Friends of Connetquot River State Park Preserve | PO Box 472 | Oakdale, NY | 11769 | Contact Us

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FOC Receives Grants!

The Friends are proud of the support from the foundations whose links appear below. The capacity building grants they have awarded us will greatly help in strengthening our organization for the benefit of Connetquot River State Park Preserve:

The Robert D. L. Gardiner Foundation

New York State Council on the Arts

Parks & Trails New York

Upstate History Alliance

Click here to read the details of these grants

Friends of Connetquot in the News

Click the headings to view articles and where applicable, links to full articles.

The Fisherman - December 12, 2017 - "Winter on the Connetquot"
by Fred Golofaro

Flyrodders can now ply their trade year-round on that stretch of the Connetquot River that flows through Long Island’s Connetquot River State Park Preserve in Oakdale.

The winter months offer few options for Long Island anglers to escape winter boredom. There will be some innings with herring, cod opportunities vary from year to year, and ditto for white perch. For those who consider ice fishing an option, safe ice is never a guarantee most winters. Trout fishing on Long Island is a year-round proposition, with a number of waters receiving fall stockings, but none of those waters can provide the opportunity to connect with quality trout like the stretch of the Connetquot that runs through the State Park Preserve.

Click here to read the complete story

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 article.)

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 done.

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.

Labuski, chairman of the Friends of Connetquot, said that after the hatchery closed, one nearby fishing supply store was shuttered, too.

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 state park.

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.

Remmer 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

The 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 Clams Southside!

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 more.

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, perhaps permanently.

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 peace!

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.

The 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 open.

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 bureaucratic mess.”

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 fish.

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 Pennsylvania.

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 say.

“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 hatchery’s closure.

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 decide.

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.

The 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 hatchery.

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 years.

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.

By 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 Bay 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 Pete Grannis.

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 years.

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 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 firm.

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, 2009.

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 hatchery.

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 Paterson’s office.

Richard Remmer
Director of The Friends of Connetquot

New York Times - April 13, 2008 - To Restore a Historic Site, a Treasure Hunt
By Carolyn Nardiello

- Oakdale

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 land.

“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 Sites.

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.

Distinguished visitors

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 water.

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 United States."

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 project.

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 teapot.

"We're really not choosy at all," he said. "It was all interesting. It's just nice to have them come home."

Copyright © 2008, Newsday Inc.

The Wall Street Journal - October 9, 2007 - Where Big Fish Caught Trout
by Daniel Henninger

Oakdale, N.Y.

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 development."

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 hunt.

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 members.

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 three centuries.

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 get around.