Four decades ago, the place known in the Village of Head of the Harbor as the Perry property was a thriving farm with sheep and other livestock, Mayor Douglas Dahlgard said.
But the land on North Country Road and Shep Jones Lane has lain fallow in recent years amid ownership changes and questions about its future.
Now Stony Brook-based nonprofit Avalon Park and Preserve Inc. — owner of a nature preserve elsewhere in the village — is developing a plan to restore the 45-acre site and open parts of it to the public.
“This is a piece of property that at one time, and I’m going back 40 years, was a working farm,” Dahlgard told Newsday. “Now Avalon Park has this plan to turn it into a magnificent park. … We like what they're going to be doing.”
The plan got a boost on May 19 when the Suffolk County Farmland Preservation Commission approved Avalon’s application for an agricultural development permit. The permit allows Avalon to rebuild or construct new and existing structures such as an animal barn, a greenhouse, sheep shed and pump house, according to county documents.
Avalon had purchased the Perry farm — named for a previous owner — in 2018 from the Harbor Hill Farm Family, county records show.
Avalon director Katharine Griffiths said specific uses of the farm haven’t been decided, but the group is thinking of raising chickens, pigs, bees, ducks, goats and sheep at the site.
Along with preparing the grounds for agricultural use, Avalon plans to add walking trails connecting the farm to its 216-acre nature preserve farther north on Shep Jones Lane, which includes a wildflower field and a pond.
“They’ll be able to observe farm activities,” Griffiths said, referring to visitors. “Our motto on our website is ‘Protect, Restore and Inspire.’ That’s our three-part strategy.”
She said it will take about two years to obtain village permits and complete construction and renovation.
Suffolk had purchased the property’s development rights in 1983 from then-owner Timothy W. Sullivan, records show. That protected the land from being turned into a housing tract.
But the property didn’t comply with county farmland preservation rules because it was not an active farm, Smithtown’s director of environmental protection David Barnes said. Avalon's plan will correct that, said Barnes, who is the town's representative on the county farmland commission.
“This farm is unique in that Avalon, the owners, has an educational component and they allow public access to all their properties,” Barnes said. “It’s great to bring it back into production. It’s a historic farm.”
Dahlgard said he was confident that Avalon — the small village’s largest landowner — would be good stewards of the old farm.
The existing preserve, opened to the public in 2001, has hosted youth programs, yoga classes and meditation sessions.
“It’s absolutely gorgeous,” Dahlgard said. “They do some things with the property that they acquire and it’s all open to the public, so we get people from everywhere.”