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Frank Melville Memorial Park

From left, Logan Valeiko and Logan Simon at the entrance to Frank Melville Memorial Park. Photo by Kerri Glynn

Three teenagers answered the call when the Frank Melville Memorial Park board asked for volunteers to raise money to support the park’s programs and upkeep. 

Julia Zabinski at the Three Village Farmers Market. Photo by Kerri Glynn

Located in Setauket’s beautiful historic district, the private park relies on donations from the public and Julia Zabinski, Logan Simon and Logan Valeiko stepped up and raised over $500 this summer. 

Julia raised the money while running a Kids’ Corner at the Three Village Farmers Market. Each week she offered a free activity and gently used books. When people asked if they could give her a donation, she chose to raise money for the park. 

The two Logans made bracelets and set up shop in front of the Setauket Post Office at the entrance to the park, selling them for a ‘name your own price.’ Both boys have volunteered for three years to help with the educational program held every Tuesday at the park’s Red Barn.

“These three teens have been so generous and hard working,” said the park’s program director Kerri Glynn. “We should put them on our Board!”

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

VOLUNTEERS WANTED

It’s that time of year again! Starting on August 27, the Four Harbors Audubon Society will be tallying migrating Common Nighthawks to better understand nighthawk population trends. Join them at the stone bridge at Frank Melville Memorial Park, One Old Field Road, Setauket to witness nighthawks as they pass over during their migratory journey to their wintering grounds in Brazil and Argentina. The watch dates are August 27 to October 6, 5:30 p.m. until dusk. Visit www.4has.org for further details.

Pixabay photo

By Martina Matkovic

The Three Village Garden Club welcomes you as their guest on Friday, September 17th, when members will have an opportunity to display their creative talents in floral design and horticulture. Many hours of careful preparation and planning will culminate in a Small Standard Flower Show at the Neighborhood House, 95 Main Street, Setauket. No charge to the public, doors will be open from 2 to 6 p.m.

The following quotation from Sandra H. Robinson, past President of the National Garden Club, eloquently states the purpose of executing a flower show: 

An award winning design from the TVGC’s June 2017 flower show. Photo by Karin Steil

“One of the basic urges of mankind is the desire to create. Creative flower arranging is an art form in which the artist’s vision is expressed through the use of plant materials. Using the elements and principles of design, the artist strives to achieve the following attributes- beauty, harmony, distinction and expression. Flower shows provide a unique opportunity for floral designers, horticulturists, judges and the viewing public to become an integral part of the creative process.”

The show, titled “See You in September,” promises to be a spectacular visual experience. It is an opportunity to  find out about the club’s contributions to the community, with its emphasis on the importance of the use of native plantings and gardening techniques that help to protect the environment. Guests are encouraged to take a short walk to Frank Melville  Memorial Park where they may access the Arboretum, acquired by  the garden club in 1985 and maintained for the past 36 years. A map of the Arboretum will be available.

As guests arrive they will receive a printed guide to help navigate through the three parts of the juried show. Division 1, Horticulture,  will display cut specimens from the garden, fruits and vegetables, cut specimens from fruiting or flowering trees and shrubs, and container plants. Come see what a Blue Ribbon cucumber looks like!

An award winning design from the TVGC’s June 2017 flower show. Photo from Karin Steil

Division ll, comprised of four classes, will highlight members’ creative talents in floral design. Class 2 of this division, aptly named “Reflections and Inspirations,” will challenge those members who choose to enter by  creating a floral design that interprets the subject of a painting. The actual paintings will be hung nearby the corresponding design, inviting the viewer to observe. The artists who have loaned their works for this class are Patty Yantz, “The Sentinel”; Renee Caine, “Approaching Storm”; Eleanor Meier, “Winter Pears and Kimono”; and Robert Roehrig, “Dock Reflections.” 

Finally, but certainly not least, in Division lll guests will enjoy an exhibit that displays the club’s many contributions to the community with an emphasis on education and respect for our environment. This section also includes invitational exhibits solicited from florists and businesses in the community.  

Members who decide to participate will be judged for their entries, receive points and be awarded ribbons according to the National Garden Club System of Awarding.  The judging will be done in advance of the opening to the public and ribbons will be on display.

