Tag Archive | "Long Pond Greenbelt"

The Secret Life of Long Pond Greenbelt

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Two deer fighting in Long Pond Greenbelt. Photo by Jill Musnicki.

By Mara Certic

After a burglar repeatedly tried to break into her parents’ home, Jill Musnicki and her husband had the idea to install motion-sensitive cameras around the property to try to catch the crook red-handed. The police ended up catching the pilferer without the help of the cameras, but the security system she had set up inspired Ms. Musnicki to embark on an artistic investigation of her own.

“As I watched what images came out, I thought it would be neat to use them in an artistic way,” she said. As part of the Parrish Art Museum’s road show in 2012, Ms. Musnicki installed game cameras from Water Mill to Montauk to shoot pictures of unsuspecting creatures as they moved past.

The artist, who is a fourth generation East End resident, wanted to show the lives of the animals who continue to live among us, in spite of all the development that has depleted their natural habitats. The show was called “What Comes Around,” and provided a fascinating glimpse into what animals do when undisturbed by humans.

This Friday, June 27, at the South Fork Natural History Museum in Bridgehampton, Ms. Musnicki will present “What Comes Around II,” which will show the secret behavior of the animals who live in the 1,100 acres of Long Pond Greenbelt.

According to Ms. Musnicki, the cameras she installed throughout the area—which stretches from Sagaponack to Sag Harbor—are typically used by hunters to “track where the action’s going on.”

The artist, however, uses them to catch glimpses of foxes, osprey and endless deer interacting, uninterrupted by the hustle and bustle of humanity. The cameras take still pictures whenever something moves in front of them, Ms. Musnicki explained. She then collected them and has spent hours whittling down the series of images from 100,000 to 5,000.

“I put myself in the zone, sit in front of the computer, scroll through thousands of pictures,” she said. The process, she said, is hugely time consuming: “It definitely takes me away from my painting in the studio,” said the artist who is primarily known for her work in that medium.

After whittling out the photos triggered by a leaf or a twig blowing in front of the camera, Ms. Musnicki enters them into a film editing software in which she, with help, edits the pictures together, speeds up the process and creates a stop-motion film of the undisturbed animal kingdom. “It’s a little tiny pocket of animal life,” she said.

A large part of the artistic process is in the presentation of her hidden cameras’ shots.

Ms. Musnicki’s edits become a “fast little film,” adding an interesting artistic element to the project. The same film will be projected onto two giant screens at the Museum Barn at SOFO. The films will be screened in a round, if you will, with one starting five minutes after the first. “The more screens I have the more dynamic it becomes,” she said.

The Long Pond Greenbelt cameras have captured pictures of “lots of creatures,” Ms. Musnicki said. The nine-month span of this project has allowed Ms. Musnicki to document baby foxes growing up. “There’s a little log that a turtle jumped off of,” she added. The artist’s house faces part of the reserve. “I particularly love the [camera] across the street from me, so much stuff happens there,” she said, citing a brawl that she captured between two deer locking horns.

The project, she added, “involves people in every step of the process. When it comes to show it, I definitely feed off of people. I need help, I get help, people like to help, and so it turns into a nice collaboration,” she said.

Each project is very different, she said. The friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt “know where to go, and that was fun for me, to learn a few places that I didn’t know of.” Ms. Musnicki has also been working in collaboration with the Nature Conservancy on a similar project at the Warhol Estate in Montauk, thanks to grants from the conservancy and Warhol Foundation.

A preview of the Montauk project will be shown on five different screens the next day on Saturday, June 28, at the Nature Conservancy’s Beaches and Bays Gala at the Center for Conservation in East Hampton.

The final Warhol project, which has been in the works for a year, will be shown at a later date and will be the artist’s most dynamic and detailed view into our animal neighbors and “a life of their own in the middle of all of us,” she said.

What Comes Around II will be shown on Friday, June 27, from 5 to 7 p.m. at the South Fork Natural History Museum Art Barn, located at 377 Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike in Bridgehampton. A preview of the Warhol project will be shown at the Beaches & Bays Gala on Saturday, June 28, which will take place at the Center for Conservation on Route 114 in East Hampton.









Taking Notice of Woods in the Winter

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Tyler Armstrong of the South Fork Natural History Museum examines the bark of a Black Locust tree on the grounds near SOFO’s museum on Sunday, December 30. (Michael Heller Photo)


By Emily J. Weitz

From the five pointed leaves of maple trees to the jagged edges of oak tree leaves, there are some pretty well known ways to identify the trees in our area.

But it’s winter and the branches are bare.

In the quiet of the forest on a crisp January day, there’s no better time for a hike. And there are still plenty of ways to appreciate what you’re seeing. Even if the obvious identifying aspects of the trees are gone, like the leaves and flowers, this gives nature lovers the opportunity to look more closely and see the subtle beauty.

