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State grants fund Smithtown's Hoyt Farm restoration, solar energy project

A $60,000 state grant to Smithtown's Hoyt Farm

A $60,000 state grant to Smithtown's Hoyt Farm Nature Preserve will allow the Commack facility to restore its barn and make other improvements, officials said. This photo was taken in the summer of 2014. Photo Credit: Hoyt Farm Nature Preserve

A $60,000 state grant to Smithtown's Hoyt Farm Nature Preserve will allow the Commack facility to restore its barn and make other improvements, officials said.

Town officials plan to use the first $20,000 of the three-year grant toward restoring the preserve's barn by adding insulation, replacing the roof and increasing the overhang around the building so the farm's cow, sheep, goats and chickens have more shelter, said preserve educator Sheryl Brook. The work is to start next month.

The grant was issued in the fall as part of the Zoos, Botanical Gardens and Aquariums Program of the Natural Heritage Trust that is appropriated through the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, Brook said. The town will receive $20,000 each year through 2016, Brook said.

Specific projects for the remaining grant funding have not yet been determined, she said.

"The grants are extremely helpful to us because they allow us to offset our budget and do work," said Smithtown Councilman Edward Wehrheim, adding that the improvements will be "an asset to the residents who use that facility."

A $15,000 state parks grant last year funded a project to install 11 solar panels on the roof of a garage at the 133-acre farm in the spring, Brook said.

The panels, which will supplement electricity to the garage, nature center and barn, will cover about 16 percent of the farm's electricity costs, Brook said. The solar panel system will produce 3,413 kilowatts per hour, she said, adding that the preserve will add a display in the nature center to describe how the system works and its benefits.

The grant to install the solar panels "is to us very important because . . . it is incorporating concepts of sustainability, green design, and improved energy efficiency and educating the public," Brook said.

Funding from both grants "is going toward environmental conservation, the preservation of the natural history of Hoyt Farm and the flora and fauna that live there," she said.

The farm, which started as a peach and apple orchard in the early 1900s, was acquired by Smithtown in the mid-1960s, Brook said. It features playgrounds, a large field, a sprinkler park and preserved land for migratory birds, mammals and amphibians.

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