Avalon Park & Preserve, the privately run sanctuary near Stony Brook’s Mill Pond, will build a new series of recreational trails and a boardwalk extending into Stony Brook Harbor, according to the sanctuary manager and documents filed with the Smithtown Planning Department.
The work will take place on a 29-acre parcel of wetlands and upland woods north of Harbor Road and west of Shep Jones Lane in Head of the Harbor, an area known as Shore Farm. The sanctuary bought the land for $7.8 million in 2016 from Evelyn Lawrence, according to property records.
The parcel, north of most of the sanctuary’s land, is not yet open to the public. “We are not through permitting, and we do not have a date when it will be open to the public,” sanctuary manager Katharine Griffiths said.
Workers will remove about 728 square feet of invasive vegetation including multiflora rose, oriental bittersweet vine and Russian olive shrubs during construction, Griffiths said, but new planting, including native oak, birch and dogwood, will increase vegetation at the site by more than a tenth of an acre.
The Smithtown Town Council, which has partial oversight over waterfront development in the area, approved the plans by a 5-0 vote March 5. Head of the Harbor Planning Board chairman Harlan Fischer said Avalon had not yet submitted an application to his board but that some minor work had already taken place on the upland portion of the parcel. The work will also require a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation permit.
“This is expanding education and expanding access for the public to go to the water,” said Smithtown planner Peter Hans, who hikes regularly on sanctuary trails south of Harbor Road. “It’s first class, what Avalon has done with their property.”
Avalon is partnering with Head of the Harbor in a program to test facial recognition software, drone-mounted infrared cameras and a dart-delivered contraceptive to track and contain the village’s white-tailed deer population, which some residents and local officials say has grown too large.
Billionaire East Setauket hedge fund founder James Simon and his wife, Marilyn, oversaw development of the 140-acre park and preserve in the 1990s after their 34-year-old son, Paul, was killed while riding a bicycle near their home. The sanctuary was intended to be a tribute to his love of the outdoors.
“We love Avalon Preserve and are very pleased that so many people have been enjoying it,” the Simons said in a joint statement from a family foundation spokeswoman. “Since envisioning the preserve, our guiding principle has always been to create a place Paul would have liked to go. His love of nature is what we hope to highlight and share with the people of Long Island."