Tyler Armstrong of the South Fork Natural History Museum (SOFO) recently led a hike through the Long Pond Greenbelt, teaching people how to identify and appreciate the trees in winter. Armstrong points out that certain trees are actually more interesting to look at in the winter because of the bark.

“Sassafras,” he says, “has interesting bark with channels running through it. There’s a dark reddish color to the bark, and you can identify the sassafras easily because the trunk and branches are twisty and never go straight up.”

Another local winter tree he likes to seek out is the shag bark hickory.

“As it grows larger, the bark on the outside stays the same size,” he explains. “So the bark cracks in different ways. It comes off in long, vertical strips. These strips curl off the tree in a very distinct way.”

As the bark curls off, new bark growing underneath is revealed.

“All trees deal with this,” says Armstrong. “They grow from the inside, so the outer layers are forced to expand. Those old outer layers aren’t growing anymore, so they have to deal with that growth in different ways. There’s a distinct form the bark takes as it’s broken or stretched. A lot of trees develop furrows where the bark separates.”

This is another identifying factor — the way old bark adapts to the new.

“In a red oak tree, you’ll see deep canyons in the side of the tree and you can actually see the red. A white oak has more shallow furrows, and the bark forms strips that you could pull off.”

Armstrong thinks it’s important to be able to identify trees in the winter for a few reasons. First, he cites survival.

“If you know the different trees,” he says, “you can use them to find food. Certain mushrooms are associated with certain trees. Turkey tail mushrooms are found with oak trees, for example. Or if you find an oak, you know you can find an acorn, which you could eat if you were starving.”

Knowing the different trees can also have a more recreational purpose when you’re out on a winter hike, though. You can use an understanding of the trees to find different wildlife.

“White tailed deer tend to hide under the bows of evergreen trees,” says Armstrong. “Since they have needles throughout the year, it can be a bit warmer in there, and when there is snow on the bows, it’s a place to hide. Deer will sleep underneath trees in the winter.”

Other animals also use trees as a place to hide. Any tree that has holes or crevices is enticing to animals seeking shelter.

“Certain trees, like oaks and maples, have good cavities,” points out Armstrong. “Animals like owls will hide there.”

Then there are the trees that produce food for animals. Hickory trees produce edible nuts, as do shag bark trees. Deer and wood ducks count on these sources of food, and can be seen foraging near these trees this time of year.

The idea for this hike was really to share a love of the forest in winter.

“I think people out here get excited with nature in summertime,” says Armstrong. “It’s such a summer area… People expect everything to be dead or hiding in the winter. Once I was walking through the snow, expecting that. And all of a sudden a young deer popped up from the brush in the snow, three feet from me. It was startling, and made me realize we are sharing the land here with animals all year round.”

Armstrong emphasizes that the winter is a great time to notice trees that you otherwise might not even see.

“The evergreens become a lot more noticeable,” he says. “Like holly, which looks gorgeous in the winter with its red berries… I just want people to have more confidence in the forest. I want people to feel like the forest is a welcoming place any time of year, and not a place you should try to hide from or be protected from.”

Ponds’ Healing Waters

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web_ponds hike 3.15

By Emily J. Weitz

Twenty thousand years ago, the glacier that formed the South Fork of Long Island started to melt, and it left behind a smattering of fresh ponds (about 30 in all) that continue to sustain unique ecosystems in the area from Sag Harbor to Sagaponack. The ponds are fed by the groundwater supply, and have been called the “most biologically diverse areas in New York State” by the Nature Conservancy. From Poxabogue Pond in Sagaponack to Otter Pond in Sag Harbor Village, local nature enthusiast Tony Garro will guide hikers through the Long Pond Greenbelt on Sunday to take in the splendor of these distinct ponds.

“The ponds have a subtle beauty,” says Garro. “If you stood at the edge of Crooked Pond in autumn and watched the reflection of the trees turning color in the pond itself, it’s like autumn colors in stereo. It takes your breath away.”

The wildlife and vegetation in and around the ponds are abundant, with 84 distinct bird species, 392 floral species (including 30 that are rare), and 32 types of butterflies according to the south Fork Natural History Society Newsletter.

There are also garter snakes, ribbon snakes, fish, several kinds of turtles, salamanders, frogs, dragonflies, rodents, deer, and foxes in and around the ponds. Garro has observed nature in action many times on these trails.

“A couple of years ago,” he recalls, “I was walking by Long Pond in late April or May, and all of a sudden, I looked down towards the railroad bed and I saw dozens of baby snapping turtles that had just hatched from their eggs. I just happened to be there at the moment they had hatched and were moving towards the pond.”

