Of the thirteen coastal plain ponds that make the Long Pond Greenbelt such a unique natural area, seventeen-acre Crooked Pond is the crème de la crème, acknowledged as the best occurrence of a coastal plain pond in the Greenbelt and possibly in all of New York State. Its water quality tops the charts of all the Greenbelt ponds. And with seventy-five percent of its shoreline undeveloped, its pond edge has suffered minimal habitat loss or disturbance, while its unusual amoeba-like shape creates a slew of micro-habitats that foster remarkable ecological diversity.
The amoeboid, or “crooked,” shape comes about because a peninsula juts from the eastern shore making the pond zigzag around it. At the tip of the peninsula sits a small island that extends and complicates the bisecting effect of the peninsula.
That so much of the property surrounding Crooked Pond has been preserved is due largely to the work of the Nature Conservancy (TNC). Back in the 1980s, the TNC, the Town of Southampton, and Suffolk County agreed to pursue preserving Greenbelt land for conservation as a joint effort, with the town focusing on the northern section, the county on the southern, and the TNC on the middle parcels, with the goal of creating one contiguous preserve.
And what a job the Nature Conservancy has done – close to 60 acres preserved around Crooked Pond! The Town of Southampton, too, owns one parcel with frontage on the pond. At present, there are only three parcels with pond frontage that have structures on them. Every other inch of the shoreline has been saved from development.
The story of the TNC purchases is partly told by two of the three commemorative benches located at Crooked Pond. For those of you who missed the Capote Black and White Hike last autumn honoring the role author Truman Capote and his partner, Jack Dunphy, played in saving Crooked Pond. You should know that Mr. Dunphy, who had inherited Capote’s Sagaponack home, stipulated that upon his death the estate should be sold and the proceeds donated to a local charity. Well, that charity was the Nature Conservancy, who used that money to preserve close to twenty acres bordering Crooked Pond. Years later, the ashes of both were spread at the site of a memorial stone and bench that can be visited off Widow Gavitts Trail. (For more details of the hike and history of the Capote/Dunphy/Greenbelt connection, click here:
Carmen’s Bench, at the southwest of the pond, commemorates Carmen Herrera, the wife of photographer Hans Namuth.
Mr. Namuth made a contribution to the Nature Conservancy in memory of his wife, and the TNC used that donation toward the purchase of the property upon which it sits. Built by local craftsman Hans Hokanson, the bench carries the simple inscription “Carmen’s bench” on the back. The picture accompanying this article shows Carmen’s bench and the section of Crooked Pond seen from it.
The third bench, at the northern end of the pond between Crooked Pond and Deer Drink, was donated by the Southampton Trails Preservation Society in honor of Ted Griffin, a founder and first vice-president of STPS. Working with STPS and the Town of Southampton, Ted was instrumental in creating the Trail Code Amendment and the initial drafts of the Long Pond Greenbelt Management Plan.
Hiking to Crooked Pond is a snap. Virtually surrounded by trails, the pond can be accessed from the east on Sprig Tree Path, off Widow Gavitts Road, or by using Widow Gavitts Trail, a spur of the road. (It gets a little confusing to describe, what you need is a trail map! One is available from FLPG for $5.00. If you don’t intend to spend another moment without one of these handy and informative guides, please email or call Ursula Lindgren to make arrangements to get one: firstname.lastname@example.org, 631-764-8022 cell)
From the west, use the driveway entrance to the Long Pond Greenbelt Nature Center at 1061 Bridgehampton/Sag Harbor Turnpike, just north of the Scuttlehole intersection. A short way up the drive you’ll come to a Nature Conservancy sign and a parking spot on the right. Only a few short steps down the path and Crooked Pond comes into view – a lovely sight. If you’re traveling by car you can catch spirit-lifting glimpses of Crooked Pond by taking Widow Gavitts Road or Toppings Path off Sagg Road. Either takes you alongside the pond.
However, you visit and enjoy Crooked Pond, keep in mind what a genuine treasure it is and what commendable efforts have led to its preservation for now and forever.
-Sandra Ferguson, FLPG VP