Environment & Nature

Captain Pete Murphy. Photo courtesy of Pete Murphy

When Pete Murphy was 12 in the 1970s he could often be found plying the waters of Port Jefferson, exploring and fishing in a 12-foot aluminum boat with a small outboard motor. Today, he’s Captain Pete Murphy, and for the past 20 years he’s been running Sea Tow Port Jefferson, helping old and new friends stay safe on the popular recreational waters of Long Island Sound.

Now 50, Murphy is perfectly at home on these busy waters. After graduating from Ward Melville High School in 1983, he joined the Navy and served as a Boatswain’s mate until he was honorably discharged in 1987. Boatswain’s mates are masters of seamanship, and the training helped Murphy in his career.

“In the Navy I learned how to drive a small boat, how to maintain boats and also did a lot of maintenance on the ships,” Murphy said. “When I got out I worked for three companies on Long Island. We built docks and one company had a small barge with a crane on it that we pushed around from job to job.”

In 1996 Murphy discovered the opportunity that changed his life: He purchased the Sea Tow Port Jefferson franchise from the original owner, Capt. Joe Frohnhoefer, who founded the franchise in 1991. “Sea Tow was right in the realm of what I was doing, and it was on the harbor where I grew up boating,” he said. “It just made sense. I took over the franchise on July 3, 1996, the day before the July Fourth weekend.”

Murphy started with two boats, no staff and only 36 members in his Area of Responsibility, which extends along 25 miles of coastline from the Nissequogue River in Kings Park east to Wading River, and halfway across Long Island Sound. He also serves Smithtown Bay, Port Jefferson and Mount Sinai. “For the first two years I did everything by myself,” Murphy said. “It was slow growth. Now we have thousands of members, and I have expanded the fleet and the staff.” These days his fleet includes three boats, all in the water in Port Jefferson: a 26-foot Boston Whaler with twin outboards and two 24-foot inboard-powered Privateers. Murphy has one full-time captain and two-part-time captains.

He has started another business, Murphy’s Marine Service, to install the temporary moorings for Port Jefferson each spring and take them out in the fall. In addition, he runs a taxi service for boat owners to their boats on the mooring balls. “It definitely keeps me busy,” said Murphy, who has a 100-ton U.S. Coast Guard master’s license, which he recertifies every five years through on-going training. “The mooring and the taxi service are a perfect complement to Sea Tow.”

Murphy and his wife of 15 years, Melissa, have five children: Abigail, 16; Matthew, 14; Peter, 12; Lilah Grace, 7; and Liam, 5. “We have a 24-foot Four Winns, and we love to go boating,” he said. “The fishing is great in the Sound for fluke, bluefish and striped bass. It’s a great family activity to get out in the boat, and the kids love it.” The Long Island Sound has a 7-foot tidal swing, but Murphy’s Area of Responsibility is relatively clear of rocky areas or sand bars.

“When I first started the business I had to charge most people for what I did, because they weren’t members,” Murphy said. “Back then people saw me at boat shows and didn’t like me much. Twenty years later they love Sea Tow. It’s a big change in perception, and a credit to Sea Tow and the value it brings to people.”

Above, from left, Leah Schmalz, Chris Cryder; Assemblyman Steve Englebright, Sue Orifici of the Port Jefferson Village Center and photographer Robert Lorenz enjoy the art reception last Thursday night. Photo by Heidi Sutton

By Heidi Sutton

The Port Jefferson Village Center hosted an artist reception for its latest exhibit, The Natural Beauty of Plum Island, last Thursday evening. The show, which runs through Aug. 30, features photographs by Robert Lorenz and paintings by John H. Sargent, who were granted access to the island over the course of two years.

The paintings and photographs on the second floor of the center quickly draw you in with scenes of beautiful rocky beaches and flower meadows, sunsets with unobstructed views — visions of an island pristine and untouched. One quickly realizes that Plum Island is a local treasure. It is also in peril.

The island has been put up for auction to the highest bidder by the federal government. Operated by the Department of Homeland Security, it is the site of the former U.S. military installation Fort Terry (c. 1897) and the historic Plum Island Lighthouse (c. 1869), which went dark in 1978. It is most known, however, for housing the Plum Island Animal Disease Center, established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1954. The center is relocating to Manhattan, Kansas, and the sale of the island (estimated at $60 million) will help defray the cost of the new facility.