As the seasons change and the years pass, the ponds, too, are constantly in flux. For someone like Garro, who has watched these changes patiently, it’s one of the things that makes the area so unique.

“The rise and the fall of the water in the ponds means every time you walk past it’s a different pond,” he said. “Around each pond are five biospheres, and each biosphere has its own unique system of flora and fauna that depend on the water level at a given time.”

He recalls when he first came to the area and hiked near Crooked Pond.

“There was a drought and the ponds were low,” he said. “There’s a little island in the middle, but at this point you could actually walk to the island. Then you think ‘Maybe the pond will disappear’, but no, it became an island again.”

These changes apply to the forest surrounding the ponds too. Even though now, walking deep into the woods, there’s a feeling of timelessness and peace, Garro warns that  “The Greenbelt is far from pristine. In fact, it’s been exploited over the last 300 years. At one time it was probably like a Garden of Eden in there, but then the forest was cut for firewood and wood for houses, and the railroad was built right through it. It’s like a scar that runs through the Greenbelt.”

Over the last 40 or 50 years, though, Garro says the Greenbelt has been left alone. “And son of a gun, it’s regenerated itself,” he says.

On the five mile hike that Garro will lead, hikers will pass Poxabogue Pond, Little Poxabogue, Crooked Pond, Deer’s Hole, Long Pond, Little Long Pond, Round Pound, Fore and Aft Pond, and Otter Pond.

“Each has its own special beauty,” says Garro. “Each one is an individual, with its own physical characteristics and its own personality. The Native Americans thought that each of the ponds fulfilled certain needs.”

Poxbogue Pond, the only pond with an Algonquin name, was believed to have healing qualities. In William Halsey’s book “Sketches from Local History,” he recounts the story of a Shinnecock woman who was walking down the long road which is now the Bridge/Sag Turnpike.

“She was visibly pregnant, and she asked a farmer if she could ride in the back of his wagon. When they got to Poxabogue Pond, she got out and disappeared into the woods. The next day she was seen walking out carrying her infant. She gave birth in what she thought was a healing place… To the Shinnecock, these weren’t just ponds,” Garro sighs.

“So much has been lost of the Native American worldview,” Garro continued. “I would like to know their take on each pond in the Greenbelt. But that’s lost and gone forever.”

Still, due to the hard work of many over the past several decades, the Long Pond Greenhbelt is rejuvenating.

“It can never go back to pristine,” says Garro. “But it is beautiful, with a subtle kind of grandeur that has been recaptured. If you leave nature alone, it will heal itself.”

The Southampton Trails Preservation Society will sponsor this hike, from 10a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 18. Meet at Mashashimuet Park.

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.”

A Weekend in the Woods

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Long Pond Greenbelt Hike web

By Emily J. Weitz

The South Fork Trails Weekend is like any other celebratory weekend: it’s a time to honor and enjoy the subject. If it was a music festival, you’d hear it on the streets. If it was an art festival, the galleries would be jammed. But this is an opportunity to celebrate nature, and most people have a very quiet, personal way of doing that.

Perhaps that’s why the South Fork Trails Weekend, which has become an annual event over the last 15 years, is so important. It’s a chance for all these separate groups and individual nature lovers to gather together for a series of hikes, to appreciate nature as a community.

Both the Southampton Trails Preservation Society (STPS) and the East Hampton Trails Preservation Society (EHTPS) lead free hikes every weekend, with guides bringing visitors to some of the most beautiful and hidden trails in the area. Even though a solitary hike can be a powerful experience, there are great benefits to hiking with a group as well.

“The hikes I lead,” says Tony Garro of STPS, “are informative. I give history wherever I can. I lead hikes in interesting areas. It’s the difference between casually walking through the woods and being guided through the woods.”

When you’re hiking alone, you get to take in the big picture and the little details that speak to you. But at the same time, you might be missing a really interesting story right in front of you. For example, Garro led a hike last weekend at the Mulvihill Preserve.

“It looks like pleasant woods and ponds,” he says. “But 50 years ago that area was barren pastureland. To know that and point out how the woods have regenerated themselves is important.”

Both organizations have been around for about 25 years, leading hikes, building trails, and advocating for open space.

“There’s close to 250 miles of trails in East Hampton alone,” says Richard Poveromo, a volunteer with East Hampton’s trail group as well as founder of the Adopt A Trail program. “Things grow, you have to remove them on a regular basis.”

Poveromo brings about 15 to 20 volunteers out on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays to maintain the trails by building bridges, rerouting trails and mowing. For those who don’t have the flexibility in their schedule to come out during the week, the Adopt a Trail program is a way that people can take responsibility for certain sections of trail, and maintain it on their own time.

