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Nature Preserve

Lee Koppelman, right is presented with a replica of the sign that will mark a nature preserve dedicated in his honor, by Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright, state Assemblyman Steve Englebright and Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine. Photo by Alex Petroski

A public servant with more than four decades of planning experience now has a nature preserve with his name on it to honor his life’s work.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) hosted a ceremony at Jefferson’s Ferry Life Plan Community in South Setauket April 13 to dedicate a 46-acre parcel of woodlands in Stony Brook in honor of Lee Koppelman, who served as the first Suffolk County planner, a position he held for 28 years. He also served as regional planner for Suffolk and Nassau counties for 41 years.

“When you come to talk about preserving land; when you come to talk about planning communities; when you come to talk about vision; when you come to talk about master planners and you put that with Suffolk County, only one name comes up,” Romaine said of Koppelman. “When I look at the picture of the woods that will be named for Dr. Koppelman I can think of no better tribute to this man … Suffolk is in a large part what it is today because of this man’s vision, our master planner.”

Romaine lauded Koppelman for his dedication to preserving nature, including shoreline, wooded areas, wetlands and more. State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), who served on the Suffolk County Legislature along with Romaine in the 1980s when Koppelman was also working for the county, repeatedly used the word “bold” in thanking Koppelman for his dedication.

“Suffolk is in a large part what it is today because of [Lee Koppelman’s] vision, our master planner.”

— Ed Romaine

“We had a master planner with a vision for this county that was daring and bold and unprecedented for any county in the United States,” Englebright said. “To set aside parkland — not like little pieces of confetti, but as whole sections of ecosystems and landscape segments — bold ideas. Not only was Dr. Koppleman the master planner, he was a master administrator. He hired extraordinary planners, talented people to serve with him.”

According to a press release from the town, Koppelman is regarded as the father of sustainability on Long Island, calling him the first of the “power players” to conceptualize the idea of preserving space in the interest of health and future generations. The Lee Koppelman Preserve is a heavily wooded parcel with a variety of deciduous tree and shrub species, or foliage that sheds its leaves annually. The town has owned the Stony Brook property just east of Nicolls Road and south of Stony Brook University, for about 45 years, using it as passive open space.

Cartright said she was honored to be a part of the dedication to such a prominent figure who had an impact on her district.

“Unfortunately, I didn’t have as much time to work with Dr. Koppleman as it relates to land use and planning, but it is clear to me he has left an indelible mark here within our community,” she said.

Koppelman joked that he wished the ceremony didn’t sound so much like a eulogy, though he said he was honored to be recognized by people he had considered friends for so long.

“Having that from them is a particular pleasure,” he said.

His wife Connie Koppelman was also in attendance and joked she had heard her husband honored so many times it was getting old, but called it very pleasing to hear once again how much his work was appreciated by those around him.

Koppelman currently heads the Center for Regional Policy Studies at Stony Brook University.

Environmentalist Jan Porinchak explores Willow Pond. Photo from Carole Paquette

Naturalist Jan Christopher Porinchak will lead an in-depth exploration of the natural wonders of Caleb Smith State Park Preserve on Jericho Turnpike in Smithtown on Saturday, June 18, at 1:30 p.m. Reserve by calling 631-265-1054. The walk will take approximately two hours and is not recommended for children under ten years old. The event, sponsored by Friends of Caleb Smith Preserve, is free, however, the preserve’s parking fee of $8 will be in effect.

An avid naturalist and environmental advocate, Porinchak will lead participants on a walk through the many landscapes of the park, offering tips on identifying the various plants and animals that will be encountered.

A hike leader for the Long Island Sierra Club, he is also an art teacher at Jericho Middle School and an award-winning natural science illustrator. 

For more information about Friends of Caleb Smith Preserve, their events and the park, go to: www.friendsofcalebsmith.org.

State funds should help bolster the Stephen D. Matthews Nature Preserve. Photo from Three Village Community Trust

The North Shore region is cashing in on its green pastures thanks to $6,000 in grant funding, the Three Village Community Trust said this week.

Three Village was one of three Long Island trusts to be awarded the money through the state’s Conservation Partnership Program, administered under the Land Trust Alliance, and will utilize the money to bulk up its conservation management of the roughly 10-acre Stephen D. Matthews Nature Preserve, Trust President Cynthia Barnes said.

“The grant will help tighten up the way we look after the preserve and will provide for more targeted control of the invasive species that threaten its native flora and fauna,” she said. “This grant represents an investment of $8,000 in the Stephen D. Matthews Nature Preserve.”

Barnes said the money would help enhance monitoring and management protocols at the preserve while also establishing a volunteer training and stewardship program. The end result, she said, should make for a more volunteer-friendly atmosphere to attract residents in the nearby communities of Poquott and beyond.

Louise Harrison, a conservation biologist and principal of the consulting firm known as Conservation and Natural Areas Planning, said interest in the area has been at an all-time high among Poquott natives.

“Poquott’s citizens turned out in large numbers for the local civic association meeting last month, primarily to hear about the preserve,” she said. “They had plenty of questions for me. We’re looking to recruit volunteer stewards who want to help monitor and manage the preserve and also to study it. We’ll be offering new and expanded programs to connect directly with the community that the Trust serves.”

Barnes said the wooded strip that is the Stephen D. Matthews Nature Preserve traverses land that is bordering communities in Port Jefferson and Poquott and includes several coastal forest types. It acts as a buffer between Poquott and Port Jefferson’s power generation station and is particularly vulnerable to invasive species because of its narrow configuration with long boundaries.

State Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) heralded the grant funding as a necessary step in the North Shore’s environmental health.

“It is crucial that our state continue to fund and assist local organizations like the Three Village Community Trust to safeguard our environment. This funding, along with community involvement, will help protect this valuable property, ensure its preservation for years to come and that will benefit our entire regions,” Flanagan said.

The major portion of the preserve, bounced by two sides on Washington Street and Chestnut Avenue, consists of many native plant species. Yet, an especially narrow portion that runs just along Washington Avenue and meets Route 25A has been thickly invaded by exotic species of vines and damaged by tree-fall from storms, Barnes said.

“This nature preserve is an important buffer between the Port Jefferson Power Plant and the residential village of Poquott,” said Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), chair of the Assembly’s Environmental Conservation Committee. “With this new grant in hand, the Three Village Community Trust will be able to work with village residents to restore and improve the ecological resiliency of this lovely woodland.”

The funding stemmed from a total $1.8 million that Gov. Andrew Cuomo allocated in 2015 Conservation Partnership Program grants for 55 nonprofit land trusts throughout the state. Three Village was announced as one of the recipients at a ceremony kicking off Earth Day at the end of April, along with two others on Long Island — the Peconic Land Trust in Southampton and the North Shore Land Alliance in Westbury.

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