fight against the autumn olive.

Green Goats has been providing the chewing power to eliminate unwanted plant populations throughout the state—its goats chomp up poison ivy, phragmites and other undesirable plants—for seven years now.

Mozart the goat and his band of hungry friends began their work in 2007 when they cleared out invasive plants threatening a Civil War gun battery at New York City’s Fort Wadsworth, according to the Green Goats website.

“Larry brings his goats to the location, and they munch away for the season, and then he takes them home for the winter,” Ms. Dayton said of Green Goats owner, Larry Cihanek. “The goats prefer to browse, so they’ll really go after those autumn olives. They like to eat shrubs.”

Mr. Cihanek’s four-legged weed whackers are not shy and their reputation for browsing aggressively precedes them, according to Ms. Dayton. Though some autumn olives stand 6-feet-tall, she said the animals will gang up on a single plant to get the job done.

“They stand up on their hind legs and Larry said they will actually push the plant right over and they all jump on it and eat it,” she said. “It’ll be fun to watch…. We need those big goats to get up there and defoliate the plants so they finally die.”

Mr. Cihanek’s goats should arrive at Vineyard Field in the beginning of May.

Southampton Town has already contributed $3,500 so that Mr. Cihanek’s goats begin their work on the town-owned land next month, but Ms. Dayton said that will cover only half of the cost for the six-month initiative. She is asking the public to help the cause through donations to the Friends of Long Pond Greenbelt website (longpondgreenbelt.org) and has invited all to see the project in action first-hand during an educational program called “Project Goat,” which will take place at Vineyard Field on August 16.

Another Greenbelt Parcel Preserved

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Last week, the Southampton Town Board voted to purchase and preserve a two-acre parcel on the Bridgehampton/Sag Harbor Turnpike that will adjoin the 39-acre Vineyard Field in the Long Pond Greenbelt.

The parcel will be incorporated into the Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt’s ongoing Vineyard Field Grassland Restoration program.

According to a press release issued shortly after the town voted to acquire and preserve the parcel on January 11, the Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt called the purchase “especially significant due to the 2011 year-end purchase of a four-acre parcel on Round Pond, which marked the first land preservation purchase in the Long Pond Greenbelt in several years.”

“In just three months, the preserved land in the Greenbelt has increased by six acres,” said the Friends in its release.

Located at 365 Bridgehampton/Sag Harbor Turnpike, the property is part of the Long Pond Greenbelt target area and is considered a priority site for park, recreation, open space, and preservation purposes, according to Ryan Horn, a citizen advocate employed with Southampton Town.

Horn added the area is designated as a priority because of its collection of coastal plain ponds and the fact it is home to several vulnerable species of plant and animal life.

The purchase will cost the town $450,000, which will be paid for by its Community Preservation Fund, a collection of a two-percent real estate transfer tax used for preservation purposes across the East End.

“Grasslands are one of the most threatened natural habitats, disappearing at alarming rates here and all across the country,” said Dai Dayton, President of the Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt. “We’re thrilled that, with this purchase, the Vineyard Field Grassland Restoration area will be enlarged and another piece of the Greenbelt preserved for future generations.”

Estuary Program Eyes Ligonee Brook for Restoration

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Historically, Ligonee Brook in Sag Harbor has served as a migration path for alewife, a species of herring, and eels, which travel up the brook from Sag Harbor Cove to spawn in the fresh waters of Long Pond.

But in recent years, the lack of consistent water flow has become an issue in the brook. For that reason, the Peconic Estuary Program has earmarked almost $17,000 towards the research, engineering and design of a restored Ligonee Brook in an effort to re-establish the fish populations.

The Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt (FLPG) want to make sure this project — one of five fish path restoration proposals funded by $80,000 in grants secured by Peconic Estuary Program through the New York Department of Environmental Conservation — earns public support. According to FLPG vice-president Sandra Ferguson, one of those projects will ultimately be implemented through another $100,000 grant, and FLPG members want to do everything they can to make sure their project is considered a top priority.

