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Aiming for an environmentally sound plan: Group turns Southold land into preserve

The Peconic Land Trust acquired the approximately half-acre

The Peconic Land Trust acquired the approximately half-acre of woodland parcel along Soundview Avenue in April to turn it into undisturbed land that could serve as a groundwater recharge and be home to a variety of plant species and wildlife. Credit: Randee Daddona

A newly formed preserve in Southold is expected to keep vital plant life safe while helping to ensure water quality, North Fork environmental advocates say.

The Peconic Land Trust, a Southampton-based environmental advocacy group, acquired about a half-acre of woodland along Soundview Avenue in Southold to turn it into a protected area called "the Soundview Avenue Preserve".

Land trust officials said the property, purchased on April 27, contributes to water quality by serving as undisturbed land for groundwater recharge and home to a variety of plant species — including native wildflowers and jack-in-the-pulpit flowering herbs as well as grasses, mosses and shrubs.

Holly Sanford, project manager for the trust, said there have been other offers in the past from parties interested in the property, but all fell through.

When conservation biologist Louise Harrison investigated the property for the trust last year, she found that it hosted "a significant amount of wetlands" and that it should probably not be built on at all.

"Once we established that there were a significant amount of wetlands, we were able to get it at a much more accessible price. The owner worked with us, and we had a very nice outcome," Sanford said.

Harrison said the Soundview Ave. property is in a forest corridor occupying an ancient dune system that stretches east from Peconic through three protected areas: Goldsmith Inlet, Soundview Dunes, and Peconic Dunes County Parks. That system hosts vernal pools, essential breeding habitats for wildlife species.

"The higher elevations host native forest communities and transitional zones anchoring deep, sandy soils. The overall ecosystem of the naturally forested dune crests and troughs is unique in Southold and deserves further protection," Harrison said.

The group acquired the parcel for $100,000 from property owner Edith Cosban-Iserman.

The money was raised mostly through donations from roughly 600-plus letters the group mailed, with contributions adding up despite the difficulties of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sanford said.

"It was very encouraging to see people who realize … that if they have the opportunity to protect things in perpetuity, they’re optimistic that it would be a good investment, in spite of what kinds of financial constraints they’re looking at," Sanford said.

The parcel will not be open to the public to protect the plants and wildlife.

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