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Lynchpin completes four miles of 'protected' land

Patriots Rock now rests on3V Community Trust land

Applauding the decision of Blanche Tyler Davis to sell her land at far less than market value — including Patriots Rock in the background — to the Three Village Community Trust are, from left, her son Beverly Tyler, Assemblyman Steve Englebright, Councilman Steve Fiore-Rosenfeld, her son Guy Tyler, Supervisor Mark Lesko, Congressman Tim Bishop and TVCT President Cynthia Barnes. Courtesy Beverly Tyler (click for larger version)
October 13, 2010 | 05:18 PM
Decades of dreaming, planning, horse trading and buying culminated last week in the acquisition of the lynchpin parcel connecting Conscience Bay to Route 25A in Setauket and ultimately to Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station.

Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) announced Tuesday a purchase by the Three Village Community Trust of the three-acre Davis homestead at the corner of Main Street and Old Field Road, opposite the old Setauket Post Office. The land includes a pre-revolutionary, circa 1740 house and the historic Patriots Rock. The seller, Blanche Tyler Davis, 95, sold the land to the Trust for $875,000, "well under the appraisal of $1.2 million," according to her son and local historian Beverly Tyler. Davis retained a life estate in the house.

"I wanted the property to stay the way it is and not to be developed," Davis said Monday at a gathering at Patriots Rock to celebrate the acquisition. "I hope everyone enjoys it."

The Davis property now joins a long string of land beginning at the edge of Conscience Bay owned by the Frank Melville Memorial Foundation (the Mill Pond, barn, Bates House and sanctuary). It crosses Main Street and the Davis property to land of the nonprofit that operates the Neighborhood House and adjacent tennis courts. That land in turn abuts the non-profit Emma Clark Library land which is next to the Setauket Elementary School. The recently acquired 28-acre former Diocese land on Route 25A opposite the Setauket shopping centers is adjacent to the school. The Detmer Farm, at the corner of Ridgeway Avenue west of the Diocese land, is next, on which the county owns development rights. Almost directly across 25A is the Greenway Trail, extending all the way to Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station. Thus a "protected" four-mile swath of land has been created for posterity, said Englebright.

As Kathleen Matthews of the Three Village Community Trust checks out the historic plaque affixed to Patriots Rock, a Blanche Tyler Davis great-granddaughter, Cassidy Worrell, with mom, carefully peers over the edge. Photo by Lee Lutz (click for larger version)
"Two miracles played out" over the past three years," Englebright said. He referred to the Diocese and Davis acquisitions as "dreams" long in the back of his and others' minds but that required work and some luck to achieve.

State DEC Regional Director Peter Scully "and I have been talking for 10 years or more about the Diocese property," the assemblyman said Tuesday. "Without Peter it would not have happened." That acquisition was made possible by retrieving $5 million loaned to the Pine Barrens Commission years ago along with other funds that constituted a multi-million dollar fine from Northville Industries for a large gasoline spill along Belle Meade Road in South Setauket.

"It was a little bit of a tussle getting the money back," Scully acknowledged. Even after it was returned to state coffers, that $5 million was not quite enough to seal the deal on the 28 acres, so Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) was called on and responded with $400,000 he was able to shift from monies designated for the Long Island Sound Study.

Securing funding for the Davis purchase is the second miracle Englebright cited. Although "we sequestered the money a year ago" in the Assembly, Englebright said with the economy of the state in shambles there was no assurance the funds would be released when the deal was finally negotiated. It was and the deal was consummated last week on Wednesday, Oct. 6.

(click for larger version)
Englebright was effusive in his praise of the Three Village Community Trust, its trustees and its president, Cynthia Barnes.

"The Trust put forth a very comprehensive application" for the state funding, Englebright said. "The Community Trust has come of age." He described the organization as "indispensable" to the Three Village area. In recent years TVCT has acquired and refurbished the Bruce House on Main Street for its headquarters, entered into a stewardship agreement with the Stephen Matthews Preserve in Poquott that wraps around the National Grid power plant on Port Jefferson Harbor, is about to move the three Rubber Factory houses on Setauket Fire District land to its Bruce House property, and developed a comprehensive planning document for the 3V area to coordinate with Brookhaven Town's soon-to-be-released 2030 Master Plan.

Another stewardship arrangement may be in the offing. "We are increasingly looking to responsible organizations to manage" state properties, said Scully, looking to his right at Barnes. Although he said there is "no formal agreement yet," Scully said the DEC will develop a "unit management plan" for the former Diocese land Englebright has dubbed it Patriots Hollow, a reference to both the long history of the area and the natural kettle hole on the site — but for now will prepare a custodial plan for temporary care of the parcel. The site will be known as Patriots Hollow State Forest, Scully said.

Englebright also credited Bishop for securing $5 million a few years ago for the development of the Greenway Trail, largely complete and well-used by local residents and visitors alike.

"We hope to let the contract [for the next phase of the hike and bike trail] in 2011," said Scully. Barnes chimed in that the trail should be complete "hopefully in 2013." The TVCT is also stewarding the Greenway. She credited Englebright for much of the protected land, calling him the "catalyst," beginning with his stint in the Suffolk County Legislature before moving to the Assembly in Albany.

"It all evolved like a dream," Englebright said, "with many dreamers."

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