They are so committed to the restoration, last week FLPG president Dai Dayton said that even if the project is not given funding for implementation, armed with the engineering schematics and research developed over the next two years, the organization would seek funding from the Southampton Town Trustees.

“We are going to make this happen,” said Dayton.

Last spring, the Peconic Estuary Program announced that Land Use Ecological Services had won the state bid to develop a comprehensive plan to restore Ligonee Brook and improve fish migration. Dr. Will Bowman will oversee the project, according to Ferguson, and over the next two years will develop and present his proposal for the brook.

The Ligonee Brook Diadromous Fish Passage Restoration will specifically develop a plan to restore drainage water flow, freshwater wetlands and the alewife and eel run at Ligonee Brook.

Other fish passage restoration proposals being developed through the funding are located in Southold, East Hampton, Shelter Island and Riverhead.

On Friday, October 7, Ferguson and FLPG member Priscilla Ciccariello reached out to the Sag Harbor Citizens Advisory Committee for its support.

While Ligonee Brook has traditionally served as a migration path for the fish, because of barriers — some natural, but mostly manmade — like the culvert under Brick Kiln Road and debris in the brook, Ferguson noted there is not always sufficient water flow to allow the migration.

“We, as the Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt, have cleaned the shores and the bed of the brook, we have cared for the creek, but this is an opportunity for a very serious restoration project that will restore the natural flow of the brook,” said Ferguson.

With no guarantees the project will be implemented, Ferguson said FLPG is reaching out to local civic groups and organizations to help raise public awareness about Ligonee Brook and its potential restoration.

“We want every level of government to understand this project has strong community support,” said Ferguson. “We want to be the voice of the Long Pond Greenbelt as this moves forward and we would like you to be with us.”

The CAC agreed to be a vocal organization in support of the project.

According to Ciccariello, one aspect of the Ligonee Brook restoration that makes it a viable contender for financing is that it is a digestible project, that wouldn’t likely take much funding to implement.

“But even if we don’t win that prize we will still have the schematics, which is quite a gift in itself,” she said.

Airport Noise Still “Canker” for People

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While a number of pilots attended the East Hampton Town Board’s public hearing on the future of the East Hampton Airport, praising initiatives to repair and reopen a damaged runway, the forum was dominated by Southampton Town residents who complained the town plan does not do enough to address the issue of helicopter noise.

The town’s master plan presently includes the construction of a seasonal air traffic control tower, the re-opening of runway 4-22, which pilots argue is the safest runway, but is in need of millions of dollars in repairs. Relocating Daniels Hole Road to create room to allow pilots to use the whole of the main runway for landings is also discussed in the plan.

With over 80 people in attendance at the town’s September 17 meeting on its Draft Environmental Impact Statement for its Airport Master Plan, Supervisor Bill McGintee opened the meeting cautioning the crowd to keep the conversation constructive and specific to the DEIS.

“The last time we had a hearing it was at East Hampton High School,” said McGintee. “And we had comments like if you don’t get rid of helicopters this board has no guts or ban everything on the face of the Earth. This hearing is not about those issues.”

Kathy Cunningham, the chairperson of the town’s Airport Noise Abatement Committee opened public comment praising the board for initiatives like the addition of an Airfield Wind Advisory System (AWAS) and discussions about the construction of a seasonal air traffic control tower. However, Cunningham said the plan leaves out critical noise abatement studies and goals for the airport.

“My main concern is the total lack, or failure, of the EIS to deal with the noise problem, which in our view is the primary environmental concern,” said Cunningham. “The shortcomings of the DEIS really reflect the shortcomings of the airport master plan. There are no standard noise abatement goals or a noise abatement program.”

Cunningham questioned why the town failed to take advice from a firm it retained to study airport noise, Kaplan, Kirsh & Rockwell and called for a larger study on noise impacts. She added the committee feels the plan presents “an unrealistically low forecast for growing helicopter traffic.”