Please come and enjoy the beauty of the show, see what your neighbors and friends in the garden club are doing , and perhaps be inspired to join us. Our membership is open to all. For further information, please call 631 751-2743.

Author Martina Matkovic is a member of the Three Village Garden Club.

Photo by Tom Caruso

SPLISH-SPLASH

Tom Caruso of Smithtown captured this scene at Frank Melville Memorial Park in Setauket on Aug. 7. He writes, ‘I was walking around the Setauket Millpond when I heard a lot of splashing. I found several Canada Geese flapping their wings on the water and caught this one spraying water everywhere. It was quite a sight.

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By Cayla Rosenhagen

Cayla Rosenhagen

“Look, look! There’s a bird up in this tree … and there’s a nest, too!”

A young boy with binoculars pressed against his face cheerfully announces what he has found. An American Robin flies to her nest, cozily tucked in a nearby cedar; the child notices she has a worm in her bill. More young birders gather to watch in awe of the mother robin feeding her recently hatched chicks.

Nothing compares to watching a child’s face light up with happiness and fascination as they become immersed in the world of birds. I had the joy of seeing this firsthand. On June 27th, my sister Iris and I launched the first Children’s Birding Adventure at Frank Melville Memorial Park in Setauket for Four Harbors Audubon Society. 

The event began early in the afternoon at the entrance to the park, as enthusiastic families circled around to introduce themselves on the lawn overlooking the lake. Their children ranged in age from infancy to age 10 and were bubbling over with questions and stories about wildlife they had seen. One of the participants, Olivia, 8, a birder for about two years, looked forward to seeing a Northern Cardinal, one of her favorite backyard birds. 

Before our walk began, the children engaged in a round of nature-inspired activities, including Sparrow Says (Simon Says with an aviary twist) and a storytime, featuring a book by Kermit Cummings entitled A Backyard Birding Adventure: What’s in Your Yard? To further their birding knowledge, we presented the budding ornithologists with a photo album of birds we were likely to spot on our adventure. Bird BINGO cards, illustrating the same feathered friends, were handed out to all the children so they could record their sightings in a novel manner. Each youngster was then lent a pair of child-sized binoculars and taught how to use them.

Eagerly, we headed down the path encircling the picturesque Mill Pond. As we strolled the half-mile paved loop, a dozen children and their families surveyed their surroundings for birds and were met with great success. Catbirds, swallows, woodpeckers, swans, and warblers filled the lenses of every pair of binoculars. Little eyes spotted blue jays, sparrows, and egrets; the children announced their birding discoveries to the group with delight. The group paused along the old stone bridge and I pointed out turtles on a floating log and the blackbirds who nest in the nearby reeds. When birds weren’t readily in sight, scurrying chipmunks, zigzagging butterflies, and the iridescent wings of dragonflies captivated the young minds. As the hour-long event came to a close, it was so gratifying to hear from both parents and kids alike that fun was had by all, and much was learned about the natural world.  

The members of Four Harbors Audubon Society have been my role models and mentors for many years and continue to inspire me. I started participating in their monthly bird walks when I was the age of many of the children who attended Saturday’s event. At age 16, I now serve on the Board of Directors for 4HAS, and it is a privilege for me to contribute to the younger generation’s love and appreciation of birds. Who knows? Birding may become a lifelong passion for them, as it has for me.

In the future, Four Harbors Audubon Society plans to run the Children’s Birding Adventures on a seasonal basis. If you are interested in joining us for our next program, please email us at [email protected] 

Cayla Rosenhagen is a local high school student who enjoys capturing the unique charm of the community through photojournalism. In addition to the Four Harbors Audubon Society, she serves on the board of directors for Brookhaven’s Youth Board, and is the founder and coordinator of Beach Bucket Brigade, a community outreach program dedicated to environmental awareness, engagement, and education. She is also an avid birder, hiker, and artist who is concurrently enrolled in college, pursuing a degree in teaching.

Frank Melville Memorial Park will soon be installing a wastewater biofilter system like the one above. Photo from Tom O’Dwyer

Frank Melville Memorial Park is about to add a cutting-edge process to help protect local waters.

