In the end, it was a routine affair — a real estate closing last week that from outward appearances was like any other. The property that changed hands was a large portion of the now closed Boys and Girls Harbor summer camp on Three Mile Harbor in East Hampton. The buyers were the Town of East Hampton and Suffolk County. The tortured route the land deal took before coming to pass had finally come to an end.
Money was never the issue. The town was able to tap its community preservation fund, and the county had an account dedicated to land buys like this. Officials agreed to a 50-50 split in 2007. However, a lawsuit from neighbors stalled the proceedings until a mutually agreeable management plan was drafted last year. This document says the tranquillity of nearby residential streets is to be given equal consideration to the site’s natural features and value as a recreational site.
The parcel is part of the much stressed Three Mile Harbor watershed. Development of it as house lots would have had a long-term negative effect. It is also thought to contain untouched Native American home sites of archaeological significance.
The camp operated from 1954 to 2006, when Tony Duke, who founded it on his own land, and the board of directors decided to concentrate its activities closer to the urban areas from which it had drawn children.
Mr. Duke did not have to sell 26 acres to the town and county, nor did he have to agree to the very reasonable $7.3 million price. However, he wanted the property to be used by the public and saw the joint purchase as a way both to ensure that it would and to save it from development in perpetuity. With the deal done, his vision is complete. All involved are to be congratulated for seeing it through.