Above, Chris Cryder gives a virtual tour of Plum Island. Photo by Heidi Sutton
Above, Chris Cryder gives a virtual tour of Plum Island. Photo by Heidi Sutton

Activists from all over the country have joined forces to try to protect the natural and cultural resources of Plum Island from development by coming up with conservation options and have been holding public forums to keep the community in the loop. So it was only natural to hold one of those forums Thursday, in conjunction with the art exhibit.

The evening started off with a visual presentation titled Preserving Plum Island for Future Generations by Save the Sound’s Special Projects Coordinator Chris Cryder. Save the Sound is a bi-state program with the Connecticut Fund for the Environment and has been locked in a legal battle with the government to save the island since 2009. Cryder is also the outreach coordinator for the Preserve Plum Island Coalition.

Located off the tip of the North Fork of Long Island in the town boundaries of Southold, where the Long Island Sound and Peconic Bay meet, Plum Island is part of an archipelago of peninsulas and islands that includes Great Gull Island, Little Gull Island, Fisher’s Island and Rhode Island. The land was “formed 22,000 years ago when the last glacier was here … and deposited its boulders and glacier materials,” explained Cryder, noting that the area contains a very rich marine life.

The 843-acre coastal island, which is about three miles long, has not had much human disturbance since World War II, according to Cryder. “At one time, this island was completely denuded, but 80 percent of the island — over 600 acres — has been allowed to return to its natural state and … has become home to some of our most imperiled species,” he said. “It’s a really special place. You feel like you’re in a whole other world.”

According to Cryder, there are over 16 rare plants on the island, six of which are endangered, including Spring Ladies’ Tresses. The island, which features nine miles of beach, forests, marshes, dunes, flower meadows and over 100 acres of interior wetlands, is also home to over 220 bird species, including the endangered piping plover and the rare roseate tern. Large colonies of grey seals and harbor seals, the northern right whale and leatherback sea turtles congregate in the area. “We feel it is a one-of-a-kind island, probably the most important coastal habitat on the whole eastern seaboard right now,” added Cryder.

From left, Assemblyman Steve Englebright and naturalist John Turner discuss the fate of Plum Island with the audience. Photo by Heidi Sutton
From left, Assemblyman Steve Englebright and naturalist John Turner discuss the fate of Plum Island with the audience. Photo by Heidi Sutton

A panel discussion, which included naturalist John Turner, spokesperson for the Preserve Plum Island Coalition, and Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) followed the presentation. Moderated by Leah Schmalz, program manager for Save the Sound, both panelists spoke on the importance of saving this jewel from development and discussed the current status of legislation pending in Congress.

“I’ve been fascinated with Plum Island, mostly from a distance, for years,” said Englebright, who visited the island for the first time this spring, with Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) and the Supervisor of Southhold. “I was very impressed; I felt like I was in a movie,” he said, describing seeing basking seals and the many bird species. “From my perspective, I would love to see Plum Island become a part of Orient State Park. It would be a spectacularly popular site for naturalists and families and groups of all kinds to visit.”

“We ultimately have no doubt that we will prevail in stopping the sale of Plum Island,” said Turner, “because the island sells itself … in terms of historical significance, the cultural significance, ecological and environmental significance. There are very few places like Plum Island anywhere and it’s in the public domain and it should stay in the public domain.”

“…most people go by on the [Cross Sound] Ferry and see the island and have no idea what’s happening and every time we talk to a group like this we find people saying ‘how is it that the federal government is really thinking about selling this?’” said Schmalz. “One of the ways to get involved is to sign a petition [by visiting www.savethesound.org]. It’s a very easy way to put your name on record saying you want this island to be preserved.”

Concrete barriers at the edge of Mount Sinai Harbor along Shore Road will not be removed as part of a project to improve the area’s stormwater infrastructure. Photo by Rebecca Anzel

By Rebecca Anzel

The Town of Brookhaven will start construction next month on Shore Road between Mount Sinai-Coram Road and Rocky Hill Road in an effort to alleviate the negative impact of stormwater runoff in Mount Sinai Harbor.

