Of the thirteen coastal plain ponds that make the Long Pond Greenbelt such a unique natural area, seventeen-acre Crooked Pond is the crème de la crème, acknowledged as the best occurrence of a coastal plain pond in the Greenbelt and possibly in all of New York State. Its water quality tops the charts of all the Greenbelt ponds. And with seventy-five percent of its shoreline undeveloped, its pond edge has suffered minimal habitat loss or disturbance.
Its unusual amoeba-like, or “crooked,” shape results from a peninsula that juts from the eastern shore forcing the pond to zigzag around it. The complicated, jagged shape creates a slew of micro-habitats that foster remarkable ecological diversity. At the tip of the peninsula sits a small island that extends and complicates its bisecting effect.
That so much property surrounding Crooked Pond remains unspoiled is due largely to the Nature Conservancy (TNC). Back in the 1980s, the TNC, the Town of Southampton, and Suffolk County agreed to harmonize their efforts in preserving Greenbelt land, with the town focusing on the northern section, the county on the southern, and the TNC on the middle parcels. The overarching goal was to create one contiguous reserve from Sagaponack to Sag Harbor. TNC preserved close to 60 acres of Crooked Pond property and the Town of Southampton also owns land there, leaving only three waterfront lots that have buildings. Every other inch of the shoreline has been saved from development.
The story of the TNC purchases is partly told by two of the three commemorative benches located at Crooked Pond. For those of you who missed the FLPG Capote Black and White Hike honoring the role author Truman Capote and his partner, Jack Dunphy, played in saving Crooked Pond, you should know that Mr. Dunphy, who had inherited Capote’s Sagaponack home, stipulated that upon his death the estate should be sold and the proceeds donated to a local charity. That charity was the Nature Conservancy, who used that money to preserve close to twenty acres bordering Crooked Pond.
Years later, the ashes of both were spread at the site of a memorial stone and bench that can be visited off Widow Gavitts Trail.
Carmen’s Bench, at the southwest of the pond, commemorates Carmen Herrera, the wife of photographer Hans Namuth, who made a contribution to the Nature Conservancy in memory of his wife.
The TNC directed that donation to the purchase of the property upon which it sits. Built by local craftsman Hans Hokanson, the bench carries the simple inscription “Carmen’s bench.” The picture accompanying this article shows Carmen’s bench and the view of Crooked Pond seen from it.
The third bench, at the northern end of the pond between Crooked Pond and Deer Drink, was donated by the Southampton Trails Preservation Society in honor of Ted Griffin, a founder and first vice-president of STPS. Working with STPS and the Town of Southampton, Ted was instrumental in creating the Trail Code Amendment and the initial drafts of the Long Pond Greenbelt Management Plan.
Hiking to Crooked Pond is a snap. Virtually surrounded by trails, the pond can be accessed from the east on Sprig Tree Path, off Widow Gavitts Road, or by using Widow Gavitts Trail, a spur of the road. (It gets a little confusing to describe, what you need is a trail map! To order done, click here.)
From the west, use the driveway entrance to the Long Pond Greenbelt Nature Center at 1061 Bridgehampton/Sag Harbor Turnpike, just north of the Scuttlehole intersection. A short way up the drive you’ll come to a Nature Conservancy sign and a parking spot on the right. Only a few short steps down the path and Crooked Pond comes into view – a lovely sight. If you’re traveling by car, you can catch spirit-lifting glimpses of Crooked Pond by taking Widow Gavitts Road or Toppings Path off Sagg Road. Either takes you alongside the pond.
However, you visit and enjoy Crooked Pond, keep in mind what a genuine treasure it is and what persistent and commendable efforts led to its preservation for now and forever.
-Sandra Ferguson, FLPG VP