Click the headings to view articles.
Suffolk County News - February 5, 2015 - "A Club for All Seasons"
by Rick Chalifoux
Last Saturday afternoon,
a special historical lecture was given
inside the Connetquot River State Park
and Preserve by volunteer docent, Mark
Romaine. The illuminating presentation,
sponsored by the Friends of Connetquot,
showcased the rich history of both the
property and its many inhabitants and
visitors over the last few centuries.
The main focus of the talk was the historic South Side
Sportsmen’s Clubhouse, which has been on the National
Register of Historic Places since 1973. Originally built in
1820 as Snedecor’s Tavern, the building was used as a
clubhouse by members of the South Side Sportsmen’s Club of
Long Island – including members of the local Bourne and
Vanderbilt families - from 1866 to 1973.
Click here to read the complete story
The Suffolk County News - August 14, 2014 - "Almost Ready to Grind"
by Liz Finnegan
Today, the grist mill at Connetquot River State Park Preserve is barely recognizable to those who have seen the 18th-century structure slowly deteriorate over the years. New cedar shingles and crisp, white trimmed windows are a welcome sight...Read
the complete article (NOTE: A free registration
on the Suffolk County News site is required to read the full
Islip Bulletin - August 22, 2013 - "Where there’s a mill there’s a way"
by Liz Finnegan
Download the Article in PDF format
OAKDALE—It’s been five years since
the Friends of Connetquot River State Park
Preserve took on the task of overseeing
the restoration of the old gristmill, which
is located inside the preserve. That work
is now on the homestretch, but there’s
still much more that needs to be done
and it starts with raising the last $100,000
needed to complete the project.
“We’ve been working years to get [the
gristmill] structurally sound so it will last
another 100 years,” said Friends trustee
Richard Remmer. “We’ve made a lot of
progress, raised a lot of money, and we’re
at a hurdle point now.”
The total cost of the project is $700,000.
Over the years, the organization has
raised $500,000 and now after receiving a N.Y.S. grant for $100,000 they need
to match that amount to get the work
Remmer said the brunt of the project
that’s been completed includes footings,
foundation, sill, beam and stabilization
to prepare it for the next phase that includes roof, framing, shingles, doors and
windows. Getting the mill working again
will be a future project though.
The mill stands on the property with a
long, celebrated history that dates back to
the early 1700s. However, it is best known
as the Southside Sportsman’s Club, a haven for hunting and fishing for wealthy
New Yorkers that was established in 1866.
The ancient gristmill building though
dates back to the mid-eighteenth century, and was used by local farmers to grind
corn and wheat. It remained in operation
until 1878, but has since been idle.
In the mid-1970s, soon after the New
York State Parks system took ownership
of the preserve, the building was opened
up to the public for educational purposes. One of the significant aspects of the
gristmill is that it’s one of the few mills
left in the United States that has a horizontal wheel. Tours of the building had to
end because of security concerns when
its age and a number of violent Long Island storms took a toll on the structure.
The tours are something Remmer said
Friends members hope to reinstate once
the structural work is completed. After
that, they’ll focus on getting it to work
again. “All of the mechanical elements
are still there,” he noted.
Friends president Bob Labuski said the
campaign to raise money for the restoration has not been easy. “The economy the
way it is has made it difficult,” he said.
Still, the Holbrook resident said he’s
hoping that more contributions will be
coming in and that the Friends annual
gala scheduled for October will help to
garner more funds as well. Labruski said
he’d also like to see the mill functioning
once again. “It’s down the road. But we
still have the original mill stones and all
of the old wooden gears and pulleys.”
He said that for now the main objective
is to just get it to the point where it can
be closed and left for the winter without
concerns of inclement weather causing
further structural issues.
Labuski said he has more than just a
historical interest in the gristmill and the
park though. His personal connection
to it actually began in the 1970s when
he first stepped foot into the preserve.
“I’ve been going in there to fish since
right after it opened. But then it got very
crowded so I began to take up photography, taking pictures of the wildlife and
everything that happens in the park. It’s
such a great place.
"The park is 3,473 acres and there are
still parts of it that I’ve never seen. It's unbelievable…and gorgeous."
On Oct. 21, Friend’s 16th annual fundraising Gala
Celebration will take place at the Timber Point
Country Club beginning at 7 p.m. This year the
organization will be honoring Gilbert Bergen — the
current manager of the preserve who has been taking
care of the park for the past 65 years — with an
award named in his honor: The Gil Bergen
Preservationist Award. The event will feature
dinner, dancing, open bar and there will also be
both live and Chinese auctions.
Newsday - January 7, 2013 - "New Plans for Connetquot Hatchery"
by Candice Ruud
Bob Labuski remembers the early morning line of cars
snaking out of Connetquot River State Park Preserve
and onto Sunrise Highway. Anglers hustled to get
into the park to secure fishing permits and a choice
spot on the bank.
After the park's fish hatchery was
shut down in 2008, the number of anglers visiting
the park ground nearly to a halt.
of the Friends of Connetquot, said that after the
hatchery closed, one nearby fishing supply store was
Soon, the hatchery is expected to
show signs of life again, and park supporters, led
by Labuski's group, are excited for the Connetquot's
fishing community to return.
"A lot of future
revenues can be realized, and a lot of enjoyment by
members of the public, for decades and decades,"
said Richard Remmer, a board member of the Friends
of Connetquot, a fundraising nonprofit that was
awarded a $150,000 state regional economic
development grant last month to help revive the
hatchery and restore a 1700s-era grist mill at the
The hatchery lost its permit from the
state Department of Environmental Conservation at the
end of 2008 because infectious pancreatic necrosis,
a disease that affects mostly young trout but not
humans, had proliferated in the river. In late 2006,
the DEC tested the river and hatchery and found
contamination. When the water was tested again in
2008, there was no sign of the disease, but
regulators required several years of quarantine.
Since then, some grown fish have been routinely
added to the river, and a number of die-hard local
fishermen still cast rods there each year.
said between the money that used to come from
educational tours of the hatchery and fishing permit
fees, the park has lost about $300,000 in annual
revenue since the hatchery closed.
"Now we're down
to 1,000 fishermen a year," Remmer said. "At one
point we had 13,000."
A DEC spokeswoman said the
agency is working with Friends of Connetquot to
determine what kind of permit the group will need to
reopen the hatchery. But instead of using water from
the river, the park will probably be required to use
groundwater from a well to cultivate the fish so
there's no chance of contamination.
"We need clean
water, and we need to make sure disease isn't
brought in on the feet or boots of workers as well,"
Remmer said, adding that there will be a
hand-washing station and footbath in the secured
area of the hatchery. The group also plans to build
a 50-foot-deep, 10-inch-wide well. The entire
project is expected to cost $150,000.