In a recent press release, trustees of the Frank Melville Memorial Park Foundation announced that the Long Island Sound Futures Fund awarded the park a grant to install a wastewater biofilter at the Setauket park. The award administered through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation totals nearly $30,000.

The biofilter will replace a cesspool at a residence on the park’s property.

“We are extremely grateful to the Long Island Sound Futures Fund and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation,” park trustee Robert Reuter said in the press release. “Not only will the project reduce wastewater pollution to the Setauket Mill Pond but it will offer a tremendous educational example for the Setauket community and beyond about residential wastewater problems on Long Island and what can be done about it.”

In the press release, park trustees also thanked Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) and state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) for their support “in helping the project obtain the grant award.”

The wastewater treatment technology used at the park will be a nitrogen-removing biofilter that was recommended by researchers at the New York State Center for Clean Water Technology at Stony Brook University, according to the press release.

Members of the center unveiled their nitrogen-reducing biofilter at a Shirley home in 2018. The wastewater biofilters remove nitrogen and other harmful contaminants from residential waste which is first pumped into a septic tank. The effluent is then moved into a separate system that trickles down by gravity, first going through a sand layer where bacteria turns the nitrogen into nitrite and nitrate. The waste then goes through another layer of sand and wood chips designed to turn the nitrite/nitrate into nitrogen gas that will go into the atmosphere, instead of the ground or surrounding water.

In 2015 Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) called nitrogen pollution the county’s “environmental public enemy number one.” Since then, the county has worked with local scientists and engineers to craft technology that could replace Long Island’s old cesspool and septic tanks.

The plans for the park system were designed by Tom O’Dwyer, from HomePort Engineering, and the installation will be awarded to an installer by a competitive bid.

O’Dwyer and his wife, Carolyn, installed a low-nitrogen septic system on their Strong’s Neck property in the spring of 2019 after learning about the treatment process. Unlike a cesspool where bacteria and nitrogen can seep out, O’Dwyer said in a 2019 interview that the advanced process removes more nitrogen than a cesspool. Excessive nitrogen can affect the oxygen level in water where it is below the necessary levels to support marine life.

O’Dwyer recently said in an email he has been pleased with the results of his system, and in the last two years, he has designed a handful of the wastewater systems in environmentally- sensitive areas in the Three Village community.

“It’s an exciting project, and I am proud to be part of it,” he said.

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At the Sept. 12 memorial, Tom Manuel, founder of The Jazz Loft, led a six-piece jazz band followed by Barnes’ Model A car around the pond. Photo by Patricia Paladines

Those who knew and loved Hap Barnes finally had the chance to pay their respects to his family and memory at the Red Barn in Frank Melville Memorial Park the morning of Sept. 12.

Barnes died July 8 from complications of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. He was 84 years old.

A long-serving trustee of Frank Melville Memorial Foundation, Barnes for many years was building and grounds manager of the park where he oversaw all maintenance and improvement projects.

At the Sept. 12 memorial, Tom Manuel, founder of The Jazz Loft, led a six-piece jazz band followed by Barnes’ Model A car around the pond.

Family and friends had the opportunity to say a few words, and as the service ended, many witnessed in the sky three bald eagles circling the barn, which was dedicated to him.

Staff members and volunteers at Frank Melville Memorial Park often have found animals with hooks caught in wings, beaks and legs, such as the swan above. Photo from Frank Melville Memorial Park

At Frank Melville Memorial Park, remnants of fishing gear have created a nuisance that has led to wildlife injuries and even death, even though the activity isn’t allowed at the private park.

Recently, a cygnet, above, drowned after becoming entangled in fishing line. Photos from Frank Melville Memorial Park

Recently, park personnel discovered a dead cygnet in the millpond. The young swan was pulled from the water, and it was entangled in a fishing line with a large lure hooked into its neck. Anita Jo Lago, the park’s wildlife coordinator, said most likely the cygnet, after becoming entangled in the fishing line, drowned.

