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Taking a tour of EPCAL’s tucked away beauty on Earth Day

04/25/2018 6:00 AM |

Christy Hawkins woke up in a panic recently. The Baiting Hollow resident had been thinking about the future of the property at Enterprise Park at Calverton that may be sold for $40 million to Triple Five Group.

She was afraid people wouldn’t get to see the beauty tucked away off Route 25 that she has loved. Years earlier, on a whim, Steve Kuhl of Calverton had told her to grab a pair of skis on a beautiful winter day. He guided her through the property in a way she’d never experienced.

“It just stuck with me,” Ms. Hawkins said. “You head back in there and all that development we do have going is non-existent.”

So on Earth Day, she helped organize a community walk to give people a chance to hike the wooded area and experience the beauty firsthand. About 30 people gathered behind the Stony Brook Incubator in Calverton Sunday afternoon under bright sunshine for the leisurely walk. Under the guidance of Mr. Kuhl, whose wife, Donna, is Ms. Hawkins’ cousin, the hikers learned some of the history of the land and the types of plantings on the property.

“The air is different in there,” Ms. Hawkins said.

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Mr. Kuhl guided the group to a kettle lake that formed when giant slabs of ice carved through the land centuries ago, breaking off into pieces that stayed in one spot and then melted to form lakes.

“In Calverton, we’re pretty fortunate because the landscape here is dotted in them,” he said. “There’s dozens of them. To have one this close to [Route] 25 is pretty exciting to me.”

Mr. Kuhl explained that before Grumman owned the property, much of the land was flat. It was to Grumman’s benefit to have its base be secluded, so the company hired a contractor in the early ’70s to plant trees, including many pitch pines and larches, Mr. Kuhl said. He guided the hikers to an open area where the line of trees is divided by one long narrow path. The separation was designed as a fire break.

Donna Kuhl said her father, Frederick Pradon, spent 26 years as game warden with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and primarily patrolled in Riverhead Town. She recalled that he became friendly with Richard “Dick” Ballou, the man who led the effort to reforest the farmland. Mr. Pradon, who died late last month at 88, would assist Mr. Ballou.

“This is good for me today, to be here doing what Dad would have been doing,” Ms. Kuhl said.

Top photo caption: Hikers follow a trail in Calverton Sunday afternoon. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister)

Steve Kuhl, center, led the hike Sunday. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister)

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio, from left, Councilwoman Catherine Kent and organizer Christy Hawkins with her 8-month-old daughter Willa. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister)

(Credit: Joe Werkmeister)

Steve Kuhl describes how the kettle lake was formed. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister)

(Credit: Joe Werkmeister)

(Credit: Joe Werkmeister)

(Credit: Joe Werkmeister)

A stretch of land without trees in Calverton was designed as a fire break. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister)

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