This Election Day, voters on the North Fork can take a huge step to improve water quality and preserve open space and farmland. Since 1999, the Community Preservation Fund has raised over $1 billion for land and historic preservation in East Hampton, Riverhead, Shelter Island, Southampton and Southold, which cover 40 percent of Suffolk County’s land.
On Nov. 8, local voters will decide whether to extend the CPF to 2050 and allow up to 20 percent of its revenues to be used for projects that improve water quality pursuant to a specific plan for each town. This could generate nearly $700 million for water quality projects over time and set a model for other parts of Long Island.
In our local hamlets, the Community Preservation Fund has helped keep working farms workable, enabling both generational and new farmers to continue the North Fork’s tradition of agriculture. It’s allowed for innovative farming, public enjoyment and, best of all, fresh, local vegetables for families across Long Island, and especially neighbors here on the East End. It has enabled the farming community — the backbone of our local economy — to stay intact, all the while maintaining aesthetically beautiful and pastoral vistas for us all to enjoy.
The CPF has also allowed some of the North Fork’s most iconic landscapes and seascapes to be preserved, spanning from Peconic Bay to Long Island Sound, from Riverhead to Orient. Key sites of note include Riverhead’s North Fork Preserve, a forested 300-acre tract dotted with freshwater wetlands that has been dubbed “Suffolk’s last great park.” It’s an important site for migratory birds and a beautiful spot for hiking and walking.
Another iconic example of the CPF at work is Sound View Dunes Park in Peconic. This 57-acre duneland and forested habitat offers visitors incredible vistas of Long Island Sound, ending at a prime beachfront spot. The calls of bullfrogs, the sound of waves and wind whispering in the pines are part of what makes this locale a true North Fork gem.
Then there’s Pipes Cove, an impressive wetland complex where protected parcels now span from Long Island Sound to Peconic Bay. Pipes Cove affords our inland properties protection from sea level rise and storm surges, while providing critical habitat for fish and shellfish. It’s also a spot where local oysters are grown, providing added economic value to this area.
Whether it’s keeping the North Fork’s rural look and feel, allowing us a greater connection to the land or just offering a relaxing spot to watch the sunset, the Community Preservation Fund has made it possible.
As development pressure moves ever eastward, we can all see what is happening to our rural landscape and precious water, Now, let’s all take a stand to extend the Community Preservation Fund and keep this place from becoming just anyplace. I urge everyone who lives here to vote yes on Proposal 1 (on the back of the ballot) for the Community Preservation Fund this Election Day.
Bob DeLuca is president of Group for the East End, an environmental organization.