Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul launched the rehabilitation of the former Gallo duck farm in East Patchogue Wednesday with a public works bulldozer knocking over the first building by Mud Creek.
Peter Gallo, a public works employee and third-generation family member, leveled the former generator and pump shed on the 45-acre former farm. The farm once raised 350,000 ducks annually, but was shuttered in 1989 because of duck waste pollution it caused in the Great South Bay.
“This is an incredibly important restoration,” said Bellone. “Duck farms are an important chapter in the Suffolk story.”
The state economic development council has put in $2.2 million, the county $2.3 million and Brookhaven $400,000 to raze the remains of 16 dilapidated farm buildings, clear away rusted machinery and clean up disposal lagoons containing more than 15,000 cubic yards of nitrogen-laden material.
The new plan calls for boardwalks, kiosks and photo displays on 1.3 miles of trails that will educate the public about the era where more than 2,100 acres were once in duck production throughout Suffolk. Cleanup will begin this summer and bids for other work will go out early next year. Officials say they will open the passive park with parking off Gazzola Drive by 2020.
Hochul said the restoration of the Gallo farm is one of 590 projects statewide where New York is investing $486 million to protect the legacy of the past and “making it a bright part of our future.”
The rehabilitation effort also aims at cleaning up Mud Creek by creating a 2,300-foot stream channel from 6 to 12 feet wide and removal of berms and invasive phragmites plants that reduce water flow. The town will add 29 catch basins. The plan also calls for the restoration of a 6.5-acre flood plain with 2,500 native trees and shrubs for a forested wetlands and 14.4 acres of oak forests and meadows.
Environmentalists hope the overhaul will spur growth of a small populations of brook trout that remain in the stream despite past pollution woes. Legis. Rob Calarco (D-Patchogue) called native trout population “a unique piece of environmental history” because the state has never stocked the stream. He said he sees students doing experiments to track the vibrancy of trout rebound after the cleanup.
Michele Cook, a Gallo daughter who still lives down the street, said her best memories of growing up there were getting in trouble for jumping off the barn loft into bales of hay. “I’m glad they are finally doing something with it in a way people can benefit from the cleanup,” she said.