A Plan for Duke Preserve

East Hampton Town officials are considering whether to allow limited group camping on the former Duke property at Three Mile Harbor. David R. Rattray

       Walkers will have an opportunity tomorrow to explore a 57-acre woodland site in East Hampton during a guided hike at 10 a.m. being offered by the East Hampton Trails Preservation Society. Those interested have been asked to meet along Springy Banks Road in front of the former Duke property, where a sign marks the public land, located at the intersection of Hands Creek and Springy Banks Roads.

       The property was purchased from the Duke family by the town and county in 2003. An adjacent 28 acres, the site of the former Boys Harbor camp, is also owned by the county and town. 

       A management plan outlining allowable public activities on the property is being developed and was discussed on Tuesday by the East Hampton Town Board.

       Some trails crisscrossing the property are to be rerouted, so as not to end at private land, said Andy Gaites of the town’s land management department. Trail loops will be created so that hikers will pass by elements of interest, such as glacial erratics or lopped trees.

       Although East Hampton Town normally allows bicyclists to use its hiking trails, Mr. Gaites said that county officials initially resisted that idea, as there have been conflicts between those two user groups on other county lands. An agreement was reached, Mr. Gaites said, to allow both uses at first, but reserve the right, in the management plan, to designate certain trails for either walkers or bikers in the future should problems arise.

       Another question, Mr. Gaites told the board, is whether camping should be allowed. The town’s nature preserve committee has recommended issuing permits to youth groups, such as the Boy and Girl Scouts, to stay overnight, and to have campfires, but the county is against the idea.

       That question “has got to be vetted more,” Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell told the board. “We certainly don’t want to invite overuse of this property in any way,” he said.

       He asked Mr. Gaites to gather more information and return to the board. One suggestion, to be discussed with county representatives, is to allow camping on the adjacent Boys Harbor site instead, but that would require amending that property’s management plan. But, said Councilman Fred Overton, the board should determine what facilities the town would have to provide if camping is to be allowed.

       Water access is another issue. Traditionally, baymen and others have gotten to the shore over a bit of private land. That will likely continue, but, said Mr. Gaites, the nature preserve committee has suggested that the management plan reserve the right to create another, new access to the water on the other side of the property.

       Board members agreed that maintaining public access to the water is a key goal of the land preservation program.