Almost a century ago, a 100-acre property along Hubbard Avenue in Aquebogue was home to the Broad Cove duck farm on Flanders Bay. When that business was no longer profitable, the property was destined to become a condo complex. But before the bulldozers could obliterate this environmentally sensitive area, the Peconic Land Trust stepped in to purchase it. Now, this pristine parcel is being permanently protected as a nature preserve.
It’s not yet open to the public, but recently a Times Review reporter and a group of 25 hikers were treated to a sneak preview. Kathy Kennedy, senior manager of outreach at the Land Trust for 24 years, gathered the hikers together after crossing over the railroad tracks and entering the preserve. Cheers and applause followed her opening statement: “We have preserved 100 acres.”
Clear blue skies overhead and an autumn blanket of leaves and pine cones were underfoot for the first official hike through the waterfront preserve.
Led by naturalist John Turner, the group trekked, taking in the auburn-hued brown, yellow and faded green leaves of the oaks and slippery elms in this unmanicured parcel.
“It’s a beautiful open space and maintaining it for the public’s physical and mental health can’t be overstated,” he said.
The walk was part hike and part birding excursion. A turkey vulture sat high on a limb, watching. Two red-tailed hawks glided above. The group heard several woodpeckers and also caught a glimpse of a young deer. Suddenly, several in the group were crouching down to look at an eastern box turtle in the road. Several hikers rushed back with cell phones to get a shot of the shy reptile as he gradually nudged himself under the leaves.
Frequent hikers John and Pat Sperandeo of Hampton Bays were savoring being out in the fresh air. “I love it!” said Pat. John echoed, “Going on a guided hike is a great way to familiarize yourself the next time you come back on your own.”
“This was the first group to have access to the property. Over the next year or two, we will be working on our management plan for the site,” Ms. Kennedy said. “That includes creating parking near Overlook Drive as well as trails for passive recreational use by the public.”
The plot was spared from development with funds from six lines of credit provided by Trust supporters, totaling $11.5 million and $500,000 for carrying costs.
“We’re thankful to the owner for working with us to conserve this incredible property,” said John V.H. Halsey, president of Peconic Land Trust. “We also thank our supporters for stepping up to loan the Trust the funds necessary to complete the acquisition quickly. By acting when we did, we were able to secure the conservation that has eluded this property for so long.”
Purchased in 2021 and located in the Peconic Bay Estuary, the 100-acre site encompasses 25 acres of tidal wetlands and 8,000 feet of shoreline on Terry Creek and Broad Cove in Flanders Bay. Home to many species here are the wetlands, uplands, fields and forest. Snowy egrets might be seen near the bay, while diamondback terrapins search the mud and marshes for a winter home.
In the 1930s, Broad Cove Farm was one of more than 90 duck farms on Long Island. Duck farming was at its peak in the 1950s.
“Our family is so delighted that the Peconic Land Trust has saved this very special piece of waterfront property from development,” said Susan Holden, current Orient resident speaking on behalf of the family who owned the farm for generations.
Rick and Nancy Balla drove out from Rockville Centre to be a part of the inaugural hike. “It’s rare to be in these surroundings on Long Island. There are few places like this,” Mr. Balla said.
“I need this so much in my life,” his wife added. “The visual, the sound and the scent are so important.”