Legislature approves bill to purchase North Fork Preserve

10/11/2011 9:00 PM |

TIM GANNON FILE PHOTO | Suffolk County envisions turning the North Fork Preserve in Northville into Suffolk's last great county park.

The Suffolk County Legislature approved a measure Tuesday night to purchase the 300-acre North Fork Preserve property in Northville.

Legislator Ed Romaine, who represents the North Fork, described the North Fork Preserve property as “Suffolk County’s last great park” and said the county plans to turn it into a camping spot.

“Today was a good day for the North Fork,” Mr. Romaine said outside the meeting, which took place in Riverhead.

“This will be another great staycation destination for our residents.”

About 120 acres will remain in its natural state for passive recreation, such as hiking.

The $18.3 million deal includes $500,000 from Riverhead Town, which agreed to contribute funding so long as trap and skeet shooting and all-terrain vehicles are not permitted in the park.

Third District Legislator Kate Browning sought to table Mr. Romaine’s bill in order to find out the feasibility of relocating the county’s trap and skeet shooting range in Yaphank out of her district.

“I would like not to see a trap and skeet range at the North Fork Preserve, but I would like to keep it as a viable option until we finalize a plan for another location,” she said, before later voting in favor of preserving the land.

Presiding Officer Bill Lindsay, who opposed the bill, said he wanted to table the legislation until after the next year’s budget is finalized.

“I think this is inappropriate because we’ve notified a bunch of people that they are going to be laid off,” he said. “I just think it sends a horrible message to our employees.”

The bill passed 14-3, with Mr. Lindsay, Ricardo Montano and Jack Eddington opposing. Legislator Vivian Viloria-Fisher was absent from the meeting.

County Executive Steve Levy is expected to approve the acquisition, which will be paid for through the county’s Drinking Water Protection Program.

Mr. Romaine said the next step is to secure funding to build the park.

“We saved it,” he said. “The county executive is going to sign it into law and we’re going to have to wait until we have the money to build this park, but we will build it.”

In addition to preserving the property in Riverhead, the Legislature approved planning steps to acquire the 17.7-acre Starkie Farm property in Southold.

jennifer@timesreview.com