“This is one project I identified really early on when I took this office three years ago,” Brookhaven Town Highway Superintendent Daniel Losquadro (R) said. “I think if you’re a resident of Long Island, or this case specifically, the North Shore, you understand this is a very serious problem to our quality of life, our recreation opportunities and our health.”

Brookhaven is installing a series of 10 leaching pools along the road to capture stormwater before it reaches the harbor.

Paid for by a New York State Department of Transportation grant worth $382,560, the project will take almost three months to complete.

Losquadro became highway superintendent right after Hurricane Irene in August 2011 and before Superstorm Sandy in late October the following year. There was a lot of damage to the coast from both storms, he said, and none of the repair work had been done by the time he took office.

Currently, a lot of stormwater runoff is flowing into the harbor from the roads and rooftops in the area, bringing with it chemicals, sediment, debris and other pollutants. This is an issue plaguing 75 percent of impaired bodies of water in New York State, according to the Department of Environmental Conservation’s website.

To fix the problem, the town is installing a series of 10 leaching pools along the road to capture as much stormwater into the ground as possible before it reaches the harbor. Water enters these catch basins and percolates into the ground gradually, filtered through a natural process. Each one has a capacity of more than 3,000 gallons.

Two bioretention areas will also be installed to naturally filter out any toxins from the water that does make it to the harbor, much in the way wetlands do. An existing discharge pipe will be removed.

The town will be resurfacing nine roads in the area, including Shore Road, in addition to the stormwater project. Photo by Rebecca Anzel
The town will be resurfacing nine roads in the area, including Shore Road, in addition to the stormwater project. Photo by Rebecca Anzel

Losquadro said residents have asked if a concrete breakwater put along the edge of the harbor some years ago will be removed as part of this project. Because the harbor’s ecosystem has reestablished itself around that concrete, the DEC does not want it removed.

“I have to say it was kind of surprising to me, but I understand the DEC’s point,” Losquadro said. “They feel it would be more injurious to the environment to dig that out and replace it than to just leave it as it is.”

The town will also be resurfacing nine roads in the area, which Losquadro said are in “deplorable condition,” this fall. The cost, about $900,000, is not covered by the state grant.

Mount Sinai resident Julie Bernatzky walks along Shore Road often.

Although the project is starting a year later than planned, as a result of a delay following a change in the region’s DEC director Losquadro said, Bernatzky is happy for the upgrades, although she hopes the construction will not disrupt her route.

Losquadro said traffic in the area should not be any more disrupted than during any other project. Because the area the town will be working in is tight and there is not a lot of room on the side of the road, one lane of Shore Road may need to be closed.

DEC officials help return nearly 2,000 illegally harvested oysters to local waters this week. Photo from Brookhaven Town.

The world is not your oyster.

Brookhaven Town and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation thwarted offenders on Friday who they said, in two unrelated incidents on June 30 and July 3, illegally harvested oysters from the Long Island Sound near Flax Pond in Old Field and Mount Sinai Harbor respectively. Between the two incidents nearly 2,000 oysters were seized and returned to their habitats.

On June 30 Brookhaven Harbormaster stationed in Port Jefferson Harbor received a tip that oysters smaller in size than three inches — which is below the allowable size for harvest — were being taken from the Sound. Following an inspection by DEC officials, violations were issued to the oystermen and the animals were returned to the water.

DEC officials help return nearly 2,000 illegally harvested oysters to local waters this week. Photo from Brookhaven Town.
DEC officials help return nearly 2,000 illegally harvested oysters to local waters this week. Photo from Brookhaven Town.

“I applaud the actions of our Harbormasters and the DEC,” Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station), whose district includes Port Jefferson Harbor said in a statement Friday. “Shellfish are vital to our harbor, providing a natural means of removing harmful nitrogen from our waters. I urge residents to both respect harvesting laws and to get involved in our local mariculture programs that help cultivate the shellfish populations in our harbors and bays.”

On July 3 four people harvested oysters from illegal areas of Mount Sinai Harbor, according to the town. Brookhaven Town Bay constables witnessed the violation, seized the oysters and returned them to the harbor.