With so many trails to hike and maintain, it makes sense that enthusiastic Southampton hikers might stay in Southampton and East Hampton hikers might not cross the Sag Harbor line. That’s part of the reason for the South Fork Trails Weekend, but not all of it. About 15 years ago, Dai Dayton was President of the Southampton Trails Preservation Society.

“We just thought the fall would be a nice time to get all our trails groups doing something together,” says Dayton, who is now the Vice President of event planning for Southampton Trails and President of Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt. “It’s a good time to learn about the trails systems between the two towns.”

Due in large part to the work these organizations have done, these trails are now expertly linked.

“We have now established the Paumonok Path,” says Dayton proudly. “You can walk all the way from the nature center in Rocky Point to Montauk Point on blazed trails. That’s 125 miles. We’ve been working on that for at least twenty years.”

The South F`ork Trails Weekend instills a sense of community in hikers that might otherwise be going it alone. And that means a louder voice will ring out when a precious place is in jeopardy.

“The more people that appreciate what we have,” says Dayton, “the more people will be there when the town is thinking about preserving another parcel and it will be a stronger voice for open space.”

The weekend will consist of four favorite hikes. On Saturday, October 29 at 10 a.m., Howard Reisman will lead a four-mile hike in Elliston Park in Southampton. Also at 10 a.m. Saturday, Richard Poveromo will take hikers on a nine-mile adventure in Mashomack Preserve on Shelter Island. He calls this one of his “favorite hikes. Looking out over the South Fork, over 2,000 acres of undeveloped land, it’s just beautiful.”

A third hike will take place at 10 a.m. on Saturday out in Montauk, when Eva Moore takes hikers on a three-mile treasure hunt past Money Pond, where Captain Kidd’s treasure had supposedly been buried. And on Sunday, October 30 at 10 a.m., all are invited to take a five-mile hike with Joe Lane through the Long Pond Greenbelt, followed by lunch at the Long Pond Greenbelt Nature Center, courtesy of STPS. On this hike, participants will be walking part of the Paumanock Trail.

“We chose the fall [for this event] because of the colors,” says Dayton. “The leaves are changing, it’s nice and cool and beautiful. The sassafras, hickory, blueberry, and pepperidge trees are all changing color. We’re inviting everyone to come and have a great time.”


We all remember the power outages and the downed limbs on the streets in the aftermath of the great gusts of Hurricane Irene. But can you imagine how those winds affected our wooded trails? Volunteers with both EHTPS and STPS have been hard at work trying to clean up the damage and clear up the trails in the wake of that powerful storm.

“A lot of what we’re finding is trees,” says Tony Garro of STPS. “We’re going in with chainsaws and sawing them up. We have work parties every Thursday. Our main focus since Irene is to clean up the mess: small brush, limbs, and trees.”

Richard Poveromo’s East Hampton crew has also been busy.

“There were literally  dozens upon  dozens of trees. In Buckskill, the trees had already been damaged by gypsy moths in the past, and Irene brought many down. In one 2 1/2 mile section there were 17 trees down. From Sag Harbor to Montauk, there were hundreds.”

Other groups have contributed to the clean-up process as well. Through Poveromo’s Adopt a Trail program, East Hampton High School, The Ross School, corporate volunteers and individuals have all chipped in to get the trails back in shape.

Reassembling A Deer

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Deer Skeleton - web edit

By Annette Hinkle

Wanted: Someone with lots of free time who loves assembling bones, has done it before and is not worried about putting the drill in the wrong place. Also required, patience and good humor. Wine and refreshments provided.

The bones. They’re in plastic Ziploc bags spread out across the dining room table in Dai Dayton’s Bridgehampton farmhouse. They once belonged to a white tailed deer — and there are a lot of them — each bag labeled in black Sharpie with a best guess estimate of what part of the animal they are from.

Dayton is vice president of Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt and the deer skeleton is from Vineyard Field, the grassland area behind the South Fork Natural History Society that the Friends have been working to restore for many years. The skeleton was found there a few seasons back, lying undisturbed under a large birch tree.

“It had just laid down and died,” recalls Dayton who’s not sure what killed the deer. The scapula is shattered, so she speculates the animal could have been hit by a car or even with an arrow, though none was found nearby. She doesn’t know the age of the deer, or if it was a male or female.

What is noteworthy, however, is the fact that the bones were picked clean and the skeleton was still largely intact.

“Usually the chipmunks eat the bones,” she says.

Because the skeleton was in such good shape, Dayton got the idea to reassemble it as a museum display for Southampton Town’s Long Pond Greenbelt Nature Center up the road.

“It was so cool, and I thought, wouldn’t it be a great project for a school?”

So Dayton gathered the bones and took them to the Hayground School where a teacher thought it would be a great project for the students.

