Tags Posts tagged with "Patriots Hollow State Forest"

Patriots Hollow State Forest

A male box turtle, above, approximately 30 years old, was discovered in Patriots Hollow State Forest. Photo from Three Village Community Trust

Scientists have discovered natural wonders in a Setauket forest.

Researcher Luke Gervase stands between a couple of the large trees found in Patriots Hollow State Forest. Photo from Three Village Community Trust

Researchers from the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry took to the 43-acre woods of Patriots Hollow State Forest, along Route 25A, across from Stop & Shop, to collect information on the forest composition and structure Aug. 8 and 9. The researchers hoped to develop management recommendations that would enhance the forest for biodiversity conservation and environmental education. The survey was funded by a grant from Avalon Park & Preserve, according to a press release from Three Village Community Trust.

In 2018, the community trust set up a steering committee led by Setauket resident and former teacher Leonard Carolan to clean up the woods and add a trail for people to walk through the forest, something which is currently difficult with downed trees and invasive plants, including Norway maple, Japanese aralia, Oriental bittersweet, black locust and Japanese stiltgrass.

After Carolan approached the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) to seek help in cleaning up the forest, the community trust signed a stewardship agreement with the DEC. Carolan said the initial reports are encouraging.

“It looks like we’ll be able to restore it to an original native forest,” Carolan said.

He added that, in the future, there would be a loop trail near Route 25A and another one near the Main Street section, but before they are created some cleanup needs to be done and funds raised, which could take years.

Don Leopold, distinguished teaching professor from SUNY-ESF’s Department of Environmental and Forest Biology, along with research assistant Samuel Quinn, was among the researchers.

Leopold said it was his first visit to the forest, and he was impressed with the findings. Despite invasive plants and past agriculture that didn’t leave many remnant trees, he said they discovered many beautiful oak and hickory trees, adding that he had seen black oak and sassafras all over the Eastern United States, and amongst the largest he has seen were in Patriots Hollow.

“We went by some really great trees,” he said. “Ideally the trails will swing by those. They can’t miss these. There are really impressive specimens of some black oaks and some hickories, and we really enjoyed seeing them.”

Researcher Luke Gervase stands by a sassafras tree found in Patriots Hollow State Forest. Photo from Three Village Community Trust

The researcher said they also found spicebush in the forest.

“Spicebush is one of our most important native shrubs,” Leopold said. “It’s so important for wildlife coming for food. It’s a source of food for the spicebush swallowtail [butterfly].”

Leopold and Quinn discussed management of invasive plants in the forest with Bill Jacobs, Luke Gervase and Caroline Schnabl of Long Island Invasive Species Management Area who joined in the survey. Leopold said that they are optimistic that the invasives could be eliminated, which is vital for the growth of new trees.

Leopold added that a male box turtle, approximately 30 years old, was found in the wooded area. He said the species can live to be more than 100 years old, and the one they saw in Patriots Hollow reminded him a pumpkin with legs, as it was especially big and colorful.

The researcher said they encountered tick bombs while in the forest, with 100 to 200 small tick larvae starting to disperse at one time. He said when the lone star ticks are older their bites can cause problems as they can carry a disease that makes a person allergic to red meat.

“Until there are trails, and until some of these issues are addressed, it would be good to not have a bunch of folks running through here because the tick infestation can be a public health hazard,” he said.

Brian Leydet of SUNY-ESF will analyze ticks collected during the survey so recommendations can be made to the community trust and DEC about ways to reduce human-to-tick contact.

The 3VCT’s steering committee will look to include the community in the planning process and will work with the trust itself to seek grants and contributions. The initial implementation of the restoration and management plan will be funded by a grant of $500,000 secured by state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) in 2018, according to a press release from the trust.

by -
0 1118
The Three Village Community Trust will take over ownership of the Timothy Smith House on Main Street in Setauket. Photo by Robert Reuter

New ventures by some Setauket residents will make the area look a little different in the coming years.

The Three Village Community Trust announced plans to clean up Patriots Hollow State Forest and acquire the historic Timothy Smith House.

Patriots Hollow State Forest

The woods that run along Route 25A, across from Setauket’s Stop & Shop, have been the site of many downed trees over the years. The trust announced at its annual meeting March 14 that plans are in the works to clean up the woods and add a trail so people can walk through the forest, something that cannot easily be done in the property’s current state.

The land trust has partnered with the New York State DEC to clean up Patriots Hollow State Forest, which is the site of numerous downed trees. Photo by Cynthia Barnes

Setauket resident and former teacher Leonard Carolan said he walked into the woods one day and was disappointed to see how messy it was, not just because of the trees but the infestation of invasive plants. He approached the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Three Village Community Trust President Cynthia Barnes and state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) to discuss working together to clean up the former farmland.

Those conversations led to the trust signing a stewardship agreement with the DEC. Carolan, the chair of the new stewardship, will steer a committee of 16 people, which will assess the forest’s conditions and seek the community’s input to develop a restoration plan, according to Carolan. He said after gathering wants of the community and addressing concerns, the next step would be to clear 100 feet into the woods and turn to experts to identify the plants and figure out which need to be dug up or trimmed back.