Mount Sinai Harbor falls within Councilwoman Jane Bonner’s (C-Rocky Point) district.

“It is very disappointing when people break the law without any concern for its effect on the environment,” Bonner said in a statement. “For many years, shellfish were over harvested and we are now working hard to increase their population. I urge anyone who knows of illegal shell fishing to report it to the Town or DEC.”

The statement from the town stressed the importance of protecting shellfish in Long Island waters.

“Increasing the number of oysters and other shellfish in our waterways helps to reduce the abundance of algae that can lead to fish kills and diminished oxygen concentration and thus improve water quality,” town officials said. “Oysters feed on floating microscopic algae by filtering them out of the overlying water. One adult oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day.”

By Katelyn Winter

Peaceful. The word most commonly used to describe Setauket’s Frank Melville Memorial Park captures the tranquil nature scene you find around every bend in the trail.

With turtles sunning themselves on logs in the daytime and deer rustling in the brush just before dusk, the park is a sanctuary for wildlife. According to the park’s newsletter, the Four Harbors Audubon Society, which holds a bird walk at the park on the second Saturday of every month, recorded 76 bird species over the past year. One of the main reasons so many creatures can be seen is simply the atmosphere. On the sign at the entryway to the park, the informative bullet points end in a gentle reminder: Quiet please.

Frank Melville Memorial Park’s gates have been open to the public for 79 years. In 1937, the park was formally dedicated after years of work by Jennie MacConnell Melville and local philanthropist Ward Melville, the wife and son of Frank Melville. The park was added to the National Register of Historic Places on July 19, 2010.

The Melville family loved to spend their summers in the Stony Brook area and even had an estate, named Sunwood, built in Old Field in 1919. It is  fitting that the place they designed and built to memorialize a loving father and husband would turn into such a picturesque and beloved park by Three Village residents and visitors alike.

“I’ve been coming here for almost ten years. It’s only her second year, though,” said Kaleigh Gorman, motioning to her dog, Dakota, when they were out walking one warm Wednesday evening. “I love how peaceful and scenic the park is and all the memories that are made here.” 

There is definitely a lot of room to make memories. With 24 stunning acres to explore, the park is made up of a looping path around the pond and trails that wind through the bamboo forest and the meadows behind the Bates Barn, known locally as “the red barn.” Constructed in the 1920s, the wood for the barn came from buildings at Camp Upton near Yaphank, which was torn down after WWI. A community garden with its own apiary and the Bates House, which can be rented for private events, are just some of the park’s other charming features.

Frank Melville Memorial Park

Hours:

Open all year round from dawn to dusk

Address:

1 Old Field Road, Setauket

Phone number:

Park Office: 631-689-6146

Bates House: 631-689-7054

Website:

www.frankmelvillepark.org

Rules:

No professional photography without park pass

Dogs allowed on leash

Visitors can go for a jog around the pond, stopping to stretch out on the stone bridge with a view of both the pond and the marshlands, or sit on one of several benches that line the edge of the pond under large shade trees. Just to the side of that bridge is the Setauket Mill, a simulated mill with a working water wheel. Built in 1937, it was designed by architect Richard Haviland Smythe, who also designed the Stony Brook Village Center, to represent the long line of mills that had existed on the pond as early as 1660. The building now serves as the park’s headquarters.

You should feel free to bring in snacks for a picnic, but keep in mind to carry out what you carry in, and never feed the wildlife. And watch out! That wildlife also includes a snapping turtle who will snap at anything that moves too close to his algae-covered face. He’s been around for ages. When I was  just five years old, I thought I was looking at an otter emerging from the pond, until my mother realized it was the snapping turtle reaching out his long neck for a snack. The snapping turtle is by no means dangerous, though: just one more fun local “resident” to encounter. In fact, local resident Janet Morseman says that one of the reasons she loves coming to the Setauket park is because of how “safe and peaceful” it is.

Whether you are out for a brisk walk, a jog or a leisurely stroll, the ground beneath your feet is always clean, and the park, which is located next to the post office and just a short walk from Patriot’s Rock and Emma S. Clark Memorial Library, is small and well-enough trafficked to feel very safe.