The group also
plans to restore the Oakdale Grist Mill, a decaying,
historic mill in the state park, which once was the
South Side Sportsmen's Club. Remmer expects that
project to cost about $400,000.
"Not only is it a
goal of historic preservation, but hopefully it will
generate jobs and benefit the local economy," Remmer said.
Fire Island Tide - August 3, 2012 - "A Rich Legacy of the Great South Bay"
by Jay D. Raines
August 3rd, 2012 edition of The Fire Island Tide featured a
wonderful article by Jay D. Raines highlighting the rich
history of the Preserve, particularly the South Side
Sportsman's Club and includes a recipe for Mrs. Snedecor's
You can download and read a copy of
the article here.
The Fisherman - October 22, 2009 - "Requiem for a Trout Stream"
by Angelo Peluso
Click here to download this article in PDF format.
The “Disney World of Trout Fishing” is what some
called it, due to the ease with which numerous
salmonids could be caught on flies. It was perceived
by those patrons of the river as an improbable place
- an artificial fishery where anyone could fool
rainbows, brookies and browns at will. Yet, even
those critics were drawn back often. Others,
including me, viewed the river, the parklands and
the watershed that nurtured it with much more
reverence. That mindset was established the moment
one entered the front gate and gazed upon the sign
greeting all visitors. The message was simple and
needed no explanation, “A piece of Long Island the
way it used to be.” Sadly, the sign is now but a
remnant, an inanimate reminder of the glory that
defined a truly remarkable and priceless place; a
fishing place that at its core was once a living,
natural museum. After a short illness and with the
questionable intervention of humankind, the river as
we knew it and loved has died. Infectious Pancreatic
Necrosis (IPN) was listed as the official cause of
death but some might suggest the river was put to
death by the hands of man.
When one looks at The
Connetquot River State Park Preserve in the context
of its entirety as a natural reserve, the river and
its inhabitants were the park’s life’s blood in more
than metaphorical terms. The trout were the catalyst
that brought thousands upon thousands of paying
visitors through the front gates of the park each
season. Yes, trout were at times easy to catch, but
that was not always a given. Old warriors die hard
and that is indeed true of time-tested, large trout
as well, even those that were hatchery-raised. They
didn’t relinquish their domain easily. The fish that
resided in the waters of the “Conny” could be as
challenging as those in the most technically
demanding spring creeks, anywhere in our country. If
an angler wanted, he or she could seek out large,
battle-worn fish that took up residence under
deadfalls and undercut sections of the bank; holding
stations that at times presented even the most
expert fly casters with difficult, if not impossible
presentations. That challenge was especially evident
in the upper reaches of the river, those sections
above the hatchery. Specific may fly, stone fly and
caddis hatches, or nymph and larval stages of those
aquatic insects, could frequently elevate trout
selectivity to a point where they would snub one’s
finest fraudulent fly offering. That would test any
angler’s skill, mettle and patience. Yet at other
times, the river’s fish could be easy…very easy.
Pray tell, what was wrong with that? Think about how
many youngsters and novice anglers were introduced
to the joys of fly fishing for trout by the
welcoming flow of a friendly river, and an abundance
of willing fish. Who among us has not enjoyed, at
some time in our angling careers, that special place
where we could catch lots of fish whenever there was
a desire to do so? The Connetquot River was once
such a place.
The Connetquot traverses its course more as a
gentle stream than its river connotation would
imply. It is a place steeped in much history and
tradition. When considering the origins of fly
fishing for trout in the United States, many will
think of but a few time-honored and almost spiritual
places. The first that come to mind are the hallowed
waters of the Catskills: the Beaverkill, the
Willowemoc or the East and West Branches of the
Delaware River. The Poconos also receive
consideration with their classic streams like the
legendary Brodhead and the Paradise Run of that same
creek. Some might even turn an eye toward the
American West. But fly fishing’s American roots are
firmly grounded in the areas including and bordering
New York City and Long Island. The core of that
trout fishery existed on Long Island, and in the
collective form of the Carmans, Nissequoge and the
Connetquot Rivers. The Connetquot was the true jewel
of that trout trilogy.
Close your eyes and imagine a mystical place of
almost 3,500 pristine acres of woodlands, and a
magnificent spring creek containing an acknowledged
world-class trout fishery. Imagine a hatchery that
for 14 decades operated as one of the most
efficient, effective and innovative of its kind
anywhere within the United States. Imagine this fly
fishing paradise a mere 50 miles from the heart of
New York City. Envision a place situated right in
the middle of suburban Long Island that for almost a
century and a half attracted presidents, kings,
wealthy industrialists and financiers; the rich and
famous all drawn here mostly for the magnificent
trout fishing the river had to offer. Imagine too
that a place like that was eventually opened for the
angling public to enjoy. Then imagine that priceless
treasure existing no more. We don’t have to envision
that scenario too hard, for it has happened. A
significant part of paradise has indeed been
unnecessarily lost - perhaps never to be regained.
In the early years, many came to the Connetquot
in horse-drawn carriages and then via the rails and
eventually by chauffeured limousine, all converging
on a precious piece of Long Island real estate to
share in the common interest of fly fishing. They
came to escape the hectic pace of life in the big
city, and they came for the trout that inhabited
this very unique spring creek. Eventually, the
private preserve became a public and democratic
place where all could enjoy what was once the domain
of a fortunate but visionary few. For a modest use
fee, one could reserve a classic “beat” for a
session of fly fishing, and thus enjoy a fly fishing
escape, an almost private slice of trout heaven.
Until recently, substantial populations of brook,
brown and rainbow trout swam throughout the five
miles of the Connetquot River contained within the
park and preserve. Thousands of fly anglers from all
across the United States and the world annually
visited the river to sample its prized bounty. In
the eyes of many, it was nothing less than a world
class fly stream. But that prominence came to an
abrupt and unfortunate end.
My first exposure to the Connetquot River
occurred in May, 1975 shortly after the park
extended public access privileges to fly fishermen.
That initial trip to the river was an enchanting
one, and I have been drawn back ever since, not only
for the fabulous trout fishing but also for the
total experience of such a magical place. Through
the course of its flow, the river slowly transforms
itself yet always maintains its majesty as a classic
trout stream. I too was transformed by the river’s
flow and the ghosts of those who fished there before
me. Traditions hang heavy in the park and it is easy
to understand why. The Connetquot has a small trout
stream charm and elegance all its own. Its
cold-water, spring creek attributes are ideal for
sustaining healthy populations of trout. The history
of the place dates back to 1683 when William Nicoll
purchased a large tract of land from Winnaquaheagh,
a member of the Secatoug Native Americans. Bordering
this tract of land was a river called the “Conttquut”.
