By Andrew Wroblewsi
After years of planning, Suffolk County’s newest nature preserve – nestled in a cozy Cold Spring Harbor neighborhood – opened to the public early Saturday afternoon.
Through a partnership of the North Shore Land Alliance, Town of Huntington, Suffolk County, New York State and local community members, the 32-acre passive use Wawapek Preserve opened on what used to be a portion of the DeForest Williams estate.
“This was such a wonderful experience for us,” Lisa Ott, North Shore Land Alliance president and CEO, said of the three-year-long process that resulted in the land’s preservation. “It’s so rare in these times when four layers of government can come together and help. We had some very, very crucial donors who came in at critical times… but I think one of the most delightful parts of this was the partnership we had with Suffolk County and the Town of Huntington.”
In 2012, when it appeared the historic property would be developed, the partnership emerged in an effort to acquire the land and instead preserve it. It was ultimately acquired earlier this spring. For over 100 years, the property – which was once part of a more-than 600-acre parcel – was owned by the family of Robert Weeks DeForest. The family hoped to see the land preserved and the partnership eventually made that possible.
“This certainly speaks highly of how government, community advocacy groups [and] the community can work hand-in-hand and accomplish something that’s so valuable, that will be here forever from generation-to-generation,” Huntington Supervisor Frank Petrone said of the total $8.5-million purchase that was made through the combination of partners. “I hope that many people will walk these trails to see some of the unique flora and fauna that call the Wawapek preserve their home.”
Several rare species and vegetation populate the property, Ott said, and are on full display for any and all who wish to take a walk through the preserve. The property also lies at the edge of the Oyster Bay Important Bird Area.
Preserving the property was a priority of County Legislator William Spencer (D-Centerport), who helped secure the county portion of funding for the purchase. “I’m just fortunate to be part of the team; I love this community… and I’m looking forward to enjoying [the Wawapek Preserve] with all of you,” he said.
The entrance to the preserve, near the intersection of Spring Hill Road and Mowbray Lane North, sports trail signs and benches and serves as a beautiful showcase of what lies ahead in the depths of Wawapek. The North Shore Land Alliance is seeking volunteers to aid in stewardship efforts. For more information on how to volunteers, contact Ott via email at: Lisa@NorthShoreLandAlliance.org.
Preserve-goers Enjoy ‘Birds of Prey’
Considering Suffolk County’s newest nature preserve lies at the edge of the Oyster Bay Important Bird Area – one many similar sites in New York – it was only fitting for preserve-goers to be introduced to a few feathery creatures that they just might find roaming the skies.
Jim Jones – of Bayville’s Volunteers for Wildlife, a non-profit wildlife hospital and education center – treated the crowd at Cold Spring Harbor’s Wawapek Preserve to a “Birds of Prey” presentation.
The presentation included birds of prey – like owls, eagles and hawks – that Jones put on display before a crowd that awed in the birds’ beauty.