The rules and regulations of Frank Melville Memorial Park, a “Private Park for Public Enjoyment,” are fairly lax and rely on common courtesy. If you’d like to ride your bike there, for example, it’s requested you stay on the paved pathway. Fishing in the pond requires you to join the Mill Pond Fishing Club, with a catch-and-release only policy.

And as far as photography in the park goes, anything more than snapping a picture of your kids with a cell phone (say, having a friend take your family holiday card photo at the park) means signing up to become a Friend of the Park and getting a photography pass. It will cost you $100 annually to be able to shoot photos in the park.

Those aren’t the only ways to take advantage of Frank Melville Memorial Park, though — it has so much to offer. Classes on Tuesday mornings at the Bates Barn — usually at 11 a.m. — are free ways to learn new skills, such as watercolor painting or have fun with a craft or scavenger hunt. One new opportunity is Walk-Yoga-Meditate-Chocolate, which is exactly what it sounds like. At 7 p.m. on Tuesday evenings through August 30, pre-registered participants will meet up in the Bates House parking lot to take a walk, practice yoga, mediate, and indulge in some chocolate. The class, by suggested donation, benefits the Community Growth Center. To learn more or register you can visit www.CommunityGrowthCenter.org or call 631-240-3471.

For those who are looking for a different way to relax, check out Wind Down Sundays, the park’s summer concert series held at the Bates Barn on Sunday evenings at 5:15 p.m. through Aug. 28. A variety of musicians will play classical, rock, jazz, reggae, R&B, and pop, which means there’s at least one Sunday you won’t want to miss, depending on your taste! These events are family-friendly ways to get outside and experience something new in a beautiful location. 

So pack up the kids, or the dog, or just a water bottle, and see what Frank Melville Memorial Park has in store for you. You may discover a favorite jogging trail, the perfect bench for reading, or the cutest baby turtle you’ve ever seen. There’s so much to do and see, no matter the time of day. And that’s why Frank Melville Memorial Park is a treasure among us.

Author Katelyn Winter is a rising junior at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pa.,  majoring in English and creative writing. She is from Stony Brook and hopes to one day work in the publishing industry.

U.S. Congressman Lee Zeldin, Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner and town Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro at Sills Gully Beach following the revitalization. Photo from Town of Brookhaven

Brookhaven Town Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R), U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) and Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) announced the completion of repairs intended to protect, restore and strengthen Sills Gully Beach in Shoreham, after it was severely damaged during Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

“The revitalization project at Sills Gully is one of a dozen North Shore surface water quality protection projects the highway department has undertaken since I took office,” Losquadro said. “I want to thank Congressman Zeldin for expediting the federal funding necessary to complete this project and ensure the resilience of our shoreline.”

“Preventing storm water runoff from entering the Long Island Sound this is a victory for the residents of Shoreham and the environment.”

— Jane Bonner

In order to reduce risk of damage from future storm events, members of the Brookhaven highway department completely removed the ineffective gabion basket walls, replacing them with 160 feet of steel bulkhead with stone-toe protection to prevent scouring. The bulkhead — which now protects areas of the bluff that have experienced significant levels of erosion in the past — has a longer life span than the gabion walls and will better protect from future disasters.

“The completion of restoration at Sills Gully Beach is an excellent example of different levels of government working together for the benefit of our community,” Bonner said. “I have been diligently working on this issue since the damage was caused by Superstorm Sandy in 2012, and I am extremely happy to see these necessary repairs come to fruition. By preventing storm water runoff from entering the Long Island Sound, this is a victory for the residents of Shoreham and the environment. I want to thank Congressman Zeldin and Superintendent Losquadro for working with me to make this happen.”

Brookhaven Town Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro points out the new improvements his department made to protect the area. Photo from Town of Brookhaven
Brookhaven Town Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro points out the new improvements his department made to protect the area. Photo from Town of Brookhaven

As a result of these mitigation measures and to comply with Tidal Wetlands and Clean Water Act permits, the department included upgrades to the existing storm water system by installing a new bioretention area where storm water naturally collects. This bioretention area consists of two, 12-foot deep leaching basins and an 8-foot wide trash rack to capture storm water and transport it through nearly 400 feet of 48-inch, smooth, interior-corrugated polyethylene pipe for natural dissipation. Additionally, a rock-lined drainage swale was constructed along the length of the parking lot to collect any remaining runoff. These upgrades will ensure that polluted storm water is not directly entering the Long Island Sound.

