Peconic Land Trust planning to restore former Exxon Mobil property

A view of the property from the beach. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder, file)
A view of the property from the beach. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder, file)

Peconic Land Trust is in the process of starting a unique cleanup and preservation project in Greenport Village.

The job involves restoring a former fuel storage property to its natural state, protecting and building on habitats and providing the public with more access to the waterfront.

The 2.6-acre property has lowland vegetation along the coast and undeveloped beachfront, which environmentalists have identified as important habitats for sea grass and several species of birds and animals.

The nonprofit preservation group received the land at the southeastern corner of Fourth and Clark streets as a donation from Exxon Mobil, Inc. in December 2012.

Later this month and into May, the trust will host interactive community meetings at the site. Planners will also appear before the Village Board to get feedback about its preservation proposal.

“This project is an opportunity to reclaim what was there for a very long time,” said the nonprofit’s vice president, Timothy Caufield. “It was a beautiful property that was very much a maritime, beach habitat, and over time it was commercially developed. It is very rare to get a chance to reverse that damage.”

Restoring the property will include removing a 720-foot chain link fence on the north and west sides of the land and replacing it with a new, 430-foot post and rail fence, the proposal states. Invasive plant species and planting maritime grasses and native shrubs will be removed.

The eastern side of the property will be left open for passive recreation. The project also calls for the construction of a wooden informational kiosk and the creation of trails that will offer public access to the water, according to the plan.

The site has suffered considerable environmental damage due to prior land use. The lot is a former bulk fuel storage terminal dating to the 1920s. The site on the western shore of Greenport Harbor closed in the mid-1980s and all structures were demolished in the 1990s, according to a previous Suffolk Times article.

Exxon Mobil completed an environmental remediation project at the site in 2003, which included “excavation and removal of petroleum-impacted soils and subsequent backfilling with clean soil.”

The state Department of Environmental Conservation began an environmental investigation of the property in 1990, when the oil company removed an underground tank. The DEC’s environmental investigation ultimately determined that any traces of remaining oil products would break down naturally.

Trust officials said Exxon Mobil received a “no further action” letter from the DEC in 2004 stating that the required remediation activities were completed “to applicable state standards.”

In June 2012, the Village Board agreed to participate in Exxon Mobil’s conservation easement application, which prevents future development on the land. The village’s role in the deal will be to make sure land restrictions are enforced. The board then partnered with Southold Town in handling the conservation easement application with the Village of Greenport, Mr. Caufield said.

Representatives from Peconic Land Trust are expected to present the proposal in May during a Village Board meeting.

“This is just the beginning of the process,” Mr. Caufield said. “This proposal is just a map to get the dialogue going. We want to give the public, the town and the village plenty of opportunity to share their thoughts.”

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