Fuchs Pond Preserve

From the Fuchs Pond Preserve Steward
 William O'Brien


Crab Meadow and Fuchs Pond - Recent Events

The purpose of the article is to inform you as much as possible, about most of  the events  leading up to the adoption of the Crab Meadow Watershed Resolution passed last April 13, 2010 by the Huntington Town Board  and the subsequent activities designed to assess and protect the entire  Crab Meadow Watershed including Fuchs Pond.

For many of us, who drive down Waterside Avenue to go to Crab Meadow Beach, just  before the bend in the road as one approaches the Golf Course signs, one might see a glimpse of water and what appears to be many dead trees poking their grey spires into the sky. Those of us who have lived in Northport and  go down on Waterside,  know this area as Fuchs Pond,  a kind of hidden oasis and tiny Pond providing nature lovers with small trails where folks have hiked,  walked their dogs,  watched birds (or recently deer) or just photographed a tiny bit of nature over the years.  Back in the 70's, I would take my own small boys with our Labrador for a nature walk and we would crawl on  our stomachs through the giant ferns up to the Pond's edge...peering into the crystal clear water to watch big brook trout finning over gravel bottoms. A wondrous sight! More conversations with folks of all ages seem to reveal how the Pond held a special place in their memories and even now, as they grew up in Northport…swinging out over the pond on that 30 ft rope (still there) to drop into its waters or spring time lovers walking among the newly scented blooms, or watching the wide variety of birds whether they be ospreys or warblers...lots of memories.  Do you have any of these cherished memories?

A Little History - Back to 1650  and the Cranberry Bogs

Well the fact is this spot has been a historic jewel over the years…many, many years. The Northport Historical Society records activity on the Pond going back to when the area was first settled in the 1650's. Post revolutionary settlements by farmers occupied most of the Waterside Avenue area. Additional housing followed in the 1800's and in 1836 a farm owned by J. Lewis (205 Waterside - still standing) was notable for starting cranberry bogs. (The early bogs were in operation thru the 1930s.)  Walter Scherer purchased the land in 1911 to develop lily ponds (Scherer's business still flourishes). In 1920 Lewis died and  Rudolph Reimer purchased the bog and decided to create a freshwater lake  as a  possible trout pond (current site of Fuchs Pond). The lake project failed because the bog swallowed up everything which tried to excavate it. At one point, a team of horses used to cut marsh grass sank and almost perished. Later the property was purchased by Sophie and Betram Fuchs. However early  building maps don't reveal the Pond until 1924. So what has been done to save this historic jewel?

A $3,874,000  Fuchs Pond Nature Preserve  Purchase in 2003…A flooded pond and a  pipe repair 7 years later!

Now let's skip ahead a bit. In 2003, Suffolk County  Legislator Jon Cooper introduced legislation  to preserve the Fuchs property as a key component of the Crab Meadow Watershed in order to maintain the local environment.  Kudos Legislator Cooper!   Originally,  acquisition of the Fuchs property was included in a previous omnibus bill for the County's Greenways Open Space Program. The 20.7 acres of the Fuchs property had also been a  Huntington Town preservation goal for over 30 years. As proposed,  the acquisition of this site also enabled the creation of a nature center which would be surrounded by 680 acres of protected  public open space. The freshwater system at the pond drains into and is immediately contiguous to the Town of Huntington's Jerome Ambro Memorial Wetlands Preserve, a tributary flowing into the Long Island Sound. The purchase proposal finally became a reality  when Huntington Town expended $1,000,000 from the Environmental Open Space and Park (EOSPA) Fund. The County added $2,874,000 to complete the purchase. The Town and County closed on the property on August 13, 2003. The official name was changed to the Fuchs Pond Nature Preserve.

Five years later, on August 25, 2008, Suffolk County completed a Fuchs Pond Restoration Site Plan and Location Map by Savil & Murray Consulting Engineers, which described a  repair to be done by replacing the Pond weir and collapsed outflow pipe. Well according to a biologist I spoke with, it takes up to 10 years to kill hardwoods by flooding.  There had to have been  knowledge of the broken pipe prior to the plan design.  By law, the County  has jurisdiction over the water in both the Pond and Crab Meadow. Despite my inquiries, I could not obtain information as to when the flooding was identified, when the broken pipe was discovered, and who ordered its repair. Needless to say it wasn't finally repaired until this past December 2010…seven years after the purchase of the property!  ( That's when many of you  saw all that construction machinery at the Pond  road entrance.  By the  way, engineers did a great job and finished in two weeks!) If you are interested, a photo documentation of the repair is available by e-mailing a request to wsobrien@suffolk.lib.ny.us or see Virginia Mallon's photos on www.crabmeadow.blogspot.com. In any case, the damage has been  repaired.  We will see in the future  if the Pond can be restored.

A little earlier in 2009,  as part of the initial proposal, the Town Board entered into a license agreement with the Cornell Cooperative Extension to provide the  Pond's first specialized environmental on-site  education program  starting in the summer under Cornell's Kristin Colvito,  educator in charge,  and continued into 2010.  A very popular program as you might know if you have kids participating in it.