Southampton Town Board member Nancy Graboski and town planning director Jefferson Murphree joined the committee in their opinion that the master plan does little to deal with noise related to the airport – noise often affecting Southampton Town residents.

Graboksi and Murphree said the town supported the use of an AWAS system at the airport, as well as the construction of an air traffic control tower.

Graboski asked the town look at adjusting a current route over Jessups Neck, which affects residents in Noyac, North Sea, Sag Harbor and North Haven.

“What I would like to see further evaluated is adjusting that northerly route so it comes out further over Long Island Sound north of Orient Point and then cuts south over North West Creek so that it takes that traffic away from North Haven, Shelter Island and those areas close to the shore around Peconic Bay,” said Graboski.

East Hampton resident Patricia Hope said that while residents have been told to call in their complaints about noise, they could only take so much.

“They say when you hear a plane, you need to make a phone call,” said the Northwest Creek resident. “Sixteen planes in 16 minutes at 7 a.m. on a Monday morning – it gets a little old.”

Hope noted experts have deemed the route over the Atlantic Ocean and over Georgica Pond as the route with the least impact.

“My perception – as a citizen and taxpayer – of accountability will be greatly improved when the Town of East Hampton adopts the corridor its own paid consultants called better than others,” said Hope.

Bridgehampton resident and member of the Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt Sandra Ferguson agreed with Hope, and called for the town to recognize its airport impacts surrounding communities and nature preserves including the Long Pond Greenbelt.

“I am here to say we feel your judgment regarding approaches to East Hampton should keep in mind the equity and fairness of what I like to call the noise canker in the east of our town and to the west of yours,” she said. “Our plea is to be fair.”

Noyac resident Bill Reilly said the Federal Aviation Administration’s method of monitoring helicopter noise, which the town uses, is insufficient.

“Another issue that has to be addressed is the method of identifying and recording the noise from helicopters,” said Reilly. “The FAA permits 12 hours of 65-decibels of noise per day in each location. That is outrageous and obviously not suited for this location.”



Going Native: New Trail Introduces Us to the Local Flora

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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.

 

Pondering the Ebb and Flow of Ligonee Brook

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When Southampton Town Trustee President Jon Semlear was a child growing up in Sag Harbor they called Ligonee Brook, also known as Ligonee Creek, Alewive Dreen.

“My whole life they called it the alewive dreen,” he said. “My experience growing up in Sag Harbor was there were always alewives traveling up the stream, particularly on the west side of the [Sag Harbor] turnpike where the stream comes to the road.”

Semlear, fellow Southampton Town Trustees Fred Havemeyer and Edward Warner, Jr., Southampton Town Chief Environmental Analyst Marty Shea, with photographer and writer Jean Held, members of the Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt, the Group for the East End and the Sag Harbor Citizens Advisory Committee in tow, conducted an inspection of Ligonee Brook on Thursday, October 9 to assess its current condition.

In town politics the brook has been caught up in a debate over a proposed Sag Harbor Gateway Study, which, at its core suggests the rezoning of a little over half a dozen properties on the Sag Harbor Turnpike – including land that borders the brook. But for Semlear, and a number of others on the Thursday afternoon ramble, the excursion was more about familiarizing themselves with the brook, its history and about addressing what the trustees can do to ensure the brook’s health.

The brook is a part of the Long Pond Greenbelt, a system of ponds, swamps, streams and woods, which extends from Sag Harbor to Sagaponack. The greenbelt includes 30 freshwater ponds, as well as a number of swamp and marsh areas and Sagg Pond, a salt pond that occasionally lets out into the ocean. As Held noted on Wednesday, the Long Pond Greenbelt has a plethora of rare flora and fauna specimens as a result of its delicate ecosystem.

Ligonee Brook is first referenced in New York State records in January of 1803, according to a history of the brook in a record compiled by Held through Southampton Town documents and histories in local newspapers. In New York State records, “legonee creek or brook” is defined as a boundary marker to what the state referred to as the “port of Sagg Harbor.” 