“It stayed there for a year, not touched,” says Dayton.

Then she took the skeleton to Sag Harbor Elementary School where another teacher thought it would be a great project for the students.

“And it sat there for another year without being touched,” adds Dayton.

Finally, Dayton decided to do it herself and rallied other members of FLPG to join the effort. They found a book online that detailed how to put moose bones together, and Dayton pulled out her old anatomy books from animal husbandry courses she had taken.

Recently Dayton hosted a small work party — sort of akin to a quilting bee. Steve Gauger was the brave soul who dared to drill the first holes in the bones for wiring. At this point in the process, the group has managed to thread the vertebrae on a stainless rod and the two forelegs are strung together.

“We should be doing it once a week, but after that last episode I haven’t got the guts,” says Dayton. “No one called me to say ‘I had so much fun, let’s do it again.”

But the bags of bones are still there, just waiting for the right person to put them back together again.

“There are all these tiny little bones,” says Dayton. “The bags that are not put together are bigger than the parts we have assembled. One of the tibias is missing, so I have some spare parts in the back of my truck because a friend found a carcass.”

“We know the order they go in,” she adds. “Its the gluing and wiring and getting a stand to hold them that’s the issue. Just those forelegs took hours.”

“So it’s going to be like another 10 years.”

But Dayton is optimistic someone out there has the time and energy and is just waiting for a project like this. Maybe it’s someone reading this right now.

“We always supply the wine and the refreshments,” says Dayton enticingly before adding, “We had hoped to finish it in February. But we do have to say — we’ve done more than those two schools did in two years … or maybe even three.”

Colorful Truman Capote in Black & White

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By Annette Hinkle

It’s not the sort of place you would find unless you knew where to look. But it’s there, down an unassuming path off Widow Gavits Road south of Sag Harbor deep in the Long Pond Greenbelt — a clearing with an unobstructed view of Crooked Pond. In the clearing sits a bench for reflection and a granite marker bearing a plaque in tribute to the life of author Truman Capote and his partner, author and playwright Jack Dunphy.

It may seem an unlikely resting place for someone like the flamboyant Capote and his partner, but late in the summer of 1994, a group of friends, family and acquaintances joined staff from The Nature Conservancy in a ceremony that would permanently tie the pair to the spot. That day, the ashes of both Capote, who died in 1984, and Dunphy, who passed away in 1992, were spread on the waters of Crooked Pond.

This Saturday at 10 a.m., Canio’s Cultural Café and Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt lead a “Black & White Hike” to the site in honor of Capote’s fall birthday. Named in honor of Capote’s 1966 “Black & White Ball” in Manhattan which was said to have been the literary event of the century, the hike begins at the Long Pond Greenbelt Nature Center on the Bridgehampton Turnpike. After a visit to the memorial, it ends there as well with a reception that includes a recording of Capote reading his work, a display of Capote memorabilia owned by friends, and samplings of Cousin Sook’s fruitcake from his short story “A Christmas Memory.”

Stuart Lowrie, Conservation Finance and Policy Advisor at The Nature Conservancy in East Hampton, remembers that August day when Capote and Dunphy’s ashes were spread on Crooked Pond. Though their final resting place may be unassuming to the casual visitor, he notes that the importance of Capote and Dunphy’s gift to the preservation the Long Pond Greenbelt cannot be underestimated.

Though Capote and Dunphy lived in Sagaponack, upon his death, Dunphy stipulated through Gerald Clark, Capote’s biographer and executor of the estate, that the money from the sale of the property should go to a local charitable organization. That organization was The Nature Conservancy.

“The agreement was we would take the property, not hold it, but sell it and use the proceeds to buy land in the local area,” explains Lowrie.

At the time, preserving the undeveloped areas of the Long Pond Greenbelt, a series of rare and pristine coastal plan ponds, was a priority for groups like TNC, as well as Southampton Town and Suffolk County. Beginning in the 1980s, the three groups agreed to pursue land preservation together, with Southampton Town focusing on acquisitions in the northern part of the Greenbelt, the county focusing on the southern sections and TNC on the middle parcels with the goal of creating one contiguous preserve.

“It’s off the charts in importance for New York State,” explains Lowrie of the coastal plan ponds environment. “A lot of southern species find their northern limit on Long Island and are combined with northern species that you won’t find further south.”

“That’s what drew TNC to it,” he adds. “They looked at the biological diversity and felt this was a cultural treasure we should all be working to preserve for future generations and its own sake.”

The money realized by TNC from the sale of Capote and Dunphy’s Sagaponack estate was used to buy close to 20 crucial acres that linked preserved Greenbelt lands to the north and south. The Capote/Dunphy Preserve, as it is officially known, encompasses a peninsula that sticks out into Crooked Pond from the east and covers the pond front access that is a priority for TNC.


