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The Mast-Head: While the Getting’s Good

Wed, 02/28/2024 - 17:16

Before the ticks emerge from their winter hiding places, let me suggest that you get into the woods while the getting is good. The South Fork has more trails than you could shake a stick at, and now is the time to go.

Long Island’s wilder places today are no accident. Ongoing decades of effort have been responsible for saving them from development. Barcelona Neck is a good example of what it took in the days before the Peconic Bay Community Preservation Fund, a.k.a. the C.P.F. In the before times, the money for land buys came from property taxes and the occasional donor via the Peconic Land Trust or Nature Conservancy, bless their hearts.

Barcelona Neck juts into Northwest Harbor and can be reached from Route 114 in East Hampton. The wooded peninsula once slated for 140 houses is now the Linda A. Gronlund Memorial State Forest; its inner salt marshes on Northwest Creek are county-owned. Ms. Gronlund, who loved being in the woods, lived in Sag Harbor as a child and died on Sept. 11, 2001, aboard United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed in rural Pennsylvania.

During the Covid-19 shutdown, Barcelona Neck crawled with as many people as ticks. Maybe not, but it seemed like that to me, being used to a quieter, less visited place. But many other preserves, particularly ones owned by Suffolk County, stayed more or less the same as they always had been. On a recent four-hour exploration in Montauk, a friend and I did not encounter another person.

We sometimes might take this kind of place for granted, but we should not — each square foot of land saved represents a triumph that we on eastern Long Island can be proud of.

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