In 1702, after amassing land holdings in the area
that encompassed more than 51,000 acres, Mr. Nicoll
returned a portion of the headwaters of the
Connetquot River to the Native Americans for use as
a campground. It was also during the early 1700s
that Mr. Nicoll constructed a Gristmill, which still
stands along the banks of the Connetquot River. The
mill was once a popular and productive fishing area,
like many other beats on the river, but that is no
The true beginnings of the Connetquot watershed
as a sportsman’s paradise started some time around
1820 when Eliphalet Snedecor leased a portion of
land along the river to establish Snedecor’s Tavern
that would function as a coach stop for travelers
journeying from New York City to Montauk. It didn’t
take long for the bountiful natural resources of the
area to establish it as one of the nation’s most
popular fishing and hunting locations. A group of
wealthy sportsmen who were regular visitors to the
Inn couldn’t get adequate lodging and subsequently
bought the tavern and its facilities in 1860 along
with 879 adjoining acres. This was the beginning of
the Southside Sportsman’s Club of Long Island. The
club attracted its membership from among the most
influential business leaders and politicians of the
day and over time expanded the range of their
holdings to encompass 3,473 acres. In 1963, the
State of New York purchased the property, leasing
the land back to the Club for a period of 10 years.
The park became a complete public property in 1973
and opened its gates to fly fishermen in 1975. For
years the park maintained the same, if not better
quality of angling than it did when the river and
its surrounding environs were the private and
exclusive retreat of this nation’s most influential
leaders. But all that has sadly come to a premature
end. Who could have let such a thing happen?
The Connetquot River is located in Oakdale, New
York and runs an almost eight and a half mile course
out to the Great South Bay; the park proper
containing about five miles of river. The vast
majority of trout stocked in the river were
hatchery-raised within the park and ranged in size
from about a 1/2 pound up to 2 pounds. Occasionally,
smaller and larger fish would also be released. In
all, approximately 33,000 trout were set free into
the river each year. Sea-run “salters” that migrate
from the park out in to the Bay and even the ocean
beyond have been imprinted to return to the
preserve, adding greatly to the appeal of the river.
I have been witness to the return of magnificent
steelhead. It is a sight to behold, especially on
Long Island. It mattered not that the fish may have
been hatchery-raised. Big is big and those were
truly heart-stopper moments, that quite possibly may
be no more. Hopefully, the sea-run trout will
continue to grace us with their presence, but they
too come back to an empty home.
Whenever I would walk the park or fish the cool
spring waters of the river I’d often contemplate
what the original club members must have felt being
in such an extraordinary place. But I would never
have to think too long or too hard. The beauty and
traditions of the park and the river had been
meticulously preserved and enhanced by the efforts
and vision of park manager, Gil Bergen. Through his
stewardship, the Connetquot River is now classified
as one of New York’s Wild, Scenic and Recreational
Rivers. All who visit this magnificent piece of real
estate owe a huge debt of gratitude to Gil for his
diligence, perseverance and personal commitment to
preserve this precious natural resource and allow us
to bridge the decades – to experience the Connetquot
much like our ancestors saw it. While much of that
shell remains, the grandeur of the trout fishing is
now but a treasured memory to those who were
fortunate enough to experience it and grow to
cherish the river and its fish. The hatchery now
remains a dormant concrete hulk, as if it is in a
state of perpetual hibernation from which it will
never again rouse. Eighty thousand trout were set
free in the lower river by the freshwater fisheries
division of the New York State Department of
Conservation, with the hope they would be caught and
killed never again to perpetuate the strain of trout
that was a hallmark of the Connetquot River. While
those who were there during that release period
enjoyed unnaturally fast and furious fishing, it was
a sad and humiliating way for a grand and stately
trout stream to die. It was a mockery of 140 years
of tradition and superb fisheries management. Was
IPN really to blame? Was it the cause of the river’s
demise or simply a convenient excuse to impose a new
management agenda for change. Regardless, a great
hatchery is no more and the river it fed has
starved, a victim of the method used to address a
disease that has likely existed for decades.
I am no expert on infectious fish diseases and I
surely don’t know the answer to the how the problem
to eradicate IPN in the Connetquot River should have
been resolved. I do know from reading about the
disease as it exists in other states and other
countries that there were alternatives that could
have been considered and tried before an entire
population of trout was summarily sentenced to
extermination. I also know that some very
well-meaning and informed individuals and
organizations raised some of the alternatives to
those charged with evaluating and solving the
problem. It is not my purpose to offer a “what we
should have done” proposition but rather to suggest
that not enough was done by those accountable for
making the decision before 140 years of Long
Island’s trout fishing history was eradicated,
Can the river ever be what is once was? I doubt
it. Will the hatchery ever be allowed to operate as
it did in the past? I doubt it. Will new anglers who
visit the Connetquot River be fortunate enough to
collect the caliber of fond fishing memories as I
and others have over the years? I doubt it. Will the
legacy of a great place that is on the National
Historic Registry be fully passed on to future
generations? I doubt it. Does anyone in a position
of authority to try and restore the trout fishery to
that level of greatness even care about doing so? I
doubt that, too. I sincerely hope I am wrong. But
maybe - just maybe - if enough of us care and react,
we can get someone to listen. Until then, may the
Connetquot River and its long departed trout rest in
Newsday - August 23, 2009 - "Hatchery Funding Sought"
by Jennifer Maloney
The Connetquot River hatchery, which for 118 years
supplied trout for what has been one of the state’s
most heralded angling spots, stands empty. Fishing
on the river has dwindled, and visiting children can
no longer follow the growth of a trout from roe to
fry to rainbow.
On the quiet riverbank, state and
local politicians gathered last week to demand money
from the state for a study to determine how to
reopen the hatchery.
The facility, built in 1890 and now part of the
Connetquot River State Park Preserve, was closed in
January after its trout tested positive for a viral
disease, infectious pancreatic necrosis.
Click here for the complete story.
The Long Island Press - August 20, 2009 - "Citizens Fight For Connetquot Park"
by Kate Kinane and Dana Filipowski
The trout hatchery at Connetquot River State Park
Preserve in Oakdale has survived countless natural
disasters, the Great Depression and two World Wars,
yet the 140-plus-year-old institution has been
brought to its knees by an agent that can only be
seen through the lens of a microscope.
historic hatchery was shut down in January 2009 when
Infectious Pancreatic Necrosis (IPN), a virus
non-communicable to humans, was discovered in young
trout. Recently, there’s been a groundswell of
support from local elected officials, business
leaders, environmental groups and citizens to
remediate the situation and get the hatchery back
On Aug. 18, Islip Town Supervisor Phil Nolan held
a press conference at the preserve to raise
awareness about the hatchery’s plight, organize the
various groups seeking to have it reopened and
discuss possible solutions. The event also kicked
off a petition drive for funding from New York State
Gov. David Paterson for a comprehensive
environmental review, including possibly limited
operations at the hatchery as part of the study.
