It is with a great sense of sadness that I find myself writing about the slow demise of a beautifully planed East End community …
First, a little background: In August of 2003, I excitedly moved into my new home that’s situated in a rather special place in East Quogue. There were only a few homes here back then but, over the course of the next few years, 150 additional homes would eventually be constructed on more than 400 acres of what had been pristine land—land that was originally part of the pine barrens and resting atop of our precious aquifers.
In the center of the development and along its perimeters, large tracts of land were left undeveloped and designated as “preserved.” And as mandated by the Town of Southampton, and marked quite clearly on each property owner’s deed, was the fact that natural conservation buffers had to remain just that—natural and untouched.
It was a nature lover’s dream, a little slice of heaven and, at least in the beginning, that’s exactly what it was for me. I took long walks with Misty, my blue merle collie, on gently winding country lanes where the grass haphazardly met the street, where the conservation buffers remained untouched, growing wild in all their glory, where tall oaks fought with old pines for a taste of the little bit of sunlight that shone through the high canopy of the woods.
I don’t know when it happened—I can’t quite put my finger on it—but, one day, as I looked around, I sadly realized that something had drastically changed. My beautiful, natural community was no longer “natural.”
Many of the old pines and oaks, whose stark beauty had once graced the buffers, had, one by one, mysteriously disappeared and, in their place, stood pampered, meticulously pruned and sheared evergreens whose unnatural shapes looked totally out of place in the untamed confines of the buffers.
And of the old oak trees that remained, their branches were clear-cut right up to their crowns, leaving only a bare skeleton of what once was. No thought was given to the fact that our magnificent songbirds use dead tree limbs for perching, foraging and nesting.
The native bayberry, blueberry and blackberry bushes that once sustained our native wildlife, whose root systems acted as a filter for the aquifer and held the forest floor together, were no more, gone, dug up and replaced with only emptiness and a couple of truckloads of mulch.
Belgian block illegally edges the street side of some homes, creating an unattractive patchwork of cookie-cutter faux curbs, scattered helter-skelter, here and there, throughout the community, rather than the continuous, harmonious look of country lanes that were originally envisioned in the master plan.
Our local environmentalists succeeded in having the town restrict the use of Belgian block in this community because our native turtle, the threatened Eastern box turtle, cannot negotiate the height of a curb of Belgian block. But, sadly, other than a few of us who love wildlife, no one else seems to give much thought to the needs of an unassuming little turtle.
I’ve watched with dismay as bulldozers cut a huge swath through my neighbor’s rear buffer. Soil from an ecosystem, hundreds—no, probably, thousands—of years old was destroyed, scraped to the bare sand in the course of a day and then used to build a berm around a swimming pool. And, in the fall, hundreds of gallons of pool water, filled with toxic chemicals, were emptied into the newly created depression in the sand of the buffer and left to seep into our aquifer.
I understand that not everyone is like me: not everyone likes natural landscaping or wildlife, and not everyone cares about the environment. But why knowingly buy property with covenants and restrictions and then ignore them?
Why buy a home in the woods and then destroy the very beauty of those pristine woods?
Why buy a home on our magnificent East End and then change it to look like any one of a thousand homes in a thousand up-island communities?