“We want to work it where we have enough clearing that we can plant native trees — the white oaks, the red maples, the black tupelos — and make that into a more native natural forest with a greater variety of trees and habitat,” Carolan said.

The trust also plans to build a split-rail fence with downed locust trees along the 25A side of the property. The committee chair said the work will take years to complete, and the community trust will spearhead fundraising campaigns in the future to fund the project.

Barnes said the trust is excited to join forces with the DEC and to work with Carolan.

“This former farmland in the heart of the Setauket community, devastated by neglect and storms over the years, is in dire need of attention,” Barnes said.

The Timothy House is known locally as the “house on the hill.” Photo by Robert Reuter

Englebright said he was happy to hear the trust and DEC working together on cleaning up the forest, which he considers an important part of the local landscape.

“I would like to see the community take emotional ownership of the property,” the assemblyman said. “The way you do that is make it accessible. The way you develop good stewardship is have people who are invested in the property — through their ability to walk on trails, to enjoy the natural beauty of the property, to discover its secret. There’s a reason why it’s called ‘hollow.’”

Timothy Smith House

The home known locally as the “house on the hill” was purchased by Robert de Zafra in 2012. Up until his death last October, de Zafra, the trust’s co-founder, was restoring the home that sits on 2.6 acres.

Trustee Robert Reuter reported that de Zafra’s widow, Julia, offered the house to the trust for a nominal price and will donate funds to help with continued restoration. The trust will also create the Robert de Zafra Conservation and Preservation Fund to preserve the house and other community landmarks.

Englebright said the house represents an important part of history in Setauket. The Smiths were among a group from Southold who settled Setauket in 1655 and created Brookhaven town. A clerk once worked out of the home, and it was considered Brookhaven’s town hall for decades. Englebright said de Zafra went to great lengths to ensure the house was protected and preserved, even using his own resources.

“It’s appropriate, I think, for the community trust — which he is a founding trustee of — to carry forward his legacy as well as the legacies of all the others who lived in the house preceding his acquisition of it,” Englebright said.

DEC Forester John Wernet addresses the beautification of Patriots Hollow State Forest. Photo by Giselle Barkley

As the North Shore battles both the decline in the number of pollinators and the intrusion of invasive plant species, Three Village residents have taken an interest in developing Long Island’s first state forest.

These residents, alongside members of New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation and the office of state Assemblyman Steve Englebright’s (D-Setauket), gathered in the Setauket Neighborhood House ballroom on Thursday, June 25, to discuss what is next for the new Patriots Hollow State Forest.

Currently, invasive plant species overrun the 518-acre forest. The DEC’s Region 1 Forester John Wernet and Real Property Supervisor Heather Amster acknowledged the state of invasive plants in the forest and said removing all of these plants from the area is not only impossible but also not feasible.

Residents such as conservation biologist Louise Harrison added to the issue of invasive plants saying that establishing a native plant forest is also problematic.

“It’s very difficult to get a native forest to grow from there,” Harrison. “The soils layers have all been mixed together and you don’t have a usual soil profile that supports the right kind of life.”

Black locust trees are among the most invasive species in the area. While some residents suggested this tree served as a food source for pollinators until more native plants are introduced to the area, other residents such as business owners Steve Carolan and Andrew J Heeran said they believed the tree is misunderstood.

Carolan and Heeran both run a saw mill business and said they thought the black locust tree would help develop the forest.

“Black locust is a wonderful wood for establishing infrastructure, especially in outdoor situations,” Heeran said.

Heeran also proposed creating a woodland forest garden, which would provide local produce for consumption. He said that “scarred areas that have so much human impact” have potential to help the community when guided by a vision.

Harrison suggested the community draft and submit a plan for the forest for the DEC to consider and endorse. But Amster said this might not be possible.

The DEC’s mission does not always align with that of the local community, and Amster said she does not want to anger area residents who contributed to drafting a plan, if their plan is not approved.

Although the forum was the fourth and final opportunity for community members to brainstorm ideas for the forest, residents will have the opportunity to comment on the plan before it is finalized.

Currently, there are no safe entries into the forest due to the overgrowth in plants. According to Amster, the forest will not be developed and ready for the public any time soon. However, she said residents do not need to wait until the DEC approves a management plan for the forest to clean up the property.

Wernet said he is not sure how long it will take to clean up the area or how much it would cost to hire workers to remove heavier objects such as fallen trees within the forest.

DEC Commissioner Joe Martens opened Patriots Hollow State Forest on April 22 of this year in honor of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) Earth Week initiative.

The DEC purchased the property using funds it acquired from environmental law and regulation violations that were “slated for the Three Village community’s benefit from the Northville spill fines,” according to Three Village Community Trust President Cynthia Barnes.

According to the DEC, the area also provides timber management, watershed protection and a natural habitat for surrounding wildlife. Patriots Hollow State Forest will provide residents with more recreational opportunities year-round. However, Amster said camping or campfires might not be allowed in the forest once it is open to the public.

The DEC may also allow residents to hunt on the property although bow-hunting restrictions may limit the number of bow-hunters on the property. According to Amster, one bow-hunter at a time may be allowed to hunt on the property. However, this was not finalized.