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For Release: Friday, April 21, 2017

DEC Acquires Landmark Setauket Property for Conservation

Purchase Protects Historic Landscape and Long Island Sound Water Quality

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has acquired 17 acres of woodland in the historic maritime hamlet of Setauket. The property will be added to Patriots Hollow State Forest, DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos announced today.

"The use of Environmental Protection Funds to purchase this parcel shows Governor Cuomo's continued commitment to protecting our waterfront resources. New York State is fortunate to acquire a property so central to Setauket's environment and history," Commissioner Seggos said. "American patriots working for General Washington during the Revolutionary War likely walked some of these lands as they helped chart the country's future. Adding acreage to Patriots Hollow State Forest helps preserve the natural history of a region that was so central to the creation of America. I want to recognize everyone who played a role in today's acquisitions, especially the Fitzsimmons family."

The property, the former Fitzsimmons Farm, is located in the Old Setauket Historic District within the watershed of the Long Island Sound. Its protection is cited in the 2016 Open Space Conservation Plan, released by Governor Andrew Cuomo in December, as a priority acquisition for protection of the Long Island Sound Watershed. The $3,400,000 purchase was paid for with funds from the state's Environmental Protection Fund (EPF).

The purchase adds 17 acres to Patriots Hollow State Forest and will be managed for watershed protection, forest health, and passive recreation in accordance with a Unit Management Plan that will be developed in the near future with community input.

Patriots Hollow was established as a State Forest in 2010 with DEC's purchase of 30 acres from the Diocese of Rockville Center for $5,450,000. That acquisition was paid for with funds from the Northville oil spill settlement and a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency through the Long Island Sound Study Stewardship Initiative.

The Fitzsimmons family first settled on North Country Road in 1939 and relatives remain there in the historic family home today.

The Patriots Hollow addition was assembled by the Fitzsimmons family piecemeal beginning in the early 1950s. The parcels had been used for potato farming and the Fitzsimmons family continued to rent the property out as farm land until farming was discontinued. The parcel has remained open land since the 1950s and the former farm fields have reverted to young successional forest consisting of native pioneer species such as red cedar, gray birch, and poplar and non-native species such as black locust and Norway maple.

The Fitzsimmons property is a crucial link in a string of green, recreational, educational and historic spaces that stretches from the New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) Greenway Trail on the south side of Route 25A to Frank Melville Memorial Park on the Mill Pond and Long Island Sound. Linking the two are Detmer Farm, town of Brookhaven parkland, Patriots Hollow State Forest, and Patriot's Rock. Adjacent are Gelinas Junior High School and Setauket Elementary School. Historic structures include the Jayne Tavern, Setauket Neighborhood House, Emma S. Clark Memorial Library, Caroline Church, and Setauket Presbyterian Church.

The fate of the Fitzsimmons property on North Country Road has long concerned the Three Village community because of its potential for residential development, which would have increased runoff entering the watershed and Long Island Sound.
"Today is a great day for our community!" Said State Assemblyman Steve Englebright. "The acquisition of this last large wooded parcel within the Old Setauket Historic District will preserve in perpetuity the rural character of the Main St-North Country Road corridor, our area's first road. Left in its natural state, this forested landscape will help to protect the water quality of Conscience Bay and the greater Port Jefferson Harbor Complex as well as our groundwater. Thank you to the people of the DEC for working to prioritize protection of this important woodland and keep our community green and healthy."

"The Fitzsimmons family's donation of land represents, not only a tremendous generosity on their behalf, but a generosity to the community at large and for future generations," Brookhaven Town Supervisor Edward Romaine.

"The 17-acre addition to Patriots Hollow State Forest ensures the pristine beauty that has been passed down from this preserve's name sakes to successive generations will continue in perpetuity," said Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn who represents the area that includes Patriots Hollow State Forest. "On behalf of residents within the Three Villages, I thank New York State for continuing its commitment to preserving open space, improving the area's water quality and fostering healthier communities with respect to both our environment and local recreational opportunities."

"As the Environmental Protection liaison to the Brookhaven Town Board, I am excited to celebrate Earth Day by drawing attention to the natural resources in our community," said Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie M. Cartright. "There are many things we can do as individuals and together in our communities to better care for our natural resources and to preserve and repair the beaches, waterways, wetlands, and open space in the First Council District. I encourage you to get involved with groups in your neighborhood, environmental programs, and sign up to participate in the Great Brookhaven Clean Up, both in celebration of Earth Day and all year long."

"The preservation of this beautiful woodland marks the successful completion of a group of three open space initiatives which include both DEC's acquisition of Patriots Hollow State Forest, utilizing Natural Resources Damages funding, and the preservation of Detmer Farm under Suffolk County's Farmland Preservation Program," said Peter A. Scully, Deputy County Executive. "The Fitzsimmons parcel is the final piece in a puzzle that the community and its elected officials have been working on for nearly two decades. Congratulations to all involved, and heartfelt thanks to the Fitzsimmons family for their willingness to see this land preserved."

"The Three Village Community Trust is delighted that this 17-acre property adjoining Patriots Hollow has been acquired," said Three Village Community Trust President Cynthia R. Barnes. "We are very grateful to all who have made this happen. The Trust for years has been urging its acquisition -- important as the last large unprotected parcel in the Conscience Bay Watershed and the Old Setauket Historic District. It is very meaningful that it extends Patriots Hollow State Forest from Setauket's 25A "Main Street" to the Main Street of the original seventeenth century settlement."

"One of the things that makes living in Setauket so delightful and exceptional is the mix of residential and preserved space," said Setauket based nature author Carl Safina. "It's important not only for the physical beauty of the area but also for the birds and other wildlife that make life here so interesting. We (he and his wife) are really pleased and gratified that this natural beauty we enjoy so much will be a permanent feature of our neighborhood."

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