The project was funded with an $875,000 federal grant secured by Zeldin through FEMA.

“Once Brookhaven Town received the necessary federal funding to make repairs at Sills Gully Beach and Gully Landing Drainage Facility, the town was able to complete this important project,” said Zeldin, who is also a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “This revitalization project will help protect, restore and strengthen Sills Gully Beach in Shoreham and the overall quality of water in our local area, and I am proud to join with Superintendent Losquadro and Councilwoman Bonner to announce the completion of this project.”

A welcome volunteer, rose of Sharon, produces colorful, cup-shaped flowers in the summer and fall. File photo

By Ellen Barcel

Many times a plant appears in the garden that the gardener didn’t plant. A weed? Perhaps, but it really helps to know what seedlings and young plants look like so that you can see if a “volunteer” is a prize or a pain.

Among the not-really-wanted plants that easily volunteer in the garden include dandelions, onion grass, garlic mustard, wineberries, multiflora roses and oriental bittersweet. While onion grass is a mild nuisance, just mow over it, garlic mustard easily grows to a foot or more in height and is really unsightly.

Wineberries are an invasive plant, related to raspberries, that can be spread by birds. The berries are definitely edible, but not nearly as tasty as raspberries. If you want raspberries, then plant them and pull out the wineberries — carefully because they have thorns.

Multiflora roses are attractive, with many (hence the term multiflora) blooms in early June borne on arching canes. Years ago, they were planted by many Long Island gardeners because of their rapid growth and dense habit. They were even sold as a living fence for cattle. But, and here’s the big but, they are extremely invasive. Like wineberries, be careful pulling them out because of the thorns.

Another volunteer that is extremely invasive is oriental bittersweet. It’s very pretty with its red berries that break open to reveal yellow seeds, but it’s definitely invasive. Lesser celandine has pretty yellow flowers in the spring but, again, is very invasive.

Note that wineberries, multiflora roses and oriental bittersweet as well as lesser celandine are all on Suffolk County’s Do Not Sell List. However, there are so many here already and they are so easily spread, especially by birds, that it’s still a battle getting rid of these invasives.

On the other hand, there are a number of volunteers that are welcome in the garden. Reseeding plants that you’ve put in the garden are wonderful. They may not be perennials but they’re almost as good. In this category includes the money plant (Lunaria) with its purple flowers and silvery seed pods.

Many years ago, a small tree planted itself in my back yard. Curious as to what it was, I left it alone and it matured into a gorgeous tree covered in pink flowers in the spring. I never did figure out what it was — there were a number of possibilities. It could have been some variety of cherry, but it never bore fruit, so I never did find out. It was a welcome volunteer and sadly missed when one spring, it became obvious that it didn’t make it through the previous harsh winter.

Another volunteer that is most welcome in my garden was also filled with pink flowers. Again, I couldn’t figure out exactly what it was until it started to produce peaches. Unfortunately, the variety were small and bitter, so I don’t use them instead allowing the local critters to dine. But, I don’t take the trees out either, because they produce nice shade and those beautiful flowers.

I’ve had rose of Sharon and holly also seed themselves in the garden, both welcome plants. On the other hand, the thistle that seeded itself by my front door, while interesting, was a danger. Tiny maple trees (Norway maple, Acer platanoides) try to take over my garden — they’re everywhere. Simply cutting them off at ground level with a pruning shears usually works, and small ones can be easily pulled out especially after a rain.

Another beneficial volunteer is clover in the lawn. It’s a nitrogen fixing plant that takes nitrogen from the air and stores it in its roots. It attracts pollinators and is low maintenance. However, many broad- spectrum weed killers will kill it, so read the label carefully of any products you consider using.

When you find any of these volunteers, remove the nasty ones, but allow some of the questionable ones to grow a while and mature so that you can figure out whether you have a bonus in the garden or not. They may provide you with a beautiful tomorrow in your garden.

