Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt

December 2022

Happy Holidays from

Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt

As we close out our 25th anniversary year, we want to extend warm wishes to all FLPG members and their families for a happy holiday season. We are happy to report that we surpassed our membership goal of 425 members for the year. Thank you for your continued support of the Long Pond Greenbelt and the Friends organization.

Update on PSEG Bridgehampton to Buell Final Environmental Impact Study

PSEG informed FLPG that the environmental impact study for the proposed Bridgehampton to Buell project is taking longer than expected to finalize due to the large number of comments received. Currently, PSEG expects to issue the final environmental impact study in March 2023.

FLPG invites Families for a Children's Outdoor Activity During Holiday Break

On Monday, December 26, join FLPG for a fun walk for kids of all ages along the StoryWalk Trail in Sag Harbor (approx. 30 minutes). The more adventurous can continue on for another half hour to see Long Pond and learn about the amazing Long Pond Greenbelt. Meet at 10:00 a.m. at the bleachers at Mashashimuet Park on the corner of Main Street and Jermain Avenue in Sag Harbor. Leader: Dai Dayton, 631-745-0689.

*The StoryWalk Trail was made possible through a

grant from Sag Harbor Partnership*

Black Racer Spotted in Vineyard Field

Black racer snakes, like the one pictured here in Vineyard Field (found this summer), are thin, with a black body, blueish belly, and white chin, and inhabit most areas of Long Island. Also known as Eastern Racers, they favor open woodlands and wetlands edges. The Black racer eats other snake species, toads, frogs, small birds, chipmunks, mice as well as invertebrates such as spiders and moth larvae. These snakes swallow their prey whole. Black Racers brumate in the winter, awake but inactive, often returning to the same den. Clutches of 3 to 32 eggs are hatched in early Fall and can grow up to 65”. These snakes have a lifespan of 10 years but because they thrive in open fields they are often killed by mowers. Old pastures, fields used by these snakes also support other wildlife. If these areas are allowed to grow into dense forest, these snakes will lose their habitat. 

New Yorkers Voted Overwhelmingly in Favor of NYS Proposal 1

Thank you for making your voices heard in November. You and other New Yorkers who care about the environment and fighting climate change voted in favor of the Clean Water, Clean Air, and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act of 2022, which authorizes the State to issue $4.2 billion in bonds to fund projects to:

  • protect clean drinking water for millions of New Yorkers;
  • conserve wildlife habitats, protect local farms, and increase access to parks;
  • support 100,000 local, family-sustaining jobs;
  • upgrade roads, bridges, and storm water infrastructure to reduce flood risk;
  • expand renewable energy and increase energy efficiency;
  • help school districts ensure their school buses are all electric by 2035, which the state mandated earlier this year; 
  • and more.

If you are interested in helping FLPG research and apply for grants funded by the Act, please email us at

Vernal Ponds -- Miraculous and Imperiled

by Mary Ann Mulvihill-Decker

(Reprinted with permission)

Under the canopy of the hardwood forest, melted snow combined with cool spring rains and at last the vernal pond appeared. Songbirds came to bathe and find insects and a rabbit took a long, much needed drink. A great egret stood nearby, having returned from its long flight north. The tracks of a fox were evident along the pond edge. A meandering turtle stopped to feed. The calls of the wood frogs were unmistakable. Tiny crustaceans and invertebrates emerged from the mud in the spring thaw and grew stronger in the pool, free from the predation of fish. Soon dragonflies would hover above the still water while salamanders mated below.


Vernal ponds or pools are tremendous genetic storehouses of life, protecting the next generation of biodiversity in the forests in which they exist. Commonly found in upland areas of forest with overhanging trees which provide a reliable substrate of leaf litter, vernal ponds are usually less than an acre in size and often very much smaller.


Since the retreat of the glaciers, these small depressions fill with water in late winter and spring. What appeared unremarkable weeks earlier now becomes miraculous. Life explodes as eggs hatch and new generations of countless species begin their next cycle, one that has been repeated thousands and thousands of times. Meanwhile, hibernating toads, frogs and turtles awaken nearby and are drawn once again to the pond, as are mammals and birds which find sustenance in the ephemeral waters.


Vernal ponds are breeding grounds and nurseries for a plethora of creatures. They are a microcosm of the natural world around us. Because vernal ponds have no inlet or outlet, they have no fish. This provides a vastly safer place for vulnerable animals to be born than in coastal plain ponds, streams or estuaries.


Named from the Latin vernalis for spring, these pools are temporary. In most years, they mainly dry out in the heat of summer. Yet beyond our view, the many dormant lifeforms survive, within deep humus accumulated over countless centuries. Some may re-fill during autumn rains, but the cooler conditions generally ensure that the life hidden below remains dormant until the following year. In times of drought, vernal ponds may not appear at all. But evolutionary processes over millenia have provided that only the fittest individuals of each species have successfully reproduced. Vernal pond species endure remarkable extremes: from bitter cold to extreme heat, and from a fully aquatic environment to a total lack of water.


Pond-breeding amphibians rely on the seasonal hydroperiod of vernal pools. Tiger, spotted, marbled, blue-spotted and Jefferson’s salamanders all breed in vernal ponds. Their gill-breathing larvae hatch from eggs and live within the water before reaching their juvenile stage. Once transformed, the salamanders emerge onto the land. Fairy Shrimp are obligate vernal pond breeders, that is they cannot exist without them. Their eggs remain in the drying pools after the adults die, only to be born when spring again returns.