“It’s ridiculous that we haven’t reopened the
fishery,” Nolan told those in attendance, which
included community and business leaders, fishermen
and a swarm of other supporters. “It’s a total
Nolan and the nonprofit Friends of Connetquot (FOC)—an
organization dedicated to preserving the park in its
entirety—have been vocal with the way the New York
State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC)
has handled the disease and the river’s infected
The preserve’s permit to run the fish hatchery
expired December 31, 2008 and can not be renewed
until its trout test negative for the sickness.
Currently, the hatchery is not set to open for the
next five years, or until eggs and young trout are
clear of IPN.
Besides shuttering the hatchery, the DEC released
all remaining trout into the river downstream,
according to a report by the Idle Hour Fly Fishers,
a local fishing advocacy group, titled “Connetquot
River State Park Trout Hatchery: Victim of Nature
and Dysfunctional Government.” Most of those trout,
says the report, found their way into another
portion of the river outside the park, where they
were caught en mass by anglers there. Now, there are
very few trout in the hatchery.
IPN, although harmless to humans, is capable of
destroying complete ecosystems through the
decimation of trout populations. According to the
FOC, in an effort to save the fish hatchery, 150,000
supposedly infected young trout were killed in 2007.
DEC spokesperson Maureen Wren tells the Press the
temporary closing of the hatchery is part of an
overall effort to protect state waterways and
prevent the spread of diseases such as IPN. Wren
added that regulations on IPN and the actions taken
to purge waterways of it are a precedent in
Northeastern states, with the exception of
The hatchery’s closure has had serious
ramifications for the preserve and the Town of
Islip, say advocates.
FOC board member Richard Remmer explains the
preserve and its hatchery had been an important
destination for generations of families—a piece of
Islip town history existing in modern times.
Nolan, in a letter announcing the Aug. 18 event,
told constituents that preserving the hatchery was
“crucial” because of its educational, historical and
economic contributions to the town. Fishermen and
tourists from around the world visited to fish in
the preserve’s waters, he writes, but since the
hatchery’s mandated closing, it has received 30
percent less visitors and overall, 90 percent fewer
fishers. Many of those anglers are handicapped, as
the preserve boasts easily acessible fishing
locations for wheelchairs.
In addition, writes Nolan, the hatchery, a
historical landmark, provided local students with an
important educational experience—enabling them to
see the trout and learn about the town’s heritage.
Fishermen have had to pay $20 for four hours of
fly fishing at the preserve and are now paying the
same amount, but catching a lot less fish, says the
FOC. Deputy Regional Director of Long Island State
Parks John Kowalchyk acknowledges the drop in
attendance and revenue for the park, but says it is
not yet in crisis.
“There is an impact,” explains Kowalchyk.
“Clearly there are fewer people fishing and they pay
that $20 fee and that adds up.”
Local businesses have also suffered, proponents
“We have certainly noticed a decrease in fly
fishermen coming here,” Harry Fuld, owner of J&H
Tackle in Oakdale, tells the Press. Fuld says a fly
fishing equipment store once located across the
street from him was put out of business due to the
Kowalchyk adds that local hotels and area
restaurants, which help stimulate the local economy,
have also felt the pinch.
“Any time there is reduced activity in a state
park the surrounding community has fewer people
coming to that area as a destination,” he says.
Nolan and the FOC hope the proposed environmental
review will help identify and address the
remediation of the Connetquot’s waters, enabling the
hatchery to exist for future generations to come.
“The hatchery has been to us a great source of
income, education and pride and we need to work
together to get the proper studies done immediately
to get the hatchery re-opened for another
140-years,” he writes.
The Fisherman - August 13, 2009 - "The Connetquot Debacle"
by Fred Golofaro
Click here to download this article in PDF format.
Thank you to Mr. Golofaro for providing us with the
PDF and for his permission to make this article
available on the Friends website.
Did the DEC's efforts to combat the IPN Virus
needlessly destroy a world class fishery? You
There are few words to describe the travesty that
has taken place with the Connetquot River State Park
Preserve trout hatchery, and the trout fishery
within the preserve. New York State, and the
freshwater division of our Department of
Conservation in particular, in all its infinite
wisdom has managed to destroy a world class trout
fishery that once drew anglers from every corner of
the United States, as well countries like France,
England, Italy, Japan and Australia, and was
routinely featured in national magazines. This
questionable effort also threatens to destroy
or forever alter a hatchery that was first
constructed in 1870 and is recognized on the
National Historic Registry.
reason for eliminating 80,000 trout from the
hatchery and river by expanded bag limits and
allowing the trout to migrate downstream and into
the tidal section of the river was to curb a virus
known as Infectious Pancreatic Necrosis (IPN). While
scores of trout fishermen plying the pool at Bubbles
Ball and adjacent Rattlesnake Creek benefited from
the bounty released in park waters, the move
effectively emptied waters within the preserve of
its once robust trout population as the Department
of Conservation (DEC) sought to eliminate IPN from
The big question is why DEC reacted with such
extreme measures to a “disease” that is common
throughout the trout’s range in the continental
United States and is endemic to 40 percent of the
hatcheries in Great Britain. IPN is not communicable
to humans, it is not a threat to those who handle or
consume infected fish, and it is not even considered
a problem in most states or other countries. IPN has
had no discernible impact on the propagation of
brook, brown or rainbow trout in the Connetquot
hatchery. Many other forms of wildlife such as
osprey, seagulls, herons, kingfishers, raccoons,
muskrats and eels which inhabit the park carry the
virus, with no apparent harm to themselves. Evidence
of the IPN virus has also been found in crustaceans
and shellfish. It primarily affects fry and
fingerling trout, and there is no evidence of
increased mortality as a result of the virus. The
mortality rate at the hatchery has remained fairly
consistent at around 15 percent for more than 50
Now consider that even if the DEC’s efforts at
eliminating the virus are successful, what guarantee
is there that the river and hatchery will remain
free of IPN, given all of the potential carriers,
including those fish that return from the tidal
reaches of the river to the park’s waters? IPN could
easily be reintroduced from the Estuary and Great
South Bay, since the virus has been detected in
saltwater fish. The DEC’s position all along has
been that they are obligated to make sure that
“clean” fish are produced for stocking, but they
have no control or mandate over what happens to them
after they are stocked. Maybe you can make sense of
that, but I can’t! If DEC was overly concerned about
stocking infected fish, fish raised in Connetquot
could have been used solely for stocking the park’s
waters, with no fish being brought in and no fish
sent out. This would have maintained the high
quality of the fishery while DEC took the
appropriate time to consider its options.
stumbling ahead with this cleansing effort, they
have only succeeded in destroying a serious revenue
source for the state at a time when New York can ill
afford to lose a penny. A recent call to the park
inquiring about the availability of a beat on that
day revealed that there were only two reservations
for the park’s waters. Prior to this atrocity, it
was common to have to reserve a beat a week in
advance. Very simply – no one is willing to pay $20
to catch nothing. Walking the banks of the river on
a recent visit to the park, I did not see a trout
along a stretch covering seven or eight beats.
