After spending over 20 years as a founder and member of Friends of Connetquot, I have seen so many changes in and around the Preserve. Twenty years ago, Sunrise Highway was much narrower; now after more development, traffic clogs the road.
Park Manager Sue Wuehler and her staff have done an awesome job repairing, updating, and restoring so much throughout the 3,473 acres during Covid—AND KEPT THE PRESERVE OPEN! Signage is much improved, and invasive foliage has been somewhat controlled. Over these 20 years, many of the former South Side Sportsmen's Club rooms in the Main Clubhouse building have been renovated. The Mill also has been renovated, mostly by volunteer John Remmer, FOC supporters and fundraisers, New York State and various grants. The Hatchery, which had been closed by NYSDEC because of infectious pancreatic necrosis, has been reopened, and fishing has resumed with support from FOC, volunteers and grants.
With the help of donations, FOC purchased a $4,600 grooming tool to rehab and maintain the equestrian trails. We funded the crafting of four rocking chairs to replicate those that were in the Billiard Room many years ago. We commissioned a Fire Safety Study, acquired a federal grant for the installation of a fire suppression system in the Main Building. We purchased the bronze plaque dedicated to Gil Bergen mounted on a large boulder doated by Johnna Rudolfer, seen as you enter the Preserve. We installed the first self-guided mobile device tour offered in a NYS Park, and we fund it each year.
FOC volunteers installed 2 turtle-viewing rafts and signage and redid the Clubhouse foyer with a display of newly-framed old photographs. We provide a series of educational programs. We facilitated return of the circa 1870 liquor lockers in the Billiard Room. FOC refurbished signposts which date from the days when Montauk Highway cut through the park. FOC volunteers restored the historic bench on the front porch. Volunteers, park staff and New York State are refurbishing the circa 1870 Icehouse, which will become an exhibit to show how ice was stored in salt hay and sawdust in years past. We also obtained the old Astor Stove from the NYC Historical Society and returned it to the Billiard Room, and we recently restored the stained-glass transom window at the front entrance to the foyer at a cost of $5,000.
I am so proud of our achievements and accomplishments! Thank you to our Board Members and the many people who have aided the Friends of Connetquot through the years. Your contributions are helping us leave a great legacy!