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Frank Melville Memorial Park

Lise and Steven Hintze. Photo from Three Village Historical Society

By Donna Newman

Lise and Steve Hintze have been caring, contributing, active members of the Three Villages for more than two decades. They are both generous givers, willing to share their energy and talents for the benefit of the community. It is with gratitude that we honor them as 2019 TBR News Media People of the Year.

Residents who frequent the Frank Melville Memorial Park in Setauket may or may not know of the Hintzes’ efforts to keep improving and growing this valuable community venue.

Lise Hintze at a recent event at the Bates House. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Steve Hintze has been a Frank Melville Memorial Foundation trustee since 2008. He served several terms on the board as secretary. At present, he chairs the Park’s Building and Grounds Committee.

“Steve has brought a firefighter’s grit, an MBA, and a wealth of knowledge of all aspects of building and site design to the role,” said FMMF President Robert Reuter. “He also brings an admirable collection of professional-grade tools, and he’s not afraid to get his hands dirty. Steve is always an absolute pleasure to work with and he knows how to complete a project to the high standard for which the park is known.”

His projects have included park lighting, the mill restoration, which is now in progress, and assisting Eagle Scout candidates with their endeavors for park enhancement.

Lise Hintze was recruited to join the park’s staff in 2011 in the dual role of office manager and director of the Bates House. Regular visitors know her as the friendly face of the Frank Melville Memorial Park. Her finger is always on its pulse, and she is ever on the lookout for potential improvements.

“The quintessential office manager, Lise efficiently handles park business,” Reuter said. “As director of the Bates House, she works with demanding brides and anxious grooms on wedding weekends — and then manages all manner of programs during the week. The full schedule of special events and gatherings keeps her on call, but her thorough planning makes it all look easy. A pioneer in social media reporting, Lise has enabled the park to keep Friends informed via a website.”

Lise Hintze has been described as a “Saint on Earth” and a “Super Hero” by folks who know her but wished to remain anonymous. They see her as “the height of humanity” always ready to help. Her credo: “What does anybody — or any animal — need that I can give them?” It is an attribute reportedly shared by her husband.

Steve Healy, president of the Three Village Historical Society, is happy to add his voice to those impressed with Lise Hintze’s abilities.

“Her work at the Frank Melville Park — between the Bates House and the Grist Mill and the growth in the park has been fabulous,” Healy said. “She synergizes the park with the community, is admired for her efforts and she does a great job taking the park to new levels.”

Lise Hintze does not let her job description limit her. If it’s happening in the park, it’s on her radar. Among her many contributions outside of official duties include the Wind Down Sunday outdoor concerts, begun with Katherine Downs and others and an ambitious schedule of three concerts. The park now offers nine. She has, when needed, instigated wildlife rescues. When drug abuse cropped up in the park a few years ago, she took a pragmatic stance and turned a potential security issue into an educational opportunity.

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) lauded — and also joined in — that effort.

“Lise has a keen eye for what’s needed in the area,” Hahn said. “The opiate group she helped create in the fall of 2017 brought in speakers and provided a place for parents and students to openly and without judgment discuss the opioid crisis they were witnessing firsthand. It was a critical step for our community.”

The creation of this parent group was most likely the impetus for the Three Village school district’s hiring of a dedicated drug and alcohol abuse counselor, who began serving students and their families the following fall.

Steve Hintze, left, with Tim Smith of Old Field Landscaping preparing the site of Frank Melville Memorial Park’s new pollinator garden. Photo by Robert Reuter

These efforts alone would suffice to warrant community kudos, but there’s more.

Steve Hintze is still heavily involved with the Three Village Historical Society. A past president, he is currently the organization’s grants administrator and is busy gathering the resources to reconstruct the historic Dominick-Crawford Barn on TVHS property in Setauket.

Sandy White, office manager at TVHS had nothing but praise for her former boss.

“Steve was the president when I started working at TVHS. He hired me,” White said. “And to this day he is always there to help — willing to do anything. He’s working now with Steve Healy on the grants for the barn and comes into the office as often as he can. Willing to help anyone with everything, Steve tries to make a difference in everything he does.”

Healy and Hintze, who knew each other as firefighters in New York City before they became active in Three Village nonprofits, apparently share many of the same values. Healy has great respect for his colleague’s vast knowledge and willingness to share it.

“Steve is one of the people I have on speed dial,” Healy said. “When I call I know I’ll get a ‘Yes.’”

“If there’s ever a problem, he doesn’t just give me his input, he’ll roll up his sleeves and get involved in the solution. He’s a special breed with excellent leadership skills and creative ideas. The TVHS is blessed to get someone of his caliber and work ethic.”

