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.
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.