The hatchery itself was a major draw, attracting
thousands of visitors to the park. Who is going to
pay the entrance fee to see empty concrete ponds?
This decision also impacted on neighboring
businesses which catered to the park’s fly
fishermen. In fact, Parkwood Outfitters, just down
the road on Sunrise Highway, is closing its doors as
a result of the drastic drop in business resulting
from the current state of the fishery. The DEC’s
actions also threaten the hatchery’s place on the
National Registry of Historic Buildings, may violate
the deed and grant terms which created the preserve,
and could impact the river and estuary ecosystem.
The big question now that they have moved ahead
and are facing costly solutions to correcting “the
problem,” is how they expect to pay for it given the
state’s current fiscal crisis. It will cost millions
to replace the hatchery to abide by the current
federal water pollution act, and according to
several state legislators, the odds of coming up
with that funding would be slim to none. Add to
that, every state department is facing budget cuts,
including DEC and State Parks. I’m especially
frustrated because this past winter I penned an
editorial questioning the direction DEC appeared to
be taking. Just prior to going to press, I received
a phone call suggesting I hold off on running the
editorial which was critical of the DEC’s actions to
that point, based on a meeting held that day which
seemed to offer hope of resolving the issue in a
positive way. I pulled the editorial, and shortly
after found out that the DEC moved ahead and was in
the process of having the hatchery emptied of trout.
Prior to that, people like Assemblywoman Ginny
Fields, Lawrence Merryman – conservation chair of
the Great South
Audubon Society, Richard Remmer – former chairman of
Friends of the Connetquot, and Dr. Richard
Steinberger, who did extensive research on this
issue for the Idle Hour Fly Fishers, all questioned
the direction DEC was taking and outlined the
ramifications of their actions to Carol Ash,
Commissioner of the New York State Office of Parks,
Recreation and Historic Preservation and State
Historic Preservation Officer, and DEC Commissioner
Who is ultimately responsible for the Connetquot
disaster and why did the project move ahead despite
all of the warning signs and potential negative
effects? One has to wonder if there was another
agenda at work here, or were the decision makers so
blind to the obvious ramifications?
If all of the above is not bad enough, consider
that a hatchery which has operated successfully and
continuously for over 140 years now lies dormant;
IPN has probably been endemic to the river for over
25 years, and possibly 100; The Connetquot hatchery
was one of the most successful programs in the state
for brook trout, and trout have been successfully
bred here for over 50 years. Connetquot trout are
mostly free from boils, square tail and other
diseases, and the mortality rate for fry, as noted
earlier, has not significantly changed in over 50
If you would like to express your frustration at
the DEC’s decision to pursue cleansing the
Connetquot Hatchery of IPN, direct your comments to
DEC Commissioner Peter Grannis, New York State
Department of Environmental Conservation, 625
Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-1011 (518- 402-8545) or
email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also
direct your calls to Chart Guthrie in Freshwater
Fisheries at 631-444-0280.
The Islip Bulletin - July 9, 2009 - "Surveying a River Full of Fish"
by Jeffrey Bessen
DEC to collect data on Connetquot River
OAKDALE — Within the next few weeks a survey of the Connetquot River is slated to be conducted to assess the trout holding capacity of the waterway, while also testing for Infectious Pancreatic Necrosis (IPN).
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is conducting the survey that measures the river’s width, length, depth and discharge (amount of water that flows through it), cover shelter, habitat, quality of food supply for the fish such as insects, competing species and potential predators.
In addition, a portion of the trout will be killed and tested to uncover if IPN, a disease that appears to be endemic only to immature trout and not harmful to people, “is still endemic to the river,” according to Charles Guthrie, the DEC’s regional fisheries manager.
IPN was the cause for New York State Parks Department decision to close the nearly 150-year old fish hatchery at Connetquot River State Park Preserve last December.
The Park Preserve encompasses 3,743 acres that stretches from Oakdale through Bohemia, Islip Terrace and Central Islip. In addition to the hatchery, the Preserve features the historical Sportsmen club building, the restored Grist Mill and houses a considerable amount of old growth trees.
The closing of what community members, especially those belonging to the group Friends of Connetquot, hold dear as a historical, educational and recreational facility set off a firestorm of protest from when the decision was initially announced last fall. The fish hatchery is on the National Register of Landmarks.
“The way it effects the fish hatchery are the ultimate results of the survey in how many fish they need in the river to maintain the quality,” said Guthrie, who also noted that how many trout exist in the river, natural reproduction of the fish, and how many are caught by fishermen are also factors considered and placed into a DEC model that determines how many fish the river can hold and should by stocked for catching and hauling.
Previously, the trout in the river were tested at the same time of the year in 2007 and the test came up positive for IPN, according to Guthrie. There are less fish now and he said the disease may have weakened.
Based on local information, IPN has occurred at the identical rate of 15 percent for the past 60 years in juvenile trout or fingerlings. John Kowalchyk, the Parks Department deputy director for the Long Island Region, previously said that it is possible that IPN began infecting Connetquot River trout in the late 1970s or ‘80s. Based on information on the Friends of Connetquot Web site IPN was first confirmed through tests in 2006.
However, despite the IPN, many want the fish hatchery reopened viewing this facility a positive impact on the environment and area fishing as well as its educational value. The state parks department did not respond for comment by press time.
“The decision to close the hatchery is based on the presence of IPN, which is a virus that does not effect humans and is not even considered to be a reportable disease by the U.S. government, England and most states,” wrote Richard Remmer, the director of Friends of Connetquot in a December 2008 letter.
This survey will be done with aerial maps, GPS and GIS (geographic information systems), discharge of the river is measured through three U.S. Geological gauging stations that are considered “accurate” by Guthrie and overhead cover estimates are done the old fashioned way of “walking the river” he added.
“We are helping Parks move forward with the hatchery,”
said Guthrie, who noted that the survey should be completed by the end of this month with data analysis due by the middle of next month.