Hahn completely agrees.

“Steve Hintze is a pillar of the community and a local hero,” Hahn said. “He contributes so much in real and tangible ways. His calming presence is valuable. He knows how to deal with people, how to motivate them, and how to find solutions, and he is always willing to do what’s necessary.”

There is general consensus with Reuter’s final assessment of these two exceptional individuals.

“They are remarkably modest people and would insist that what they do is nothing special,” Reuter said. “But they are, in fact – something special.”

This goose was found with netting on its face in Setauket on Nov. 9. Photo by Raina Angelier

By Patrice Domeischel

What could have been a plastic trash catastrophe for a Canada goose instead resulted in a happy ending, thanks to the efforts of Anita Jo Lago and Rob Trezza.  

Rob Trezza caught the goose on Lake Street. Photo by Anita Jo Lago

Birders on a Four Harbors Audubon Society walk at Frank Melville Memorial Park in Setauket on Nov. 9 encountered the goose in distress, actively attempting to free itself of plastic netting that had encircled its head and body. The goose managed to remove some netting but was unable to disentangle itself from the remainder encircling its neck and face. 

Lago, a park volunteer at Frank Melville, and Trezza, park security, were called in to assess the situation, and promptly went to work. The goose was captured, relieved of the netting and released. 

“We really did get it when necessary,” commented Lago. “Its flight was hindered as it was getting away from a cygnet going after it. It took flight but landed happenstance. It landed on the road, Lake Street, because flight was compromised due to the netting holding its jaw and head. When Rob got closer, he saw the goose desperately trying to free itself by banging its head, many times, on the ground. So we got there in time.”

A disaster averted, the goose was able to fly off, a bit stressed and tired from its efforts, but in good condition. 

All too often birds and animals suffer the consequences created by our use of single-use plastic. Wildlife can become entangled in discarded plastic, wire or string resulting in injury or death. Even plastic that is responsibly disposed of finds its way into our waters and litters our beaches. Be proactive, protect wildlife and the environment, and reduce or eliminate altogether your use of single-use plastic.

Patrice Domeischel is a member of the Four Harbors Audubon Society.

Bird lovers gather at the Stone Bridge at Frank Melville Memorial Park to witness the common nighthawk migration. Photo from Four Harbors Audubon Society

Calling all bird lovers!

Migration has begun! Join Four Harbors Audubon Society at Frank Melville Memorial Park’s Stone Bridge to witness the exciting annual migration of the most beloved members of the nightjar family — the common nighthawk. Migration might be any or all days through early October. Join them from 5:30 p.m. until dusk as they conduct the third annual nighthawk census, and enjoy the show! The Stone Bridge is located at One Old Field Road, Setauket. For more information, email fourharborsheron@gmail.com.

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The Frank Melville Memorial Foundation board is set to begin an appeal to raise funds for the park’s mill. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Friends of Frank Melville Memorial Park will be invited to help restore an FMMP staple.

The trustees of the park’s Frank Melville Memorial Foundation are set to send out a letter in September announcing a fundraising campaign asking the community for financial assistance to help restore the mill located on the north side of the park. The restoration, which will include shingling the roof and sides, is estimated to cost more than $60,000, according to Robert Reuter, foundation president.

A closeup of the shingles used on the structure. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Reuter said the shingles that cover the roof and sides are the originals and are thicker than the average shingle. They also have irregular cuts on the ends, so rather than lining up in a straight line they have staggered bottoms. This effect will be reproduced during the restoration, according to Reuter. Restorations will also include necessary repairs to the mill’s wheel and trim elements.

“It’s a building in great need of repair,” he said.

Reuter explained that one thing that won’t be repaired is the ridge of the structure that has a noticeable swayback as it was designed to look that way, giving it an old mill feel.

Richard Haviland Smythe designed the simulated mill in the mid-1930s to represent a series of grist mills that once existed along waterways in Setauket, including one that was constructed in 1665 and located in the park, Reuter said. Smythe was the go-to architect for philanthropist Ward Melville and designed many local buildings, including structures in Old Field Farm and stores in the Stony Brook Village Center.

“It was meant to be a place marker and a reference to the mills of the past,” he said.

Reuter added the mill is sometimes called a landmark folly, and it was included in the original design of the park, which is loosely based on English garden principles.

“It’s a very important building in the park, and maybe the most photographed element in the park,” Reuter said. “I would say it’s one of those iconic images that everyone takes a photo of.”

He believes it also serves a purpose beyond aesthetics, because even though it’s not an operating mill, it has a working wheel and the building is used for the Frank Melville Memorial Foundation’s office. The mill is also used for tours and is a stop during the annual Culper Spy Day held in September.