“Coastal plain ponds are an expression of the ground water table and the level fluctuates over time, depending on the water table,” explains Lowrie. “What we were after were the shorelines. If you can control even the first hundred feet of shoreline you can protect the ponds as long as the groundwater remains pure and there’s no nutrient intrusion.”

Money from the Capote and Dunphy estate was also used in concert with Southampton Town funds to purchase the Milton Grobow parcel which lies directly across the way on the western shore of Crooked Pond.

“Grobow was important because it was this parcel that separated the completed Greenbelt. It was the real trail link,” explains Lowrie.

That property, just under 40 acres or so, was bought for $29,000 an acre, which Lowrie recalled seemed like an outrageous sum of money in the mid-90s, but now would be quite the bargain.

“The Nature Conservancy closed on the northern half, and Southampton on the southern half and we secured trail rights,” says Lowrie. “That’s what the Capote money allowed to happened. It’s a wonderful story and one that Truman and Jack would be pleased by. Their money really did make a huge difference.”

Back in 1994, Lowrie was among those at TNC who helped organize the memorial ceremony and stone dedication on their newly acquired property. He notes that it was important to Gerald Clark that there be a marker at the site and Bistrian’s sand mine in Wainscott had agreed to donate the stone, so Lowrie and his TNC associate, Peter Wahn, took on the task of picking it out.

“They pulled out a bunch of stones for us to look at. There were a lot of big lumpy ones, and among them was a piece of pink granite vaguely triangular in shape,” says Lowrie. “The pink triangle has resonance with the gay and lesbian community, so we ended up with a pink triangular piece of granite. The executor picked quotes from Truman and Jack’s writings, and those were cast in bronze and mounted on the stone.”

Lowrie notes that in the summer of 1994, Crooked Pond was much drier than it is today, and he recalls the difficulties posed by the need to actually reach the water that day.

“There was not much pond and it was way out there,” says Lowrie. “The point was to throw the ashes into water, not on the mucky shore.”

So Lowrie and Wahn built a ramp with planks and cinderblocks long enough to reach the pond. On the day of the memorial while waiting for the guests to arrive, Lowrie got word that Jack Dunphy’s sister was on her way. Before long, a stretch white limo came into view from down Widow Gavits Road. Because Dunphy’s sister was frail, the decision was made to take down the fence by the road entrance so the limo driver could make his way the 1,000 or so feet down to the site.

“It was touch and go for a while,” grins Lowrie. “All of us were here in plain nature on this beautiful day, then there’s this giant stretch white limo in the middle of this beautiful site.”

But for Lowrie, the most poignant moment of the day came with the unexpected appearance of a bird overhead — a bird that seemed to punctuate Dunphy’s quote on the plaque, which reads: “I was grieving the way the earth seems to grieve for spring in the dead of winter, but I wasn’t afraid, because nothing, I told myself, can take our halcyon days away.”

“Halcyon is the Latin name for belted kingfishers,” notes Lowrie. “As Truman and Jack’s ashes are being scatted, this belted kingfisher comes flying around from the end of the pond.”

Halcyon days indeed.

“The Capote Black & White Hike” begins at 10 a.m. on Saturday, October 23,2010 at the Long Pond Greenbelt Nature Center, 1061 Bridgehampton/Sag Harbor Turnpike. Black and white dress is encouraged. A reception follows at the nature center at 11 a.m. In addition to readings and refreshments, Truman Capote’s cherry-red Mustang, now owned by his Sag Harbor friends Myron Clement and Joe Petrocik, will be on display along with a 1947  photograph of Capote signed by LIFE photographer Jerry Cooke. The photograph will be for sale with a portion of the proceeds to benefit Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt and Canio’s Cultural Café. There is a suggested donation of $10 for the event. For more information, call 725-4926.

Top: The view of Crooked Pond where Truman Capote’s and Jack Dunphy’s ashes were spread in 1994.

Middle: The granite stone and plaque commemorating Capote and Dunphy.

About the Capote’s Black and White Ball

Truman Capote’s “Black and White Ball” was held on November 28, 1966 at the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan. Held ostensibly in honor of Katharine Graham, publisher of The Washington Post, the party was rumored to be more an event to honor Capote himself. While few people are left alive today who remember the party first hand, the guest list, which was limited to 540, read like a who’s who of the literary, political and celebrity world. Frank Sinatra was there with his then wife, Mia Farrow, as were Sag Harbor’s John and Elaine Steinbeck as well as East Hampton’s George Plimpton and lots of Kennedys. Also receiving invitations were Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Sr., then publisher of The New York Times and the late Andy Warhol — the only guest who showed up without a mask, and got away with it.