The Suffolk County News - January 22, 2009 - Attempting to Hatch a Better Fishery
Parks, DEC await consultant's recommendations
OAKDALE — As the Connetquot River State Park Preserve fish hatchery lies
dormant, the New York State Department of Parks, Recreation and the Office
of Preservation, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), Friends
of Connetquot and anglers are awaiting recommendations from a consulting
HDR FishPro, an Omaha, Nebraska-based firm that specializes in fisheries
resource biology and engineering, hatchery design, fish passage and barrier
design, and aquatic ecosystem restoration, according to its Web site, was
expected to present its findings to the state Parks Department in
mid-January, according to John Kowalchyk, the Parks Department deputy
director for the Long Island Region.
In September, the Parks Department and the DEC decided to close the fish
hatchery, located at the Park Preserve, on Dec. 31 due to the incidence of
infectious pancreatic necrosis (IPN) that appears to be endemic only to
immature trout and not harmful to humans.
“Parks is trying to be responsible and reasonable,” said Kowalchyk, who
noted that local information has IPN occurring at the same rate of 15
percent for the past 60 years, he said in the course of research that it is
quite possible that IPN began infecting Connetquot River trout in the late
1970s or early ‘80s.
There was supposed discussion of operating the fish hatchery under a
limited permit, however, that is not happening, according to Charles
Guthrie, the DEC’s regional fisheries manager.
“We are working with Parks to develop a plan to move forward with the
hatchery,” said Guthrie, who noted the hatchery is currently closed and all
the fish were released at the end of last month.
Kowalchyk said that once the recommendations are received from HDR
FishPro, Parks and the DEC will develop a “plan of action” looking at time
frames and budgets and decide what components of those recommendation to
implement during the spring summer and fall.
There was a plan proposed in the fall, for the Parks Department to
oversee a clean up of the hatchery that would have included sterilization,
draining the three primary holding ponds and disinfecting the hatchery. That
plan would have cost less than $5,000, according to state officials.
However, groups such as Friends of Connetquot, a fundraising organization
for the Park preserve, and others such as Assemblywoman Ginny Fields
(D-Oakdale) are seeking to maintain the hatchery due to its positive impact
on the environment, area fishing and its educational value.
“It has been a big problem asking them to at least think about it,”
Fields said in regard to having Parks and the DEC keep the hatchery open.
“No one seemed to care that it is on the National Register.”
Community-minded groups such as the Oakdale Civic Association have
implemented a letter-writing campaign to get their point across.
Noting that he has spoken to multiple involved groups such as Trout
Unlimited, Long Island Flyrodder and Friends of Connetquot, Kowalchyk said
that they are seeking a resolution that would possibly eliminate IPN in both
the hatchery and the Connetquot River “to the extent it is practical.
The Park Preserve runs along 3,743 acres in and around Oakdale, Bohemia,
Islip Terrace and Central Islip, and features the hatchery, the historical
Southside Sportsmen’s Club building, the restored Grist Mill and is
considered home to old growth trees.
The Suffolk County News - December 18, 2008 - Letter to the Editor
The New York State Department of Environmental
Conservation (DEC) will be closing the Connetquot
River State Park Preserve Trout Hatchery on Jan. 1,
The Friends of Connetquot believe this is a terrible
decision that is being made without considering the
impact on handicap fishing, historical preservation,
educational opportunities for tens of thousands of
school children and the loss of potentially hundreds
of thousands of dollars of Park revenues.
The decision to close the hatchery is based on the
presence of IPN (infectious pancreatic necrosis),
which is a virus that does not affect humans and is
not even considered to be a reportable disease by
the U.S. government, England or most states.
The Friends are also very concerned that the state
will be dumping as many as 60,000 trout into the
Connetquot River in conjunction with the closing of
The DEC has advised Parks that trout in the
Connetquot may no longer be fed. The potential
impact of introducing this many infected fish and
then not feeding them could be catastrophic.
With as many as 100,000 fish in the river below the
hatchery, trout will be much more likely to die due
to stress, starvation and predation, all of which
will further spread the IPN disease among trout and
other species including invertebrates.
This could have catastrophic consequences and
long-term impact on the Connetquot River. In
addition, the massive dumping of trout all at one
time in conjunction with a “no feed” policy may push
fish out into the estuary, making it more likely
that diseased fish will end up infecting fish in
other nearby rivers including the Carmen’s.
At the very least, we are asking that DEC and Parks
suspend this ill-advised double policy of dumping
and not feeding and keep this historic 144-year-old
hatchery open until such time as a qualified expert
has been consulted. The Friends of Connetquot ask
readers who are concerned to contact Governor
Director of The Friends of Connetquot
New York Times - April 13, 2008 - To Restore a Historic Site, a Treasure Hunt
By Carolyn Nardiello
A FRANKLIN stove circa 1830. Replicas of
150-year-old wooden rocking chairs. Antique fishing
tackle. Duck decoys a century old. Stuffed wild
turkeys. Rows of narrow, footlong lockers to fit
liquor bottles. Keys to lock up the alcohol.
These are just some of the items in the billiard
room of the former Southside Sportsmen’s Club, once
a refuge for the likes of Louis C. Tiffany, August
Belmont and William K. Vanderbilt in what is now the
Connetquot River State Park Preserve.
“It’s like you dropped back about 50 years,” said
Gil Bergen, the park manager.
“It still has that feeling.”
As part of an effort to restore the club
building, parts of which date to the 1820s, to its
original luster 35 years after it was shuttered, Mr.
Bergen and others have been on a treasure hunt for
more of the artifacts that filled it.
Mr. Bergen and Friends of Connetquot, a nonprofit
group helping to maintain the 3,473-acre park and
its history, hope that by spreading the word on $3
Sunday tours and beyond, more of the 300 missing
items will be located.
“We’re hoping things are just sitting in attics
and people realize we want them back,” said Bob
Labuski, president of Friends of Connetquot.
Lemon-scented wood cleaner filled the air during
a recent journey through time in each room — a
fishing rod room, the men’s dining hall, a large
kitchen and pantry, a ladies’ dining and sitting
room. On the top floor of the three-story building
are 24 bedrooms. Women were allowed in the men’s
areas only one day a year — New Year’s.
When the club closed in 1973, citing high taxes,
many items were auctioned, and the stove was
presented to the New-York Historical Society. About
a decade ago, as the restoration got under way, the
Historical Society leased the stove back to the park
for $1 a year.
One original hardwood rocking chair dating to the
1860s was recovered, and Mr. Bergen said six
replicas were made for $600 each.
