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The Work We Do: Kevin Kelly, Hallock State Park Preserve

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I’m Kevin Kelly. I’m on the staff of Hallock State Park Preserve here in Jamesport, NY. My role is really three parts. The first is to develop the park preserve itself. It is New York’s newest state park. The second is to promote public usage of the park and the third is to do outreach programs, which we do mostly here in the visitor’s center, but also in the preserve itself.

Most of my life I worked as a university administrator at Stony Brook University and I retired about two years ago and moved to Southold, which was where I had a summer house for many years. I applied to the Parks Department because I always enjoyed the parks, not only in New York State, but the county and federal parks that are out here on Long Island. So, I applied for a seasonal position and as it happened there was a permanent position, year-round position available here — opening the new state park preserve, which was a really exciting opportunity — but it required being full-time. I like to say I’m retired, but I work full time.

The mission is different from most state parks. It’s to protect a piece of land that’s considered environmentally valuable and to make that land suitable for local and native plants and animals. And then also, since we are part of New York State’s Parks system, we want to encourage people to come and see that. That’s kind of a dually challenging role because, on the one hand, it’s activities of people that we’re trying to protect the land from and on the other hand, we’re trying to get people to come and to see that.

We do a good bit of outreach where we encourage people to learn from mistakes that have been made here over the years and that they can improve on. For example, a lot of native habitat here over the years, was disturbed since colonial times when farming occurred through the time when it was an illegal sand mining operation and then it was bought by the Long Island Lighting Company as the site of a potential future nuclear power plant. During that time there was a lot of recreational ATV usage, motorbikes and so forth. So, a lot of damage was done to the land. It is coming back now and there’s a good opportunity to see that. 

But one of the other serious problems we have is that invasive species of plants start to colonize when the habitat is destroyed. What we’re trying to do is to restore the land to a more natural condition so that it will support a more diverse array of native animals and plants.

It’s really something you have to see for yourself and our park preserve has the ability to let people see things that they would not otherwise see. 

“The Work We Do” is a Suffolk Times multimedia project profiling workers on the North Fork made possible by Peconic Landing.