What was once planned for 10 mixed-use commercial buildings along the north side of Main Road in Jamesport will now become a hamlet park with a Native American burial ground that will be cordoned off as a “sacred site.”
The Suffolk County Legislature on Tuesday approved the purchase of the 11-acre site as parkland, and is expected to approve another 33 acres to the north of that as protected farmland, according to Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue).
He expects that closing on the sale of both the hamlet park and farmland will happen concurrently.
The farmland could have been built with 42 homes under current zoning and was once proposed for a 160-unit retirement community prior to the town’s 2003 master plan update, which changed the zoning.
While those development efforts faced intense community opposition, the turning point came in late 2015, when developer Robert DiNoto purchased the property, which had been in foreclosure. After hearing feedback from the community, he began working with the county to preserve it.
“This is a major advance in preserving the character and the history of downtown Jamesport,” Mr. Krupski said in a press release.
“Saving this land was a community effort started long before the county became interested in acquiring the land,” he added.
Groups like the Greater Jamesport Civic Association, Save Main Road, the local Native American community and Riverhead Town all worked to preserve the site, he said.
“The Town has worked hard in partnership with the community and the county to preserve this land for future generations to enjoy,” said Riverhead Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith in a press release. “It is so gratifying to see those efforts pay off for Riverhead residents, and all residents of Suffolk County, who come to enjoy the Town’s natural beauty. It’s a great addition to Jamesport.”
Mr. Krupski, who sponsored the legislation to preserve the land, said the parcel is home to Sharper’s Hill and an ancient Native American mortuary. Although the artifacts have been removed, he said, the area containing the burial grounds will be identified with signage and will be cordoned off as it is considered a sacred site.
“I am excited about the effort being made by Suffolk County regarding the historic preservation and protection of our local Native American burial mounds, and the Jamesport site,” said Sandi Brewster-Walker, a historian who is also a member of the Montaukett Indian Nation and board chair of the future Long Island Indigenous People Museum.
“All parties came together in unison and worked together to achieve this incredible outcome,” said Greater Jamesport Civic Association president William Van Helmond.
Photo caption: Phil Barbato of Jamesport pictured in front of the land in 2016. Mr. Barbato owns an organic farm next door to it. (Credit: Tim Gannon)