“It allows us to tell the story of that part of our history,” Reuter said. “How the mills moved as the ponds filled in and the mills had to move down, and this represented the last position for a mill that [was in Setauket].”

Three Village Historical Society historian Beverly Tyler said the mill is a stop on the Founders Day tour that the society conducts every spring for fourth graders. It’s also featured on the Woodhull tour that the TVHS offers and he leads.

Tyler said the mill serves as a learning tool to teach participants about millers and craftsmen who worked in the area throughout the centuries, especially during the Colonial period. He explained millers did more than grind grains — often acting as a storekeeper and banker in town because they had the resources to loan money.

“Without the mill, we wouldn’t have the ability to teach it as easily and dramatically as we can by having the mill there and explaining how the mill pond works and why there is a mill pond,” Tyler said, adding the pond exists because water was backed up by a dam to enable milling.

Reuter said the board hopes to begin the restoration project this year, and two FMMF trustees already have made a combined pledge of up to $10,000 to match donations for the restoration. Those who donate $50 or more will receive the 2020 Four Harbors Audubon Society Calendar, which features selected photographs from the recent A Valentine to Whitman’s Paumanok photography exhibition held at the Bates House.

Above, Carl Zorn with two of the plaques overlooking Conscience Bay. Photo by Leah Chiappino

By Leah Chiappino

Visitors to Frank Melville Memorial Park in Setauket have Eagle Scout Carl Zorn to thank for the new informational plaques that have been installed among the tranquil scenery. They include a general welcome sign detailing the history of the park’s founding and species that occupy it and two additional signs detailing the ecology of estuaries and watersheds. The welcome sign is located at the entrance to the park, and the other two signs are located side by side near the second bridge overlooking Conscience Bay. 

A new plaque welcomes visitors to the park. Photo by Leah Chiappino

Zorn, who has been a Boy Scout since first grade, chose to design informational signage for the park as his Eagle Scout Leadership Project because he wanted to do something that would have a lasting impact on the community. “I wanted something where if I moved to a different state and came back here to visit, I could look at it and say that I did that,” he said. The Scouting organization also fostered a love of nature in Zorn who described his childhood as “always being outdoors and camping with the Boy Scouts and my family.”

After getting the idea from a family friend in July, the Setauket resident began his project last September and completed it in early February.

As the Frank Melville Park Foundation, along with the Zorn family, donated the funds for the materials, most of Zorn’s time completing the project was spent researching the content for the plaques. He admits the start of the project was overwhelming. “At first, I had no idea what to do or how to learn about the wildlife here, ” he explained. 

Kerri Glynn, director of education for the park, stepped in to assist Zorn in gathering the information for the plaques with the hope they would help people become more environmentally aware. “I hope people come to understand the fragility of the ecosystem. Many people come to the park and think it is lovely, but they don’t understand the ecology of it,” she said.

Zorn consulted with Town of Brookhaven historian Barbara Russell in order to highlight the unique history of the park, which was built by Ward Melville and donated by his mother Jennie as a memorial to her husband Frank Melville in 1937. “Essentially it’s private land for public use,” she said. 

A community treasure, the 26-acre park features two ponds, an estuary and woodlands. On any given day, visitors can see swans, deer, songbirds, turtles, herons and wood ducks as they stroll along shaded paths past a simulated grist mill and a 20th-century barn. The park and its buildings are included on the National Register of Historic Places.

Local environmentalist and conservation chair of the Four Harbors Audubon Society, John Turner, also assisted Zorn with his research, and highlighted the importance of education on watersheds, or land in which below-ground water feeds into a water source. 

“People live work and play above their water supply. The quality of the waters in the aquifers underneath the Long Island surface are affected directly and intimately by the activities that we conduct on the land surface, so a clean land policy means a clean water policy,” he explained. 

From left, Andrew Lily, Joe Pisciotta, Andrew Graf, Carl Zorn, Aiden Zorn (in forefront), Tim Petritsch and Mark Muratore at the installation in February. Photo by Steve Hintze

Turner called Zorn’s project “well-conceived and well-executed.” He also praised the park’s board of trustees, as well as the park’s president, Robert Reuter, for recognizing the value of the project. “You have a captive audience in the park, but up until now there was limited information. [These plaques] have taken advantage of that captive audience to try to instill a greater appreciation and awareness of the resources around them,” he said.

After gathering the information and submitting several drafts for approval by the board, Zorn then had the task of designing the signs, with pictures provided by the park. He found a sign company, Fossil Industries in Deer Park, to make the signs, a process that took about three months. He then focused on configuring the specific intricacies of the project, such as the location, and making sure the signs were low enough to be at eye level for children but still readable to adults. 