The thing is, did you know about any of these events?

Well here's what I did when I found out about Fuchs Pond “with a little  help from my friends”...

In May of 2009, I was heartbroken to see the  Fuchs Pond's flooding and  tree  devastation and was compelled to bring it to the attention of both the County and the Town officials.  Consequently I enlisted the support of both local conservation and environmental groups and wrote a proposal.  "The Fuchs Pond Reclamation Project" presented on May 20, 2009 at Town Hall at the offices of Councilmen Mark Cuthbertson and Stuart Besen. I pointed out that three of the prime supporters of the proposal  were the  L.I Chapter of Trout Unlimited,  Stella Miller, President of the Huntington Oyster Bay Audubon Society and Kristin Colavito Cornell's lead educator at the Fuchs Summer Education Project.  Councilman Besen recommended  a follow-up meeting with these supporters in the summer to further explore its recommendations.  The  meeting  finally took place February 22, 2010 at Huntington Town Hall.  At my invitation, fourteen Town and Environmental representatives attended  to hear my proposal to reclaim Fuch's Pond from the flooding and tree destruction and to consider their recommendations.

 Environmental  Reps:

  • Bill O'Brien, Meeting Chair / Presentor
  • Stella Miller, President Huntington / Oyster Bay Audubon Society
  • John Fischer, L.I. Trout Unlimited
  • Kristin Colivito,Lead Educator, Cornell Co-op  Summer Program
  • Alice Delbosco, EUSPA Committee
  • Brent Bonkamp,Youth Rep. Audubon Society
  • John Turner, Huntington / Oysterbay Audubon Society
  • Richard Meyer, Huntington  Town Conservation Board

County Reps:      

  • Lora Gellerstein, Suffolk County Legislative Office representing Jon Cooper
  • Alex McKay, Suffolk County Parks Trustee

Town Reps:   

  • Mark Cuthbertson, Huntington Town Councilman
  • Margo Myles, AICP, Coordinator of Open Space Conservation
  • Lynn Ruvulo, Town Council Amin. Asst.
  • Harry Acker, Director of Maritime Services

Their participation, support and recommendations  culminated in their request for Councilman Mark Cuthbertson to offer a resolution  at the next  Huntington Town Board  meeting  to re-assess and protect all 680 acres of the Crab Meadow Watershed including Fuchs Pond. The resolution presented by Councilman Cuthberston and adopted by the  Huntington Town Board on April 13, 2010  mandated  the appointment of the above Crab Meadow Watershed Advisory Committee to accomplish the task.

The Crab Meadow Advisory Committee

Of the 14 present  at the  Feb, 22, 2010 meeting 12 were appointed  by Councilman Mark Cuthbertson to the resolution's Crab Meadow Watershed Advisory Committee (CAC) along with  Daviid Tonjes, of the Huntington Conservation Board and home owners association representatives such as Waterside Park, SSBPOA and Makamah Beach Association. Harry Acker, Director of Huntington's Marine Services, was  appointed Committee Chair but  he has since retired and the Committee awaits a new Chair.  Additional  concerned community members such as local photographer Virginia Mallon have joined the effort. The Committee  last met December 9, 2010 and will be a year old this coming April 2011. Information on  scheduled meeting dates might  be obtained at  Huntington Town Hall.

The Committee's Progress

Meanwhile, there has been some progress. This past December 2010, as previously mentioned,  the County replaced the old weir and broken outflow pipe from Fuchs Pond. The Pond level was finally lowered (almost immediately) by 14 inches, completing the first objective of the Fuchs Pond Reclamation Project Proposal and strongly recommended at the February 22, 2010 Huntington Town Hall meeting by John Fischer of Trout Unlimited (TU) to address the Pond flooding. In addition,  through the hard work of Margo Myles, the Town's Coordinator of Open Space and a CAC member, a much needed grant for $4,000.00 was secured from Iroquois Gas Transmission System which will be used toward a hydrology study, in conjunction with the  purchase  of data loggers for a stream study to be done by Trout Unlimited under Mr. Fischer and additional proposed PR and  educational activities. This was a prime recommendation  at the February 22, 2010 meeting from all CAC participants  and the Town,  which had to be done on the watershed to assess damage done to fresh water flows over the years. Further  grant raising efforts by Margo Myles are  also being pursued and she is to be congratulated for  her  professional accomplishments.

Other than the  low profile Town website stories and a December 2010 Northport Observer article reporting the outflow repair, many folks never new what was happening  at Fuchs Pond. This article  is an attempt to fill you in  on the details so to speak and invite your participation, response and support  needed to maintain this vital Watershed.

   (photo by Ciaran  Clark)

Feel free to join us in our attempts to protect this vital natural site and  create a positive approach in environmental conservation for both Crab Meadow, Fuchs Pond and the entire Watershed. 

Bill O'Brien,
Fuchs Pond Nature Preserve Park Steward
March 16, 2011

William O'Brien
tel: 631 261 3021

Join Crab Meadow News for the story behind the story at Fuchs Pond Preserve, and the ongoing work and mission of dedicated folks determined to restore the Pond back to it's natural state.