The restoration project is just the latest
chapter in the park’s distinctive history. The
Secatogue Indians called the area Connetquot for
“great river.” In 1683 they sold it to William
Nicoll, the founder of Islip Town.
Around 1820, the Nicoll family leased some land
to Eliphalet Snedecor, who founded a tavern that
became a coach stop for Montauk-bound travelers.
Forty years later, a group of wealthy sportsmen
bought the tavern from the Snedecor family and some
“The club was the magnet that drew all people to
the south side of Long Island,” Mr. Bergen said.
“This was the Gold Coast in the 1890s.”
The Southside Sportsmen’s Club was incorporated
in 1866, and 100 members each
held 100 shares of stock worth $500 at that time,
Mr. Bergen said. In 1963, the state bought the land
for $6.2 million, but the club leased the area for
10 more years. In 1973, the year the club closed,
it was placed on the National Register of Historic
On a recent brisk day, Gigi Simonetti of Islip
Terrace was walking her horse along the old Montauk
Highway where horse-drawn coaches once
click-clacked. Gripping the reins of her blond
palomino named Prince, she said the restoration
project was overdue.
“I’m a big fan of history, and I’m a firm
believer in preserving it,” she said. Ms. Simonetti
said she was happy to traipse through what was once
a men’s-only club. “Aha,” she said she thought to
herself the first time she entered. “I’m here now.”
There are other restoration projects at the
park. An ice house may become a library, Mr.
Labuski said. A wheat and corn mill built in the
1700s is undergoing renovations.
Mr. Labuski hopes that within a year, the mill
will be completed and added to the list of park
attractions — horseback and walking trails, a fish
hatchery and fly-fishing.
What comes after the restoration projects?
“We’ll just get it ready,” Mr. Bergen said, “for
the next 100 years, that’s all.”
Newsday - March 16, 2008 - Club and Mill History in the Remaking in Oakdale
In 1973, the members of the South Side Sportsmen's
Club held an auction. Before their Oakdale
headquarters - built as a tavern in 1820 and
converted to a clubhouse in 1866 - was turned over
to the state to become a park, the men gathered to
sell off nearly everything inside it.
The furniture went. So did the Steinway grand, the
stuffed fish, even the teapot with a broken handle.
The stove, circa 1820, was auctioned, too.
Gilbert Bergen, park ranger for what is now called
Connetquot River State Park Preserve, was there. And
he wants it all back.
"At that time, the state was interested in the
property and they weren't thinking about furnishings
and that sort of thing," said Bergen, 78.
Now, of course, it seems a shame that all those
items - from fishing rods to works of art - were
dispersed, he said.
Bergen has been steward of the place since 1960,
when it was still a private club. For a century, it
catered to some of the most prominent names in New
York business and politics.
Presidents Theodore Roose- velt and Herbert Hoover
visited, likely retiring to the club's billiard room
for a drink next to the ornate Franklin stove.
Now Bergen and a group of supporters called the
Friends of Connetquot River State Park Preserve are
working to restore the historic clubhouse and nearby
flour mill to their former states.
They're asking descendants of club members to donate
or loan back the clubhouse's original furnishings.
And the state, with financial support from the
Friends, is restoring the 18th-century mill.
The park's 3,473 acres first belonged to the
Secatogue Indians, who named the river "Connetquot,"
which means "Great River." In 1684 and 1697, they
sold the land on both sides of the river to William
Nicoll, the father of Islip Town.
Nicoll built the Oakdale Grist Mill around 1750.
Used by local farmers to grind corn - called "grist"
- and wheat, the mill had a horizontal wheel beneath
the building that was propelled by the flowing
In 1820, Eliphalet Snecedor opened the Snedecor Inn,
a stagecoach stop along old South Country Road.
Forty-six years later, his wealthy patrons, who came
for the excellent fishing and hunting, bought the
property to form a private club.
"We are very fortunate that the old gentlemen who
had the South Side Sportsmen's Club were here,"
Richard Remmer, former president of the Friends,
said while standing next to the mill, which soon
will be lowered onto new foundations.
"They had the means to preserve the building," he
said. "It's the only horizontal water mill left
probably anywhere on the East Coast, if not in the
Getting the mill working again
Most mills were converted to vertical wheels in the
late 1880s, not long after the sportsmen's club was
founded and the Oakdale Grist Mill stopped
operating, Remmer said.
After a $150,000 restoration of the deteriorating
structure, Remmer hopes to make it a working mill
again. That will cost another $150,000. So far, the
Friends have raised $105,000 to contribute to the
The park currently operates a 19th-century hatchery,
stocking the river with trout. Connetquot also
features 50 miles of hiking, horseback riding,
cross-country ski and nature trails. It also offers
educational programs and tours of the old clubhouse.
Inside that three-story shingled lodge, Friends
members and park staff walk through expansive rooms,
pointing out a few original furnishings that have
been recovered - or reproduced.
The billiard room once again features its antique
Franklin stove, on loan from the New-York Historical
Society, to which it had been donated. The Friends
have commissioned replicas of several rocking
chairs, also for the billiard room.
Two original John James Audubon prints -
"Canvas-backed Duck" and "Dusky Duck" - hang in the
men's dining room, but the dining set in the ladies'
dining room doesn't do justice to the original
Windsor chairs, said Linda Kasten, 54, a park staff
member who once worked in the club's kitchen.
Bergen has an inventory of 300 items auctioned in
1973. The pieces were considered private property of
the club's member-shareholders, and were not
included in the sale of the buildings and land to
the state for $6.5 million. The proceeds of the
auction were split among the members.
Remmer, 52, who remembers coming to the club as a
boy with his father, would like to see the return of
an oak card table, with a top that came off to
reveal a green felt playing surface for poker. He
also hopes to re-equip the kitchen, which used to
serve Clams South Side, a type of clam hash.
But Bergen will be happy to see even the broken
"We're really not choosy at all," he said. "It was
all interesting. It's just nice to have them come
Copyright © 2008, Newsday Inc.
The Wall Street Journal - October 9, 2007 - Where Big Fish Caught Trout
by Daniel Henninger
Assume you are a wage slave in New York City. As
respite, you favor the joys of fishing streams for
large trout. You have a couple of choices. Travel
2,206 miles to the banks of the Madison River in
Montana, or thereabouts. Plan B: Early on a weekday
morning, load your car with a flyrod, stream waders
and a box of flies, drive some 57 miles out of New
York City on the old Southern State Parkway into
Long Island, turn in at Connetquot State Park, in
Oakdale, walk to your reserved "beat" on the
Connetquot River, fat with rainbows, brookies and
browns. Oh, and there's a bonus: You will have
arrived at the living heart of the politics and
history of the Empire State.