But famously, one guest who received an invitation and turned it down was Sagaponack’s own Peter Matthiessen who, as noted on the Random House website, said of the event:

“Truman was kind of upset when I told him my book was going well and I didn’t want to break off to go to the black-and-white party. I explained that I would only get drunk and lose the drift of things for two or three days, but he was utterly unmollified. He was even more annoyed when Bill Styron stayed home, too, for the same reason. Bill had rung up to ask if I was going to Truman’s party, and when I said, “No,” he said, ‘Great! I’m not going, either!’”

“As it turned out, we missed something wonderful, and Bill upbraids me every few years — “You talked us out of the best party in history!’” continued Matthiessen. “Next time I saw Truman, he was still a little sulky. When I asked if I was forgiven, he burst out, “Cecil Beaton came all the way from London for my party, and you wouldn’t even come in from Sagaponack!”

East End Digest – September 18

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Celebrating Local Ecology On The Greenbelt

On Saturday, September 27 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. will mark the 10th Annual Long Pond Greenbelt Celebration Day. Trail hikes with botanists, birders, local historians and a snake expert will be on hand, as well as Goat on a Boat Puppet Theatre, ready to provide children’s activities, and exhibits from local environmental organizations. There will also be updates on the Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt’s own vineyard field restoration project. Confirmed exhibitors include South Fork Natural History Society, Southampton Town Community Preservation Fund, Southampton Town Environment Division, Southampton Town Trustees, The Nature Conservancy, Southampton Trails Preservation Society, East Hampton Trails Preservation Society, Group for the East End, Long Island Greenbelt Trail Conference, Long Island Trail Lovers’ Conference and the John Jermain Library.

Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt is a non-profit membership organization formed in 1997 dedicated to the preservation, stewardship and public appreciation of the Long Pond Greenbelt — a unique expanse of over 600 protected acres of freshwater swamps, wetlands, and woodlands, stretching from Ligonee Creek in Sag Harbor to Sapaponack Pond in Sagaponack.

For more information on the celebration, call Sandra Ferguson at 537-3752.

Southampton Town: High-Tech Park At Gabreski

Southampton Town Supervisor Linda Kabot and councilman Chris Nuzzi traveled to Hauppauge on Monday, September 8 to join Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy in announcing a county deal struck with a major development firm to build an industrial-commercial park at Gabreski Airport.

The choosing of Rechler Equity Partners of Melville marks a milestone in the long-awaited collaboration between Suffolk County and the Town of Southampton to re-develop 58.6 acres of industrial land into a homeland security-oriented “Hampton Business and Technology Park.”

The project is part of a larger effort to foster economic development in the region, and more specifically to generate revenue from the county-owned property. Both the county and the town of Southampton have had long-held plans to upgrade Gabreski’s facilities and transform the area into a long-term economic rejuvenator.

“We want attract businesses offering year-round, decent-paying, jobs for East End residents,” said Kabot. “The Town of Southampton is excited about the selection of Rechler Equity Partners to capitalize the necessary improvements and create a visually-pleasing business center. The initial concept plan includes a 145-room hotel and conference center, as well as technology-based industries.”

The redevelopment will be made possible through the Town’s designation of the area as an Airport Planned Development District (APDD), with an accompanying Master Plan to detail site requirements and the types of businesses allowed there. Long-standing issues over zoning and suitable uses slowed the project for years, but it was revived and brought to fruition through the cooperative efforts of County Executive Levy and the Southampton Town board led by former supervisor-turned county economic development commissioner, Patrick Heaney.

Under the APDD, Gabreski Airport will be converted into a hub of commercial activity that will permit a host of high-tech industrial, office, service, support, ancillary retail, transportation, lodging, and related uses. In making the changes, the objective is to lure businesses involved in homeland security, alternative energies, and “green” research and development. Particular attention will also be paid to courting producers of film, television, and digital media.

In addition, the New York State Department of Economic Development designated 48 acres within the proposed park as an “Empire Zone” in 2004 for enhanced incentives to stimulate private investment. They include lower business tax rates, reimbursement of local taxes, exemption from state sales tax, lower utility rates, and up to $3,000 in annual credits for each new employee hired. The Gabreski Airport PDD is one of five such areas in Suffolk County, and officials say the designation complements Suffolk’s effort to increase investment in commercial sewer capacity upgrades and the potential development of workforce housing.

Overall, according to the county, the area’s redevelopment is anticipated to generate more than $7 million in rental revenue to Suffolk County over the next 10 years, and more than $40 million over the life of the 40-year lease.

Supervisor Kabot credited Deputy County Executive Jim Morgo “for helping to build consensus among community stakeholders and environmental advocates to balance the need for economic development, cap the site’s build out capacity, and ensure the County’s commitment to not grow aviation uses at the airport.”