“It was a rainy day so I think that’s what delayed people seeing it,” Lago said. “Finally, when the rain stopped, we had a park visitor who saw it and reported it. If it was a sunny day, we would have known earlier and maybe have been able to untangle it before it drowned.”

Lago called the death of the cygnet, who was just about to learn how to fly, horrific.

“It was so avoidable just with help and courtesy from fishers,” she said. “Please don’t fish, and when you do, have some responsibility.”

Lago visits the pond every day to check on the wildlife. The incident isn’t the first time that animals were injured after fishers left gear behind. Lago said there have been snapping turtles with lines around their necks and hooks up their noses. Many of the creatures also have ingested hooks and lure, and she said two years ago a heron’s leg was amputated from a line. Geese have been found wrapped in netting, and dogs regularly step on hooks during walks around the park. One time a cygnet’s chest was sliced by a fishing line to the point where the internal organs could be seen. She added that when ingested, fishing lines move up and down and sever an animal’s intestines.

“When bobbins are laying on top of the water, the cygnets go and they eat them,” she said. “They think they’re toys or food.”

The staff has conducted cleanups to rid the pond of debris and posted signs in the park and messages on social media forbidding fishing, but Lago said the fishers keep coming into the park to fish. She said the millpond is only 2 or 3 feet deep, which isn’t as deep as the average pond, so it means fishing lines just sit on top. Line also gets tangled in tree branches that she said are difficult to reach from land or even in a boat.

“I get very anxious when I see the wildlife swimming in that area, and they’re so fast,” she said. “They think that the lure is a leaf or piece of vegetation.”

At one time, fishing was allowed in FMMP. Kerri Glynn, director of education for the park, said in 2005 Phil Brady, at the time a junior in Ward Melville High School, asked her if the park could start an educational program to teach Boy Scouts how to fish responsibly, including keeping track of and cleaning up one’s gear.

“We had a fishing club run by a wonderful young man, and it definitely kept people on the straight and narrow for several years but then we started having these issues,” Glynn said.

She added that after Brady went to college, the club lasted a while longer but then ran its course. It was then that board members decided to prohibit fishing at the park, once again, due to lure and filament accumulating, and they would try to guide people to other spots where they could fish. She said it seems as if many fishers aren’t paying attention to what they leave behind.

Staff members and volunteers at Frank Melville Memorial Park often have found animals with hooks caught in wings, beaks and legs, such as the swan above. Photo from Frank Melville Memorial Park

“We were always aware it was problematic,” the park’s education director said. “We tried to deal with it in a responsible way, and in a way that allowed people to continue to fish as long as they were responsible fishermen. That didn’t happen. They just took advantage and didn’t pay attention to the rules or anything else, so that’s why we had to shut it down.”

John Turner, a local environmentalist and former director of Brookhaven Town’s Division of Environmental Protection, said he has seen similar situations on Long Island.

He said at many fishing locations such as Stony Brook, Port Jefferson and Mount Sinai harbors as well as West Meadow Beach there are filament receptacles. While fishing isn’t allowed at FMMP and there are therefore no containers, fishers can hold on to discarded fishing lines and then dispose of them the next time they go to one of the other locations. Turner said the filament is then collected and recycled into new fishing line.

He added that, besides a fisher disposing filament properly, there are ways to decrease the odds of having fishing line and bobbins getting caught in vegetation.

“It’s being aware of the environment around you and putting yourself in a place to fish that’s not likely to cause any entanglements or snares,” he said.

Turner said when people come across an animal in distress to try to move it to a quiet and sheltered place if possible and then call a wildlife rehabilitation center. He said it’s possible to help a small bird when a line is around its beak or limb by calming down the animal, holding the beak and cutting the line.

He added that it’s frustrating that many feel they don’t need to follow the rules of private parks such as FMMP when the foundation’s board is serving the community by making the grounds available to the public.

“These regulations and rules are put together thoughtfully and with recognizing that you’re trying to balance sometimes competing activities, competing uses, and you’re trying to strike a balance,” he said. “If the foundation says that fishing is not an activity that’s appropriate then the public needs to really respect that and not just decide to do what they want to do.”

The park’s board has asked that if people see anyone fishing in the park to call 631-689-7054.