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Montauk Fairy Village Is No More

Thu, 05/09/2024 - 11:05

Unaware it would be ‘polarizing,’ its creator seeks to rebuild elsewhere

The “fairy gnome village” that Matt Thompson created at the Culloden Point Nature Preserve, in better times. After some criticism, he has since removed what remained of it.
Matt Thompson

The man who created a fairy village in a Montauk nature preserve has removed the plastic figurines and tiny structures after a neighbor complained that the whimsical installation was junking up the preserve.

“I didn’t know it would be such a polarizing thing,” said Matt Thompson, 39, who lives in East Hampton but grew up in Montauk and said he “always walked those trails as a young kid.”

“I’d always see that patch of moss and say, ‘That’s the fairy and gnome spot.’ Finally, this past summer I pulled the trigger and built something that matched my imagination,” said Mr. Thompson, who came forward last week to claim responsibility for the village, which had become a point of contention for frequent users of the Culloden Point Nature Preserve.

“I apologized to the people who were upset about it,” Mr. Thompson said by phone this week. “I can understand their arguments. I’ve been studying pagan religions and folklore for years. I’m not just a guy putting fairy houses on moss patches for no reason. I’m pretty into this subject.”

“My goal was to turn it into a geocache location; that was one of my main inspirations for building the space,” he said.

A geocache is a collection of goodies that can be hidden anywhere. Geocachers download an app, find nearby geocaches, visit them, sign logbooks, and either take what’s in the cache, trade, or add to the cache.

Mr. Thompson said he works in child care and takes children on fishing adventures and historical hikes. The fairy village became a destination for some of his hikes.

“Going forward I would like to get the town’s approval,” he said. He has also started a petition on change.org to try and garner community support for the miniature housing development.

“I built the place myself thinking not many people would find it, because it’s not a very well-known trail,” he said. He added a log book to the spot so visitors could sign in. Later, when the tiny village was removed or destroyed by people who didn’t appreciate its presence, he added a trail camera to discourage vandalism.

“It was an old trail cam that never worked, and I only put it there to deter human vandalism, which I took to be coming from teenage boys. That was my goal. When I read comments that the trail cam made people anxious about being spied on, that was never the purpose of it.”

Maura Donahue, who lives near the preserve, didn’t like the collection of what she called, “plastic crap from China,” and placed signs at the village calling for its removal. The friction between her and Mr. Thompson, who was previously anonymous, has cooled substantially since the first article about the fairy gnome village appeared in The Star two weeks ago. The two connected through Instagram.

“I apologized to Ms. Donahue, and she gave me an apology as well,” Mr. Thompson said. “It was a mutual thing. She did express if I were to move forward with the town, that she is a sculptor, and she would sculpt something for the village. There’s another lady that reached out and said she did wreck it a bit. She apologized too,” said Mr. Thompson.

“I did say I would make him a decent fairy house if he found a place to do it, but I should have told him just don’t do it in a nature preserve,” said Ms. Donahue. “Put it in front of a library, or a playground. I wasn’t fond of that thing. I don’t care if Picasso came back from the dead, or if it was LongHouse-worthy, it just doesn’t belong in a nature preserve and I’m sticking by that.”

Other fairy villages are turning up. Eden Benard, who manages Grindstone Donuts and Coffee in Sag Harbor, took photos of a miniature set of shelves, full of fingernail-size dishes, attended by a tiny porcelain rabbit sitting on a chair in a hollowed-out tree trunk at Trout Pond Preserve in Noyac. Mr. Thompson knows the area.

“I see a few doors on trees there,” he said. “Other people are doing this too. Maybe I made a bit of a mistake, but I’m learning from it. I’m open to other spots too. I was speaking with a few people and the East Hampton duck pond [the Nature Trail] may be the best place to do it.”

“If it were charming, looked like it belonged, and not on the main drag, I think it would be an enhancement, and conjure up fairyland,” said Dianne Benson, chairwoman of the Ladies Village Improvement Society’s Nature Trail committee. “After all, the preserve is 24 acres. Maybe near the old Japanese garden, where the kids congregate. It has a mood; it could fit into some nook and cranny there.”

 

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