“This project is a great example of all levels of government and the community working together,” concluded Nuzzi. “It not only offers an essential component for our affordable housing initiatives, but promises the creation of economic development opportunities within the town.”

Stony Brook Southampton: Doubles Students

It’s back to school for Stony Brook Southampton. Now in its second full year, the campus continues to grow as planned.

The student body has almost doubled in size to over 300 full-time students and approximately 400 students overall while maintaining the same rigorous admissions standards as parent Stony Brook University. The number of classes offered, majors and professors has also increased.

“We are very pleased with the progress we have made here at Stony Brook Southampton with our curriculum and our infrastructure,” Interim Dean Martin Schoonen said. “Students really seem to be responding to our focus on the environment and sustainability, and that shows with their increased interest in our programs.”

Building continues on a new library while more space for student affairs and student services will open in early October in the renovated Atlantic Hall building. This follows the recent renovation of the Avram Theater and Gallery that saw the Sustainable Treasures vocal series and the Southampton Writers Conference doubles its offerings this past summer. This past spring, new state monies were announced for the Marine Center and the Student Center. The historic and symbolic Windmill on campus is also undergoing a facelift with new blades being installed later this fall.

More residence halls are online with over 150 students living on campus now; again, almost double last year’s number. Residence Life has also added a community service element that will see more Southampton students going into the larger community to volunteer with not-for-profit, community and civic groups.

Stony Brook Southampton, a model of sustainability that was featured in The New York Times this past summer and on “NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams” and “The Today Show” this past spring, also continues with its plans to build one of the nation’s truly green campuses. All new buildings will have LEED certification, while, already, lighting systems, a greenhouse and even vehicles on campus are energy efficient and use alternative forms of energy. The school café doesn’t use deep fryers and uses local produce, some of which is grown on campus, whenever possible.

Earlier this year, Dr. Schoonen announced that the New York State Department of Education had approved three cutting-edge, new majors for Southampton: Ecosystems and Human Impact; Environmental Design, Policy and Planning, and Sustainability Studies, which join SBS’s existing three majors in Environmental Studies, Marine Sciences and Marine Vertebrate Biology. A “green” Business major is also in the works for Fall 2009.

Southampton Hospital: Collecting Clothing

Southampton Hospital proudly announces a new fundraising system utilizing the collection of used clothing. This concept will help to raise additional funds towards the expansion of the Hospital’s Breast Health Center in 2009. The pink metal containers, which stand 5x5x6 in size, raise awareness of the Breast Health Center, while housing all unwanted used clothing. Although new to the Hospital, this program has proven fundraising success. The company administering this program, Earthrite Textile Recycling, is presently working with North Shore LIJ, Southside Hospital, Carol M. Baldwin Breast Care Imaging Center, Breast Cancer Help Inc. and its Long Island Cancer Help and Wellness Center. For more information on this program, please contact Earthrite Textile Recycling at 580-7092.

Westhampton Beach: Restoring Environment

Sun Stream USA, The Renewable Energy Company, located in Southampton will take part in an upcoming CURE (Classmates United in Restoring the Environment) meeting at Westhampton Beach High School on Friday, September 19 at 2:30 p.m. to help kick-off the year’s CAUSE program at the school.

The CAUSE (CURE Alumni Undertaking for Solar Energy) program is made up of alumni and students of CURE, who work to raise awareness about environmental protection and conservation.

CAUSE was developed by Jok Kommer, the environmental and marine science teacher at Westhampton Beach High School and Brian Tymann, Director of Operations at Sun Stream USA.

This year’s CAUSE program will focus on developing and installing two renewable energy solutions at Westhampton Beach High School. One system will use solar power-to-power waterfall pumps in the school’s new courtyard, and the other solar solution will provide back-up power to the school’s science lab, which contains many living organism such as marine animals, reptiles, plants, and a working tidal salt marsh ecosystem.

Suffolk County: Text Ban Begins

Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy was joined by County Legislator Jay Schneiderman at a press conference Tuesday afternoon to remind Suffolk drivers that effective next week the text message ban will be in place for drivers in the county.

Suffolk’s landmark legislation banning text messaging while driving — sponsored by Legislator Schneiderman and co-sponsored by Legislator Jon Cooper — passed in May, was signed into law in June of this year and will formally take effect September 21. Violations will carry a fine of $150.

“Drivers of any age, but most especially young drivers who have practically grown up with a cell phone in their hands, need to realize how distracting typing and reading text messages can be while behind the wheel of a car,” said Levy.

“This groundbreaking law continues the long tradition of Suffolk County taking the lead in adopting innovative and important legislation that sets an example for the rest of the nation,” said Schneiderman, noting that similar bans are under consideration in Nassau and in New York City.