Featured Story

Peconic Land Trust acquires former duck farm property in Aquebogue, securing the conservation of 100 acres

The Peconic Land Trust has acquired the former duck farm property in Aquebogue known as Broad Cove, bringing an end to a longtime effort to preserve the waterfront parcel where a massive resort had once been proposed.

The Land Trust purchased the 100-acre property on Dec. 31.

The acquisition was made possible by securing six lines of credit from “supporters of conservation” to raise the $11.5 million for the purchase and $500,000 for carrying costs, the Trust announced Thursday. The Trust purchased the property from Walo, LLC, “at a bargain sale price,” it said.

In 2016, a resort known as The Vineyard Resort and Spa was pitched for the property.

Now the land will be available for passive recreation, “while also providing climate change resiliency, wildlife habitat and water quality protection in this part of the Peconic Bay Estuary,” the Trust said in its announcement.

The Broad Cove property is located on Terry’s Creek, adjacent to Indian Island County Park along Flanders Bay.

John v.H. Halsey, president of Peconic Land Trust, called Broad Cove an “incredible property” and thanked supporters for helping to fund the acquisition.

“By acting when we did, we were able to secure the conservation future that has alluded this property for so long,” he said.

Andreas Weisz, a managing partner for Walo, LLC, said his grandfather, Stanley Weisz, always wanted to see the land preserved. Stanley Weisz had acquired the property more than 30 years ago.

“We see this as his legacy, his pride and joy,” Andreas Weisz said in a statement.

He added that the details of the acquisition were worked out over the past six months, during which he spent time walking on the land and developing a further appreciation for it.

“Ideally, this is what this land should be — a nature preserve and a place for people to come and enjoy the woods, the water,” he said. “I look forward to visiting in the future with my family.”

Riverhead Councilman Frank Beyrodt, the liaison to the town’s open space committee, said it was “very exciting” news.

“The open space committee worked hard to make sure that was a priority,” he said in an interview. “I give total credit to Janis [Leonti], Marge [Acevedo], Charles [Cetas] and all the people on the open space committee. Now to see it’s going to happen is just awesome.”

In December 2020, Mr. Beyrodt spoke during a Town Board work session about the town taking steps to preserve the parcel, citing it as an environmentally sensitive area that was a top priority for the town’s open space committee.

“To be able to leave this for the people of Suffolk County and the people of the Town of Riverhead and make it into something that is just special, I think that’s great,” he said Thursday.

The property includes 25 acres of tidal wetlands and 8,000 feet of shoreline on Terry Creek and Broad Cove. The property also features upland woods and open fields. All existing buildings and structures on the property were removed before closing, the Trust said.

Julie Wesnofske, a project manager for Peconic Land Trust, oversaw the conservation effort along with Pete Moore of The Corcoran Group and Laurence Oxman of East End Real Estate.

Mr. Oxman, who was the principal in a group called Red Cedar Meadows that had planned to purchase the property, spoke before the Town Board in 2016 and said the proposed resort and spa was going to be “one of the larger developments in town outside EPCAL.”

The Trust said its news release on the sale that the owner had received “an acceptable offer from a developer,” but opted to hold off signing a contract to see if a conservation outcome could be finalized.

Cathy Haas, the acting regional director for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, said the property has been at the top of government acquisition lists.

“This acquisition is a great step toward permanent protection of a landmark property and DEC looks forward to continuing to work with Peconic Land Trust in their ongoing work,” she said in a statement.

Suffolk County had also been pursuing conservation efforts for decades, since the zoning allowed for development that could negatively impact water quality, fisheries, wetland health and habitat, according to the Trust.

County Legislator Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue) pushed to bring back preservation efforts in 2015 and he said at the time he was optimistic the county could find the funding to make it happen, noting the town couldn’t do it on its own. Randy Parsons of the Nature Conservancy said at the time that the environmental organization considers the parcel a “top 10” property in Nassau/Suffolk that was in the hands of private ownership and should be protected.

Potential development of the property dates back as far as the 1970s. The duck farm use has been abandoned for more than three decades.

The property has been included in every New York State Open Space Conservation Plan since the original in 1992 through the most recent in 2016, the Trust said.

Since its founding in 1983, Peconic Land Trust has conserved over 13,000 acres of land on Long Island.