Gurney's Inn
January 17, 2007

Town Board Ponders Historic Preservation

No, not that big duck.

Town Supervisor Skip Heaney hastened to point out that although the topic for discussion at Friday's Southampton town board work session was "The Duck Project," the matter really had nothing to do with the famed Big Duck in Flanders.

Instead, he noted, up for discussion on Friday's agenda was the Black Duck Lodge Historic Preservation Project, spearheaded by Eva Growney of Architect & Associates and the Peconic Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, currently celebrating its 150th anniversary.

The AIA has pledged a grant of $10,000 toward a proposed feasibility study aimed toward considering conservation and preservation options of the Black Duck Lodge, as well as historic buildings and property located on Suffolk County parkland in Flanders, adjacent to the Peconic Bay — and directly across State Route 24 from the renowned Big Duck. The parcel, which stretches up Red Creek Road, can be reached by car, bike and water and is fully accessible to the public.

AIA, said Growney, seeks to preserve the land and buildings on the 500-plus acre site, and is in the process of applying for grants toward funding the feasibility study. "The intention is not to build anything new."

Instead, she said, the focus is on preparing a means of directing the county, which currently does not have any guidelines in place to protect the property for the public in perpetuity. "Right now, the county doesn't really know what to do with it," she said, adding that maintenance is costly. "It's not an asset in terms of economics."

In addition to the AIA grant of $10,000 Growney said the group has already received commitments from the Group for the South Fork, as well as $25,000 from Assemblyman Fred Thiele, so that a film can be produced about the parcel, with $100,000 the target funding goal.

The plan is to hire a helicopter pilot, so that the property can be filmed and viewed from air, water and land.

Growney recently took a four hour tour of the land with Assemblyman Steve Englebright, who pointed out the area's ecological systems and world-class fossil forest.

AIA is working pro bono on a Blueprint for America and getting actively involved with local communities.

Another primary focus of AIA, said Growney, is "Humanity for Small Planet Living,"™ as members seek long-term means of preserving the earth and its natural resources.

One possible adaptive reuse for the two historic structures onsite would be as meeting spaces for AIA and community groups, with an eye toward sustainability of the buildings and exploration of green energy solutions. One building, said Growney, might be a model of alternative energy, demonstrating new technologies such as wind energy sources and geothermal solutions. "There is no such thing on Long Island yet, where the public can see how to use these new technologies."

Currently, one building, the Smithers site, is used to house summer employees, while the Black Duck Lodge is under construction to stabilize the exterior of the structure.

The goal, said Growney, is to approach each of the five East End towns for support.

Heaney endorsed the project and added the area's proximity to the Peconic Bay made it a natural for research and educational opportunities; the supervisor suggested working with Stony Brook Southampton to provide internships for students in an environmental outreach program.

Also, said Heaney, another possibility might be to mirror a New England practice of relocating historic buildings that are currently located throughout the town of Southampton to the site, creating a colony of period architecture, something he believed would be "great as a destination," coupling historic preservation with tourism.

Councilwoman Linda Kabot reminded that there is a historic cemetery on the property, where many graves have been vandalized. "We have a gem here. It's a hidden treasure that needs stewardship."

The town board agreed to commit to $10,000 toward the feasibility study.

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