Air-breathing snails and Fingernail Clams burrow into the mud when the pond disappears, and reappear only when water does, living their entire lives in vernal ponds.


Legislation for protection of wetlands varies from region to region and decade to decade. Thankfully since the 1970s, New York does have fairly robust laws to safeguard wetlands from developers and other threats. Vernal ponds however, have fallen through the cracks. According to the New York Natural Heritage Program, vernal ponds “seldom meet the size criteria for state-regulated wetland”. Those remaining, a fraction of what once existed, are in continual peril. One of the biggest problems is educational: most people don’t understand or even know about vernal ponds. And because they are visible only part of the year, they are unrecognized, underappreciated and quickly destroyed forever by bulldozers and careless developers, road-building, dumping and logging. Other significant threats include recreational overuse such as All-Terrain Vehicles, run-off from fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, silt, septic and other pollution. Nearby pavement increases that risk. Road salt and other particulates can smother the delicate life within the pool and alter its chemistry to lethal effect. Many vernal ponds have become trash dumps or have been filled in senselessly.


Vernal ponds on public preserve land are theoretically safer than on private land. However, in Sag Harbor on Long Island, in the Long Pond Greenbelt and Great Swamp area, there are numerous vernal and other ponds. An ancient gem of New York State, this area provides habitat for abundant rare flora and fauna.


According to Dai Dayton, President of Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt, the area “is one of the most ecologically diverse areas in New York State and is supposed to be a protected natural habitat.” Although preserved by millions of taxpayer dollars and many years of effort and negotiation, this sanctuary is greatly threatened due to a current plan by the electric company to install an underground transmission cable through this critical habitat. They propose clearing land in Great Swamp to facilitate “Horizontal Directional Drilling” which is expected to produce gallons of “liquid waste/slurry” daily. They admit the possibility of accidental “frac-outs”, that is releasing this slurry of unknown chemical composition into the wetlands, as well as the need to “remediate” endangered Eastern Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum) habitat and vernal ponds. Extinction can never be remedied. Once destroyed, vernal ponds can neither be recreated nor replicated. Vernal ponds cannot be moved.


Many citizens are currently beseeching the Southampton Town Board and Suffolk County officials to deny underground rights-of-way to PSEGLI. An alternative route exists along roadways for this infrastructure, which they claim is needed for increased electrical demands. Desecration of vernal ponds and endangered salamander habitat in preserved land to save the company money

is short-sighted, ignorant, unethical and dangerous. In addition, Great Swamp, part of the Peconic Bioreserve, overlies the groundwater divide of the South Fork of Long Island and its finite and precious aquifers. It is at the center of several parcels declared critical for groundwater protection.


We are all bearing witness to a worldwide biodiversity crisis. Vernal ponds need protection more than ever. For not only are all the vulnerable and remarkable species that live and breed within them imperiled, but so are many of those other species that we love and cherish which benefit from the countless lifeforms within vernal ponds. Spread the word!

Upcoming Events in December

Important: to register, please email or call (as noted in event detail). Dress appropriately for ticks.

Wednesday, December 7 – Full Cold Moon Hike, 5:30-6:30 p.m. Co-sponsored by Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt and South Fork Natural History Museum (SOFO). This month, the winter cold fastens its grip and nights are at their longest and darkest. Sometimes this moon is also called the Long Night Moon as the winter nights lengthen and the moon spends more time above the horizon opposite a low sun. Join us for this leisurely paced one-hour hike in Vineyard Field. Meet at the SOFO parking lot, 377 Bridgehampton/Sag Harbor Turnpike, 200 yards north of the RR tracks. Leader: Jean Mc Dermott, 631-599-2391.

Saturday, December 10 – Long Pond Greenbelt Hike,10:00-11:30 a.m. Meet at the Long Pond Greenbelt Nature Center, 1061 Bridgehampton/Sag Harbor Turnpike. Moderately-paced 3.5-mile hike through oak/hickory forest with views of Crooked Pond, Deer Drink, Long Pond, and Little Long Pond. Leader: Dai Dayton, 631-745-0689.

Monday, December 12 ­–FLPG Monthly Meeting, 5:30 p.m. Via Zoom:


Saturday, December 17 – Old Farm Road Cleanup, 8:00 a.m. Help clean up the roadside along FLPG’s adopted road. Meet at Poxabogue Park, 191 Old Farm Road, Sagaponack. Bring gloves, bags provided. For more information, contact Peter Wilson: 631-553-1393.

Sat., Dec. 17 – Grassland to Grassland co-sponsored by South Fork Natural History Museum (SOFO). 9AM-10:30AM. Meet at the SOFO Museum parking lot at 377 Bridgehampton Turnpike. Join Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt on a moderately-paced 1 ½ mile hike from Vineyard Field to the Poxabogue County Park. Leader; Dai Dayton, 631-745-0689.

Monday, December 26 - Family Walk Along StoryWalk Trail, 10:00 a.m. Meet at 10:00 a.m. at the bleachers at Mashashimuet Park on the corner of Main Street and Jermain Avenue in Sag Harbor. Leader: Dai Dayton, 631-745-0689.

Our 2022 Membership Drive is Underway
It's Time to Renew!
Suggested annual membership donations. More or less is welcome.
1-year Individual:  $ 25.00
1-year Family:       $ 40.00
Individual Lifetime: $250.00

Click here to print a membership form and mail your check
Click here to pay your membership dues online through PayPal