Weather also delayed the installation, as the ground would freeze. Once the signs were finished, Zorn along with eight other Boy Scouts joined together in order to install them. 

Reuter praised Zorn’s work ethic and the final result, calling the project “a long and thorough process and a real achievement.” Russell also added praise for the finished product. “He did a wonderful job. There’s a nice combination of the history and environmental facts affecting the park [on the signs],” she added. Zorn was equally pleased with the results. “This is exactly what I wanted in an Eagle Scout project and I got it,” he said.

The 18-year-old recently graduated from Ward Melville High School and will attend Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, in the fall as a music business major, combining his passion for music with his ambition to work for the Disney Corporation.

However, according to Reuter, as Zorn wished, the plaques will have a lasting impact on the community. “Frank Melville Memorial Park is now enriched with really useful and attractive interpretive signs that inform park visitors about the park’s history and environment. But, don’t take my word for it — go see for yourself.” 

Frank Melville Memorial Park is located at 1 Old Field Road in Setauket. For more information, call 631-689-6146 or visit www.frankmelvillepark.org.

It’s time to garden!

Join the staff at Frank Melville Memorial Park, 1 Old Field Road, Setauket for a free gardening class at the Red Barn on Saturday, May 25 from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Come share garden success stories and Master Gardener Haig Seferian will answer your questions. And, no one will go home empty-handed. For more info, call 631-689-6146.

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Cormorant and snapping turtles relax on lower mill pond at Frank Melville Memorial Park. Photo by Beverly C. Tyler

By Beverly C. Tyler

The intersection of Main Street and Old Field Road in Setauket marks the entrance to the Frank Melville Memorial Park. The horseshoe-shaped park, completed in 1937, includes extensive plantings, a simulated grist mill, a magnificent view of Conscience Bay and the cottage of the last Setauket miller Everett Hawkins. From the park, there is an entrance to the Frank Melville Memorial Foundation sanctuary grounds with its extensive nature paths.

The Setauket Millpond was a center of commerce for the community from the time it was settled in 1655 until early in the 20th century. It is easy to imagine almost any time in Setauket history while in the park.

Looking out over the mill dam, Conscience Bay reflects the 8,000 years the Native Americans lived here before the English settlers came to Setauket. The mill tells the story of the farmer grinding grain in the 1700s. The recently restored red barn was originally made from World War I barracks buildings at Camp Upton in Yaphank. The stable remembers the horse Smokey and speaks of a 19th-century horse and carriage. The stone bridge relates how an immigrant great-grandson came to Setauket and gave it an image of the countryside of rural England and Europe with a park.

Just after dawn the Setauket Millpond shimmers with morning mist and reflects the early morning sky and the trees that partly surround it. Walking along the path in Frank Melville Memorial Park, the only sounds, except for the occasional car going by, are the birds in the trees and the ducks in the pond. They contrast with the greens, browns and grays of early morning. The contemplative surroundings start the day with the beauty of God’s creation and gives perspective to the rest of the day.

Birdsong by Beverly C. Tyler

Spring, the park at morning.

Woodpeckers rat-a-tat, the whoosh of wings — Canadian geese, a soft grouse call is heard.

Bird song, first near and then far, across
the pond.

Bird song left and right.

A gentle breeze turns the pond to silver, moving patterns of dark and light.

The background sounds of water flowing over the mill dam and into the bay.

Pairs of mallards gliding slowly across
the pond.

The trumpet calls of geese announcing flight as they rise from the pond and fly across the mill dam, across the marsh and into the bay.

Trees surrounding the pond make patterns of greens of every shade.

Dark evergreens and climbing vines add vertical splendor climbing skyward.

Bright green beech and silver-green sycamore trees stand stately and strong.

Patches of white dogwood add depth
and contrast.

A heron glides effortlessly across the surface of the pond, rises and disappears into the cover of a black birch tree.

I am overwhelmed by gentle sounds and contrasting scenery, by muted colors in every shade and texture.

Beverly C. Tyler is Three Village Historical Society historian and author of books available from the society at 93 North Country Road, Setauket. For more information, call 631-751-3730 or visit www.tvhs.org.

Compliments of Anita Jo Lago

Hometown: Stony Brook

Day job: Production Manager for Marketing and Communications at Stony Brook Medicine.

“The rapid pace of invention in photography technologies has changed what we are capable of capturing. The art in photography is expanding and nothing seems impossible in terms of imagining what a photo can be of, look like or what camera (or mobile device) it can be taken with. Creativity has no boundaries and is never ending. To be riding that wave at this moment is very exciting.”