An excellent book to help you identify some unknown plants and decide whether or not they’re keepers is “Weeds of the North East,” by Richard H. Uva, Joseph C. Neal and Joseph M. DiTomaso. The volume is published by Comstock Publishing, a division of Cornell University Press. It has color photos of the plant, closeups of the leaves, flowers and seeds. It’s a great resource.

Ellen Barcel is a freelance writer and master gardener. Send your gardening questions to [email protected] To reach Cornell Cooperative Extension and its Master Gardener program, call 631-727-7850.

Tranquility Garden owner Walter Becker sits on a bench in his Mount Sinai backyard. File photo

On July 9, visit private gardens in Mattituck and Mount Sinai, open to the public rain or shine, through the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days Program, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission to each garden is $7, benefiting the Garden Conservancy, and children 12 and under are free.

Tranquility Garden is located at 42 Jesse Way, Mount Sinai.

The Becker garden can be described as an explosion of color, fragrance, sound, and texture. Hundreds of perennials, shrubs, trees and annuals are combined with water features, lawn art and recently relocated garden trails that allow the visitor to enter the owner’s vision of an impressionistic garden painting. Unique shrubs and flowers and winding paths permit the visitor to stroll and enjoy all that nature has to offer.

Visit www.opendaysprogram.org, or call 1-888-842-2442 for more information.

By Ellen Barcel

The Port Jefferson Village Center will present a very special exhibit, The Natural Beauty of Plum Island, from July 2 through Aug. 30. Two artists, photographer Robert Lorenz and painter John H. Sargent, will be showcasing approximately 70 of their works.

Shown previously in Connecticut and the East End of Long Island (including Plum Island itself), this is the first time that the show will be presented so far west. Lorenz, who lives in Connecticut but works in New York City, said, “I’m looking forward to having the show getting closer to New York City.” He added that the PJVC is such a great venue for showing the work because of its large size.

Sue Orifici (head of Graphic, Archival & Special Projects at the PJVC) noted that while the exhibit touches on the fact that the animal disease research at Plum Island is being moved, and the island scheduled to be sold, “mostly [the exhibit] is about the art.” She added, “The artists wanted people to understand how much life there is on the island.”

“The bulk of the island is undeveloped — about 85 percent — in its natural state,” said Lorenz.

Plum Island (technically part of Southold Township) is particularly important to the Long Island area, now, since the work on animal diseases research, carried out by the federal government, is scheduled to be moved to Kansas. Plans to sell the island for development have been met with much controversy. The Preserve Plum Island Coalition is working to keep the island undeveloped.

The island is currently under the control of the Department of Homeland Security. In 2009 Congress passed legislation that stipulated that if the animal disease center was moved off the island, the government could sell the island subject to government interests, to the highest bidder. “The animal research facility on Plum Island is still very active,” said Lorenz. “It has a long list of wonderful accomplishments. It’s the premier lab of its type in the world.” He noted that one of the major research accomplishments of the lab has been the control of hoof and mouth disease. “There has not been an outbreak in this country since the 1920s.” But it is found in other countries that rely on the lab for assistance. Because of its research projects, access to the island has been very limited. But, said Lorenz, “the years of secrecy did them no good,” as far as public relations is concerned.

The island consists of 830 acres of both wildlife habitat and historically significant sites such as the Plum Gut lighthouse built in 1870 and the 1897 Fort Terry army barracks and weapons batteries. The island was originally home to Native Americans who sold the island to a colonist in the 1600s. It is also home to threatened and endangered species of plants and animals. Noted Sargent, “It is the largest seal haul out in southern New England.” Anywhere from 180 to 200 seals at a time can be seen on the rocky southern side of the island, he said.

How did this unique exhibit come about? Lorenz and Sargent met on a tour of Plum Island organized by Save the Sound, a bi-state project of the nonprofit, Connecticut Fund for the Environment. “I was the only person allowed to photograph the island,” said Lorenz, who had applied beforehand and gone through a vetting process.

While Lorenz was photographing the natural beautify of the island, Sargent was sketching. Said Sargent, “Because we had to be escorted it didn’t allow me time to paint [on the scene] … I did most of my work in the studio,” based on his sketches and photographs as well as some of Lorenz’ photos.

