My first impression of Long Pond over three decades ago was one of awe and appreciation of the beauty of the area. As I stood on Sprig Tree Path between Long Pond and Little Long Pond for the first time, I knew I was glimpsing into an area of Ponds not commonly found on Long Island. The idea of The Long Pond Greenbelt may have been in Nancy Willey’s head, but this was before it had gathered support. Several years later botanists from the Nature Conservancy would declare that the greenbelt contained more rare plants than almost anywhere in New York State.
One of the qualities of Long Pond is the water level’s fluctuation providing an indicator of the water table. When rainfall ebbs for long periods, the entire northern half of the pond becomes a bog that can be walked with dry feet. Plants like the carnivorous Sundew appear as well as the beautiful bloom of St. Johns Wort. It has been at least 10 years since I’ve witnessed this environment as rainfall has been abundant. The more water that enters the pond eventually flows northward out of Ligonee Creek.
Ligonee Creek had a culvert installed to slow the water’s flow; however, it is no match for high water. In fact, at times hundreds of feet of Sprig Tree Path, which envelopes the western side of the pond becomes inundated as the concrete goes underwater. The creek is unique in habitat and has been transformed from invasive phragmites back to native reeds, and thanks to hard-working volunteers it is a wonder of nature. Dragonflies, turtles, frogs, muskrat, deer, and waterfowl all call it home. Once it was a haven for an incredible chorus of spring peepers which have been absent for several years. I have witnessed the migration of large numbers of eels that will attempt to travel from Sag Harbor to the Sargasso Sea. The view of Long Pond in the fall is spectacular from here as the northeast corner seems to put on its color show is particularly vibrant fashion.
The only better way to see this pond is from the water. There is vehicle access off Widow Gavits Road, entering just south of the power lines. Turn right before the hill leading to the railroad spur and you will find a small dirt launching area. As you launch, look for two Cypress trees on your left. Unusual, in that, they are a bit north of their usual terminus.
Looking west notice an area of relative pristine natural beauty far from man-made diversions and the low water between landforms is well worth exploring. About a half-mile long, Long Pond lives up to its name and provides a good amount of shorefront. You may often see turtles dive and fish splash as you paddle. Osprey, hawks and owls of many kinds frequent this area as well as an occasional Bald Eagle according to reports. The northern half in summer is a maze of water lilies, so thick as to be almost impenetrable; but truly breathtaking in the morning when the petals are open. The pads provide a resting place for the numerous damsel and dragonflies which avoid the ever present Tree Swallows and King Birds.
The understory of flora surrounding the pond is often High and Low Bush Blueberry from June to July. You can often satiate your thirst with these delicate morsels. In May and June Larger Blue Flag Iris can be found in large stands at the pond’s edge. In late spring the wild orchid, Pink Lady’s Slipper, can be found with a little perseverance. It’s a real beauty of nature and once seen is never forgotten.
There are a few occurrences I wish I could forget. On a dry fall day a guy delivered his duck blind on a truck and trailer driving on the inside perimeter of Long Pond. Then, once hearing a motor boat on the pond; someone thought that they could run a gas powered engine on Long Pond. One day, on a walk, I discovered a moored seaplane in the middle of the pond. A friend assured me it had to be a drug deal, so I kept my distance. A few years ago, in winter when the ice was strong a number of ATVs were racing across the pond, as if they were allowed to be there. Each one is an outrageous assault upon a treasure of a pond deserving protection by a conservation ethic.
Like most of the Greenbelt, hiking access is a multi-faceted subject. Hike south out of Mashashamuet Park on the railroad spur and take a trail east and you will come to Sprig Tree Path. The end of Round Pond Lane offers access as well as the Sag Harbor Turnpike. When you come, bring your field guide, binoculars, camera and you won’t be disappointed. The more you look the more you will find.
-John Mahoney, FLPG