Photographer: “I started taking photos back in the late ‘80s on film cameras. I got more serious in 2002 when I started travelling and wanted to capture what I saw during walks around cities. After my office changed locations in 2014, I found myself passing the Frank Melville Park in Setauket daily. That sparked my curiosity in nature and started my latest adventure in photography.”

Favorite camera: “I find the Nikon D850 and the Canon 5D Mark 4 to be very challenging and rewarding cameras.”

Favorite lenses: “For macro photography (extreme close-up photography), Nikon 200mm f/4, Voigtlander 125mm f/2.5 and Canon 65mm f/2.8 are all fantastic lenses. They have taught me a true test of patience. Zoom lenses like the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G, Canon 100-400 f/4.5-5.6 and Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6E have a great range for capturing wildlife near and far.”

Favorite location: “Frank Melville Park is a hidden treasure. The environment and “vibe” of the park is peaceful. The Red Barn, Mill House and Bates House give the sense of history of the land and community. The North and South Ponds, the trails, the gardens, all contribute in ‘packing a punch’ when it comes to the beauty of nature and wildlife. Experiencing rare bird sightings, watching eggs hatch, nestlings learning to fly, bird migrations, reemerging turtles after winter hibernation, beekeeping … there are millions of happenings, hours of enjoyment, something for everyone. Every visit is a memorable one. Imagine taking photos there!

Other hobbies: “Besides spending time watching wildlife year-round, I enjoy computer technology, learning about mute swans, craft beer and finding a great slice of pizza!”  

Best advice to get that perfect shot: ‘Take photos of things that you’re immersed in, that you feel a deep connection with and that you love being around. If you shoot often enough, there comes a point where you don’t realize you have a camera in your hands and that your eye is looking through the viewfinder. There, you are in the zone — you found the sweet spot. Those are the photos that you will cherish as perfect.”

Favorite aspect about taking photos: Getting lost looking through the viewfinder. The excitement of seeing what I’m seeing is astonishing. There is so much discovery unfolding in nature that goes unnoticed. To have an opportunity to share those photo stories with others is extremely gratifying. It’s fulfilling to connect others to things they may never have an opportunity to experience and see firsthand.” 

Renovations on the Red Barn in the Frank Melville Memorial Park, including straightening the building, were recently completed. Photo by Rita J. Egan

The weather was finally ideal for Frank Melville Memorial Park trustees, volunteers and friends to celebrate the completion of much-needed repairs to a historic structure.

Workers began restoring the park’s Red Barn at the beginning of September and completed the project a few months later. The 1,056 square-foot barn needed structural restoration, which included straightening, and the building up of the existing foundation to a level where it will be protected from flooding.

“The Melville Park is a historic oasis that now has an improved focal point, the Red Barn, to use to serve a larger population and build a new audience.”

— Kathryn Curran

On May 20 guests of the trustees enjoyed a reception complete with wine, hors d’oeuvres, dinner and desserts from Farm to Table Catering, as well as music from a few of The Jazz Loft performers.

Robert Reuter, president of the Frank Melville Memorial Foundation, thanked those who played a part in restoring the barn including Kathryn Curran, executive director of the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation, who helped to secure a $44,330 matching grant for the park.

“Kathryn Curran and the trustees of the foundation saw the real community value in what we’re doing here,” Reuter said. “I think they understood when they saw the application that this really is one of the centers of our community. It’s part of a large area that is rich in history, and it’s often interpreted as that by the historical society and some of the others who celebrate that history.”

He said in addition to the foundation’s endowment, the community’s support also played a big part in the restoration. Trustee Greg Ferguson’s family foundation and another trustee who wished to remain anonymous created a $10,000 matching challenge. Reuter said the trustees’ friends exceeded the goal and came close to matching the Gardiner grant. He said the balance needed for the barn came from park funds that were budgeted for park repairs.

Curran said the Gardiner Foundation seeks out projects through community outreach that advance regional history.

“The Melville Park is a historic oasis that now has an improved focal point, the Red Barn, to use to serve a larger population and build a new audience,” she said.

Curran said she and the foundation board members were pleased with the completed project. Scott Brown was chosen to work on the renovations by the FMMF board and has worked on other Gardiner projects including the Ketcham Inn in Center Moriches, the Modern Times Schoolhouse in Brentwood and the Caroline Church of Brookhaven’s Carriage Shed in Setauket.

“As a restoration carpenter Scott’s empathy to our historic sites is rooted in respect for their traditional construction,” Curran said. “His work helps bring these buildings back to life for their newly designated purposes.”