A representative from Save the Sound suggested producing a traveling exhibit together. “Because access to Plum Island was limited, I saw it as a challenge,” said Lorenz who was always interested in environmental issues. “We went out 12 to 14 more times over a two-year period,” to photograph and sketch the island. “We were told when we could go out,” so the time of day and weather varied with each visit.

“In our shows we have some images that are similar,” a photo and a painting of the same scene said Sargent. These will be shown side by side. But many of their other works are very different and grouped by themes: night scenes, bluffs, winter scenes, etc. There are also scenes of the historic lighthouse.

Sargent was an art teacher for many years. Retired now, he is a professional, freelance artist who works in acrylics and pastels. “I have lived along the Connecticut shore most of my life, along the waters of Long Island Sound. I have an appreciation of the beauty and a concern for the health of the Sound,” he noted. Chris Cryder of the Preserve Plum Island Coalition will be making a presentation at the opening reception. According to Laura McMillan, of the Connecticut Fund for the Environment, the coalition consists of 60 to 70 organizations and individuals working to prevent the development of the island. “Plum Island is not just a local, but a regional and even global area of concern,” she said.

Cryder noted that half of his presentation will be a virtual tour of the island. There will also be a panel discussion with several legislators [as of this writing, NYS Assemblyman Steven Englebright (D-Setauket) and NYS Senator Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) are scheduled to attend] discussing the current status of legislation pending in Congress. Cryder added that the Town of Southold created a conservation zone on the island.

If the legislation requiring the sale of the island is repealed, Cryder added that there are a number of possible uses for the island, “another research center? A renewable energy research lab? A marine research lab?” Possibly the island could be transferred to the National Parks Service. Long-term goals include saving the jobs of many of the people who work on Plum Island, saving the endangered species and opening up the island to public access — ecotourism.

The Natural Beauty of Plum Island, featuring work by Robert Lorenz and John Sargent, will be on view at the Port Jefferson Village Center, 101A East Broadway from July 2 through Aug. 30. An opening reception, to which all are invited, will be held on Thursday, July 7, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Both artists will be in attendance.

For further information, call 631-802-2160 or visit www.portjeff.com/facilities/village-center. The center is open daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. (10 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday).

Stony Brook University has changed its class policy during the coronavirus outbreak. File photo

By Colm Ashe

The general consensus among those who study the evaporating future of the global water supply is to blame population growth. However, a recent study out of Stony Brook University suggests climate change may be the dominant catalyst for future exposure to drought.

The number of people exposed to extreme drought would see a 426.6 percent increase by 2100 at the current rates of greenhouse gas emissions and population growth 

A team of scholars used 16 climate models and United Nation population growth projections to ensure a more accurate prediction. The study reported that the number of people exposed to extreme drought would see a 426.6 percent increase by 2100 at the current rates of greenhouse gas emissions and population growth. While many might agree that water scarcity will become increasingly more problematic in the future — especially if preventative actions don’t amp up fast — there is a difference between what each party suggests is the best approach: to focus on slowing population increases with socioeconomic development or to cut the rate of greenhouse gas emissions. This study states the latter may be the most efficient way to avoid widespread drought.

Their predictions attribute 59.5 percent of future drought to climate change and only 9.2 percent of the increase to population growth. The remaining 31.4 percent accounts for the combined effect of these two factors. According to Stony Brook University’s professor Oleg Smirnov, who was involved in conducting the study, the “results imply that top greenhouse gas-emitters have the greatest capacity to decrease future exposure to extreme drought.”

Though climate change mitigation policies may have the power to most effectively reduce the future effects of widespread drought, population growth is still an important factor to consider. “Population growth alone is responsible for over 35 million more people exposed to extreme drought globally per month by the end of the century,” Smirnov said. “However, we also found that, for the same period, climate change is responsible for about 230 million more people exposed to extreme drought.”

The conclusion that Smirnov and his team have come to portrays climate change as playing a more important role than population increase. However, each country is affected differently by each factor, so the solution is not as simple as just cutting emissions. The worst-case scenario would be to continue at the present rate of both greenhouse gas emissions and population growth. Regardless of which factor ranks in terms of importance, this study and many others like it suggest the same message: if we are to counter the effects of future global drought exposure, we need to act as soon as possible.