Is this too much weight for one little trout stream
to bear? We shall see.
Let us first establish the bona fides of why we are
trout fishing on Long Island, starting with the
Indian word "Connetquot," spelled in an earlier time
Connattquut, and now pronounced Ka-NET-qwot. Almost
rhymes with kumquat. The Connetquot for hundreds of
years, and now, is one of the finest trout streams
in the U.S. Fly Fisherman magazine, seeking the best
public fisheries for trophy rainbows, listed streams
in Idaho, Montana, Oregon "and the Connetquot River
on Long Island." Another fishing source has called
the Connetquot "the only blue-ribbon trout water on
the planet surrounded by dense suburban
Fortunately this is either not well known or
disbelieved by many Eastern trout fishermen who
would rather pack in to Montana or Utah. The
Connetquot is an Eastern trout stream that is not
"pressured," as happens when the salmon are running
out of Lake Ontario into the Niagara River and men
have been known to get into fistfights and shootouts
over four feet of riverbank. The Connetquot is
operated under the English beat system. Its fishable
length is about 2.5 miles. After reserving in
advance and paying $20, each fisherman receives a
single beat or "site" of the 30 along the stream,
first come-first choice, of about 100 yards. The
brook trout average about 14 inches.
The Connetquot is fished on barbless hooks and only
with artificial flies or streamers. Anglers may keep
two trout from the river. More important, it has its
own well-run fish hatchery to stock the stream,
dating back to the 1860s.
Those among you who both fish and think about
politics must be saying: "Wait a minute. You're
saying this is a state park? A New York state park?
Hear ye the history of an ancient trout stream.
In 1683, the Secatogue Indians deeded land on the
South Shore of Long Island to William Nicoll,
described in the histories as a "gentleman from the
City of New York." In 1820, a tavern keeper arrived
named Eliphalet Snedecor (there were few easy names
on Long Island back then; they tongue-tie visitors
to this day), who rented land from Mr. Nicoll.
Fishermen and bird shooters started showing up on
Long Island's South Shore to stay at Snedecor's
Tavern. The fishermen and shooters happened to be
called Vanderbilt, Havemeyer, Cutting, Wilmerding,
Lorillard, Hollings and the like. These were the men
who shaped the commercial -- that is, Republican --
history of New York during its first great period of
economic growth, before Democrats seized the state.
Business or pleasure, these gents enjoyed the blood
sports. One brisk November in 1842, a Mr. Delmonico,
namesake of the famed New York City restaurant, was
found face down and dead at the foot of a deer
blind, his death attributed to the excitement of the
In 1866 a group of these fellows bought the land,
expanded Snedecor's original tavern into a clubhouse
and dubbed the shooting fields and their lovely
stream the Southside Sportsmen's Club. In the 1870s,
a writer from Forest and Stream described the club's
rare waters: "One of the finest trout streams on
Long Island is the one whose lower half is owned by
the Southside Sportsmen's Club. The upper part is
wonderfully pure, fed by bottom springs, and flowing
over a continuous bed of whitest gravel. It seems
surprising," he wrote, "to find it stocked with
trout that may be numbered by the hundred thousand."
Here the men of Southside fished, shot, ate, drank
and, legend has it, did other things. Women fished
and shot pheasant but not ducks. The Southside
Sportsmen's Club proceeded along this path for about
100 years, finding new members to replace the old
boys who went off to settle up with the Final
Accountant, or taking on their descendants as new
Then, in the late 1950s, the club encountered Robert
Moses, already slathering the state with concrete
and highways and public parks. Moses, a Democrat,
told the club men he'd have the state confiscate
their river and land for a public park if they
didn't give them up. (A simplification, to be sure,
but this is the way you hear it in taverns on the
South Shore even now.) Moses, however, wasn't
dealing with fools, and the gents of the Southside
Sportsmen's Club extracted concessions from the
famous land bully. After a 10-year transitional
period, the 4,000 acres became a state preserve --
with the trout stream intact.
The Southside Sportsmen's Club's last land manager,
Gil Bergen, was 34 then, in 1963. He's still there,
as the state preserve's manager, running the
hatchery and supervising the river's beat system.
And the clubhouse.
The Southside clubhouse is the most imposing
building in Connetquot Park. In 1868, the Southside
club added three floors to Snedecor's original
tavern, bedrooms, a rod room, a dining room for men
and one for ladies. Today much of it houses the
park's administrative and teaching offices. But the
large billiards room, bedrooms and truly grand
kitchen remain, evoking an age that shall never
return. Gil Bergen is attempting to restore them to
their original magnificence. In this he has help
from the Friends of the Connetquot.
With the creation of the Friends in 1995, we arrive
at perhaps one of the few moments of relative
equanimity in New York's politics and history.
Consider: Over its time, the Connetquot's perfect
setting for the restful taking of trout passed from
Long Island's settlers, through the hands of New
York City's first great commercial and financial
giants, into the urban-planning schemes of Robert
Moses and finally, like much else in New York,
became a ward of the state. Someone wise determined
that state stewardship alone would not keep the
Connetquot Preserve as it had been for more than
Richard Remmer, the president of Friends of
Connetquot, attributes the "friends" idea to former
New York State Parks Commissioner Bernadette Castro.
While the upkeep of the park's land isn't
extravagantly expensive, fixing buildings or
upgrading the hatchery and such pressures the state
parks' budget. So typically the Friends raise money
and invest time to produce, say, the engineering
drawings and plans for a project. That might cost
$35,000. Getting this out of the way makes it easier
for the state to simply execute the construction.
If the trout hatchery that makes the Connetquot what
it is needs lumber to replace rotten wood, the
Friends do that. Currently, they're trying to
restore to working order the river's grist mill,
which dates to 1750. The Gerry Charitable Trust, a
Long Island foundation, has pledged $40,000 if the
Friends can match that by Oct. 20. (A similar Long
Island group, Friends of Montauk Downs, is making it
possible for the state to restore a legendary public
golf course to the design by Robert Trent Jones Sr.)
The heart of the park, of course, remains this trout
stream, so oddly placed and preserved on Long Island
by God, nature and men. In February the hatchery's
fingerlings were diagnosed with a fish virus called
Infectious Pancreatic Necrosis (IPN). Those fish
were destroyed, as have been the fish in the stream
from the hatchery and part-way upstream. Felt soles
on fishing boots, a demon for transferring viruses,
have been banned. The mature fish, not affected by
IPN, are fishable and fighting.
The Connetquot itself will live on past IPN, as it
did the Indians, Vanderbilt and Moses. And, as one
sometimes hears when anglers finish a day hooking
some of the biggest brookies this side of the
Madison River, please don't let news of this place