Long Pond Greenbelt Nature Center

How the Nature Center Came Into Being

(Val Schaffner talks about designing & constructing the building that eventually became the LPGNC)

The building that is now the Long Pond Greenbelt Nature Center owes its existence to a plot between the Nature Conservancy and me that culminated on Halloween day, 1985, when I bought four lots west of Crooked Pond from a speculator who told me at the closing, “You’ve got yourself a steal!” He and his partner had planned to team up with a third man who owned two adjacent lots along with the only access road to the pond from the Bridgehampton/Sag Harbor Turnpike. A bulldozer was already at Sprig Tree Path when Russ Hoeflich, director of the local Nature Conservancy chapter (and today TNC’s Oregon director), bought the driver an early lunch. While the work paused, Russ phoned the owner and negotiated what became one of the first purchases in the nascent Long Pond Greenbelt. This left the other pair of speculators with no access to their property and no choice but to sell it to me at a bargain price. Finally, as agreed, I gave the Conservancy the part that fronted Crooked Pond in exchange for access to a less sensitive area upland from the railroad bed, where I built a house.

With a lot of help from my friends. After 15 years as a writer and editor, I wanted to try something different, and in the summer of 1986 I spent two intense weeks at a design-build school in Vermont called Yestermorrow. I proceeded to build a garden shed for practice and to apprentice with a carpenter I knew, Ed Morgan. Meanwhile, I was enthusiastically drawing floor plans and elevations in the way I’d learned at Yestermorrow and mailing them there to be critiqued and professionally redrawn by the school’s director, John Connell. The other players in what became my team included Kurt von der Heyden, a sculptor who was adept at Japanese wood joinery, and the Sag Harbor contractor Peter Whelan, whom I called my faculty advisor.
Construction started in the summer of 1987. At first, it was just Kurt and I at a workbench in the woods, carving posts, and beams with his exquisite Japanese chisels that he sharpened with black stones from a Japanese riverbed. Then the more rough-hewn carpenters of Peter’s crew arrived to lay floors and frame walls. There were several near-accidents and one near-fistfight, but the work went on. Kurt accepted an offer from a young lady to help sail her boat to Turkey, but his beautiful posts and beams were completed and I wished him good speed. Sometimes Peter needed his crew for another job, and I puttered about the site alone. By fall, however, the house was topped out and sheathed. The Sag Harbor craftsman Anton Hagen shingled the roof and built cabinets. I varnished floors and painted walls. By July of 1988 it was all done–except for the Korean-style wing on the east side of the house which Ed Morgan and his assistant, Christian Villeneuve, built after I married Min-Myn Jung in 1993.

We lived there until 2001, while opening the Nabi Gallery in Sag Harbor and beginning to raise two daughters, but then life brought us elsewhere and we needed, reluctantly, to move. The property was marketed as “secluded” and prospective buyers came, but it was way more secluded than they had in mind. It was the Nature Conservancy, again, that stepped in and brought us a purchaser: the Town of Southampton’s Community Preservation Fund. That’s how my house ended up as it began, a piece of the Long Pond Greenbelt.

Honey Bees Saved

(how it takes a village to save bees)

Well, busy as bees certainly describes this week’s efforts to save the several colonies of feral honey bees that had established themselves in the eaves of the north and west faces of the Long Pond Greenbelt Nature Center at 1061 Bridgehampton/Sag Harbor Turnpike. This spring FLPG learned that the Town of Southampton would reroof the center and repair and redesign the deck so that it is handicap accessible. Wonderful news, greeted with great joy. But when the roofers appeared and discovered that honey bees had several active hives under the soffits, the job came to an abrupt and unexpected halt. Into the breach stepped Laura Smith, Chief Environmental Analyst of the Community Preservation Fund, who moved quickly to coordinate workers from the Southampton Town Parks Department (who are responsible for the structure) and volunteers from the East End beekeepers community to save the feral honeybee colonies. It took a whole host of friends (not quite a village, but it seems so!) to accomplish the task, which, as we go to print, is about sixty percent complete. We forge ahead expecting to finish the rescue within days.

For their terrific efforts, we extend a huge thank you to the following people:

From the Town of Southampton:
Laura Smith, Chief Environmental Analyst, Town of Southampton Community Preservation Fund (CPF), beesaver extraordinaire; Mary Wilson, CPF Manager, for her unwavering support in the bee rescue; Ron Carter, CPF ranger, for all-round assistance in setting up and moving the scaffolding; Chris Bean, Superintendent of Parks and Recreation Department, for understanding the urgent need to preserve local bees and for responding to unexpected changes in schedule; John Erwin, Parks Maintenance Supervisor, for going the extra mile; Dennis Carpenter, Parks Department carpenter extraordinaire, for overseeing the scaffolding setup, donning bee suit and mask, and scaling ladders and scaffold to remove the north face soffits; Phil Tucci, Parks Department worker (& beekeeper!), for his help moving the three-story scaffold and taking videos of the bee rescue; David Coles, Parks Department worker, for his all-round help

From the local beekeeping and bee-loving community:
Paige Patterson, Bridgehampton beekeeper who made the initial assessment of the situation; Lori Blakeney, bee lover and Quality Parks Master Naturalist course participant who heard about the issue during the course & contacted the local bee community; Rob Diechert, East Hampton beekeeper, who spent an entire morning preparing the west soffits for bee removal and successfully saving three colonies, perhaps as many as 60,000 bees.; Fred, Sagaponack beekeeper, who adopted some of the rescued bees to raise in new hives in Sagaponack; Dai Dayton, FLPG President, for the loan of her protective beekeeping hoods and smoker; Jean Dodds, FLPG Secretary, for getting the equipment to the site without delay; Sandra Ferguson, FLPG Vice President, for her help finding a bee removal expert to step in when Rob unexpectedly couldn’t work the north side of the building; Robin Blackley, Southampton beekeeper and expert in extracting hives from structures, for visiting the site within an hour and a half of learning of the problem, finishing the north side and offering her services; Ben Conklin, FLPG member, for the loan of his extension ladder; Barbara Bornstein, FLPG board member, for taking great pictures that can be seen by clicking here: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/lyib2m4m8qaxteo/i5OdF70z14

And for their phone support and referrals:
Mary Woltz, FLPG member & beekeeper; Ray Lackey, former president Long Island Beekeepers Association; Don Pelchulk, current president, LI Beekeepers Association; Dale Williams, a beekeeper from Medford; Peter Bizzoso, a beekeeper from Manorville; Annie Chakmakian, local bee lover