County looks to expand Hedges Creek preserve
Suffolk County’s Hedges Creek Park preserve was acquired partially in 1989 then in full after a donation made by the Fuoco family in 1999, totaling approximately 55-60 acres of open space. After recent outreach made by property owner Nat Norton, Legis. Rob Calarco (D-Patchogue) is now seeking to acquire about 4.3 acres in additional land for preservation.
“Once he reached out to us, we decided to look at the big picture, the whole area and see what other parcels make sense to acquire,” said Calarco.
Norton, a Brookhaven native and Bellport High School graduate, said he has owned the property for over 30 years and no longer has use for it now, as he lives in Massachusetts.
“I lived and worked in the area, bought a few pieces of property scattered around, built roads to a few of them and sold them many years ago,” he said, mentioning that he always held on to the Hedges Creek property. “I’ve been paying taxes on it ever since and happy to see it be preserved.”
Last week, on Wednesday, Sept. 5, the Legislature passed a resolution allowing the county to begin the planning process for acquiring the additional nine wooded properties, including Norton’s about half-acre, which is currently adjacent to the existing preserve. The county, Calarco said, will now reach out to the remaining eight property owners to see if they also have an interest in selling prior to conducting appraisals.
Once property owners are contacted and interest is expressed, he said the county will determine prices through two appraisals, selecting the highest and best price to offer each owner.
“We don’t negotiate or lowball, we just give them the highest value for the land,” Calarco said.
The properties basically surround the existing park, which sits just east of Dunton Avenue and north of South Country Road, ends at the South Country School District and encompasses Hedges Creek.
Though the land is currently used as open space, Calarco said he and a few others have expressed interest in eventually seeing educational programming running out of the preserve.
“I would be really happy to try and facilitate conversations about that,” he added. “It was a vision somewhere along the lines that was lost. I would like to find a way to partner with the school district so kids can use that parcel to learn about the ecology and local environment.”
Happy to see the park expanded and further preserved, Lou Fuoco, a Bellport Village resident whose father, aunt and uncle originally donated the land, said he has since been overseeing the land, taking care of it and, for many years, trying to establish some sort of educational component.
“I am definitely happy to see it expanded and absolutely all for it,” he added.
For more information or to become involved with educational programs at the site, call Fuoco at 631-286-6344.
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