Column: A very good reason to move the earth

12/08/2013 8:00 AM |

BAYMEN’S ASSOCIATION COURTESY PHOTO | Members of the Southold Town Baymen’s Association broadcasting seedlings in October.

It was a self-appointed environmentalist’s worse nightmare. There, in the distance, looming over the shores of Hallocks Bay in Orient, was massive earth moving equipment doing what it does best: moving the earth.

From my vantage point about a mile away at the tip of Peter’s Neck, it looked like a steam shovel and a bulldozer were hard at work. And what sort of weasel deal might they be up to, I wondered, flashing back to the decades-old fight to preserve and protect the northern and western perimeters of Hallocks via getting the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to designate the area as a tidal wetlands. The DEC, for some inexplicable reason, identifies the area in question as “Long Beach Bay,” although official maps show it’s the land surrounding Hallocks Bay they’ve protected from development.

Clearly, they (the movers of the earth) were in violation of the law. Or were they?

To find out for sure, I opted to drop by the Southold Town Trustees office in what we old-timers remember as the old Southold Savings Bank headquarters at Youngs Avenue and Main Street in Southold. It was the day before Thanksgiving, and because the office would be closing early due to the holiday, I had lowered expectations of getting any quick answers to my questions.

But that was before I encountered clerk/typist Amanda Nunemaker, who appeared to be covering the office by herself just before the 11:30 a.m. closing time.

Apparently, my visions of a weasel deal in the making were totally unfounded. As Ms. Nunemaker was helpfully able to demonstrate with a few quick key strokes on her office computer, the work in progress at Eagle Neck did not (repeat: not) involve the construction of another McMansion or a multi-story parking garage for Cross Sound Ferry. Rather, it involved the Trustees-approved installation of flood gates and repairs to earthen dykes damaged last year in Hurricane Sandy. Historically, those dykes have prevented the waters of Hallocks Bay from flooding the fertile land farmed over the decades by, among others, members of the Demarest, Latham and Terry families, and, more recently, members of the Mezynieski family.

So, fear not, fellow self-appointed defenders of the environment. As it turns out, all is well on the banks of our beloved Hallocks Bay.

No, that was not a real werewolf recently winding its way through the corn maze behind Schmitt’s farm stand on Main Road in Laurel. It was just the guy who plays the werewolf in the hugely popular “X-Men” and “Wolverine” movies, not to mention the character Jean Valjean in the equally hugely popular “Les Misérables.”

Yes, Australia-born international film superstar Hugh Jackman was recently seen checking out the corn maze at Schmitt’s. I am not at liberty to say what he was doing in town — other than checking out the corn, of course — but I am told he caused quite a stir when he finally exited the maze only to be confronted by a dozen smartphone photographers and would-be autograph hounds. Next time, Mr. Jackman might want to consider first stopping by the makeup department for a better disguise.