According to Held, while often referred to as Ligonee Creek, Alewive Dreen, the Long Pond Dreen, or the Long Pond Drain, the proper name for the stream is Ligonee Brook, which she notes is what the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation calls the stream.

Throughout old issues of The Sag Harbor Express, the brook, in all its various identities is shown to be the site off great eel catches and alewive sightings, as the migratory species used the brook to travel from Sag Harbor Cove to Long Pond. As early as 1874, in local papers there were calls for Sag Harbor residents to roll up their sleeves and help clear debris – brush and leaves – from the brook during the dry season, as it would accumulate at levels that would block the flow of water during the times of year the water would run.

Whether the brook is still a part of the migratory patterns for alewives and eels has been a debated subject as of late, particularly when discussed in Southampton Town Hall as a part of the Gateway Study. There have also been questions raised as to whether the brook still runs with water, or if it has dried for good.

Robert Reid’s family has owned a parcel of land that now houses Reid Brothers Incorporated, an auto repair shop, for several decades. The Reid property is one of several being considered for re-zoning by the town under the Sag Harbor Gateway Study. For a majority of the parcels looked at in the gateway study, the town’s department of land management suggests a change in zoning from highway business, which allows large commercial enterprises to hamlet office, which would permit only smaller professional offices and retail locations.

Any business, like the Reid Brothers, that is already in place would be considered pre-existing, non-conforming and could operate business as usual even if the business changed hands as long as a change of use was not proposed.

At a Southampton Town Board hearing on the Gateway Study in September, Reid asked the board how Ligonee Brook – cited by a handful of residents and advocates in support of the gateway study – could be a viable breeding ground for a number of species if it was dry.

According to Reid, at one point the brook, which borders his property, was dry for 23 years, although he said it did start to run again when water was pumped from the Rowe Industries Superfund site nearby.

“But it miraculously stopped running this past winter,” said Reid.

Reid also believes the brook may have been man-made, although he said if that was the case it was likely around the time of the first settlement in Sag Harbor.

Held said the brook does run dry, but said it is a part of the natural ebb and flow of the brook, and said as early as last fall the brook was running. Held added outside influences, like the Sag Harbor Water Company which used Long Pond as a water source, did have an effect on the flow of water in the brook, although she said she did not believe the brook ever remained dry for a period as long as 20 years.

“I have no problems with making this creek do what ever we can to make it a real creek,” said Reid on Wednesday, noting his concerns with what have been discussed on the town level have less to do with Ligonee Brook and more specifically lie with what he sees as spot zoning of his family’s property. Reid said he would attend this Tuesday’s 6 p.m. Gateway Study public hearing at Southampton Town Hall.

According to Semlear, the trustees do have every intention of ensuring the brook’s flow is not interrupted by debris or build up of sand.

During the walk on October 9, the brook was in fact dry, although member of Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt and trail leader Dai Dayton said she had personally seen the brook flowing last year. The walk, which began at the trail entrance at Mashashimuet Park and ended where Long Pond and the brook meet, was productive, said Semlear, who noted a number of trustees had yet to walk the brook.

“The alewive stream is in pretty good shape,” he said on Wednesday. “There are a few areas where debris should be removed so we can ensure during times of high water [alewives and eels] have the ability to make it up the pond. There is also some areas where we need to clear some sand out of the culvert.”

As a lifelong resident and trustee, Semlear said there were many times he observed the brook dry and many times where he saw it run fully. Regardless, he said, there is no question in his mind that Ligonee Brook is an essential part of the Long Pond Greenbelt as a whole.

“When you remove something from an ecosystem, it sets things out of balance,” said Semlear. “When the creek is running it has a productive, positive influence on the pond and Sag Harbor Cove on the other end. It is definitely a key element in the uniqueness of the Long Pond Greenbelt.”

And, according to Held, it is the ebb and flow of the brook that lends the area to a vast array of rare flora and fauna species, some of which would not be able to survive there if the level of water was constant.

“That is part of what makes them rare,” she said. “And that makes the area very interesting to me.”