A Suffolk County sidewalk construction project already partially completed on the Sag Harbor/Bridgehampton Turnpike has drawn the criticism of both the Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt (FLPG) and the South Fork Natural History Museum (SoFo) this week. Both groups — who have fired off letters to Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman — are worried that high curbs and large drainage structures will threaten the migratory abilities for animals like frogs, salamanders and turtles that populate the Long Pond Greenbelt.
The Long Pond Greenbelt nature preserve, which features a series of ponds and wetland areas, stretches along the eastern side of the turnpike and is the habitat for a number of species of animals, including the endangered Eastern Tiger Salamander.
This week, FLPG President Dai Dayton said she was concerned that Slade Pond, on the western side of the turnpike — also known as County Road 79 — is home for a number of salamanders and turtles who use the turnpike as a crossway. Dayton said the curbing will be impossible for those animals to surmount leading to certain death on the roadway instead.
Dayton added the drainage structures the county is installing are so large that salamanders, turtles and other small animals like foxes, raccoons, rabbits and even cats or dogs could easily fall into them with no means of escape.
Frank Quevedo, the Executive Director of SoFo, shares FLPG’s concerns.
“We are speaking on behalf of the animals as they are not able to speak for themselves and requesting the work being done on County Road 79 be stopped temporarily so that we can implement turtle safe sidewalks into the remaining work,” he said on Monday.
On Tuesday, Schneiderman said he had already reached out to the project engineer who said it was possible to make the remaining sidewalk with mountable curbs for the turtles, with specific attention paid to the area around Slade Pond. He said the county engineers would work with Dayton and Quevedo on the project.
Schneiderman said he would also look at what options could be explored in terms of the drainage structures.
“When we had public meetings, people did ask for curbing, but obviously we can address this and anything is possible,” he said.