Plans to spruce up Big Duck are in the works

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Plans to spruce up the Big Duck in Flanders are in the works with a goal of Memorial Day 2009 to complete the project’s first phase, namely the installation of landscaping and other amenities to beautify the landmark.

Since the iconic duck was returned to its original home little more than a year ago, community residents have been advocating to clean up and beautify the area surrounding the landmark that fronts Flanders Road.

John Reddington of Araiys Design, the Southampton landscaping firm hired in March 2006 to enhance the appearance of the local landmark, told Town Board members at a work session last week that he wanted to maintain the Big Duck’s historic image and that he envisioned an “old postcard” look.

To achieve that, Mr. Reddington said he would like to see native plants, perennials, wildflowers and evergreens planted at the site to provide year-round curb appeal. The first phase of the project also includes the installing of a split rail fence and gravel driveway that would allow motorists to turn off of Flanders Road and drive to a nearby parking area.

The idea is to create a community area for events, such as carnivals and concerts, and provide a place to educate the public on the area’s cultural significance and the sensitivity of its environment, wildlife and habitat.

Located just southeast of the Big Duck is the dilapidated Brood Barn, which was part of the working duck ranch owned by Martin Maurer who built the landmark duck in 1931. Securing that barn is also a phase one objective, according to Tim Rumph, also of Araiys Design.

“Restoring that barn is a top priority for the community,” Town Supervisor Linda Kabot said.

At its December 9 meeting, the Town Board hired Manhattan-based Corporate Construction to secure the structures. The town has already earmarked $500,000 for improvements at the site, including work on the structures.

Plans to renovate the stucco building just northwest of the duck, and transform it into restrooms, are part of phase two of the project, Mr. Rumph said. The smaller structure near the Brood Barn collapsed and has been cleared away.

Mr. Rumph added that top-dressing the grounds surrounding the Big Duck would be necessary to make the fields more user friendly for parking and outdoor events.

Chris Sheldon, chairman of Friends of the Big Duck, a local group interested in all things involving the landmark, introduced his own design for the site at the Town Board’s work session on December 16. Mr. Sheldon’s vision deviates slightly from the blueprint produced by Araiys in that it relocates the entire parking area to the north of the landmark, leaving the southern portion that connects the duck with the Brood Barn open.

“It links the duck with the barn,” Mr. Sheldon said. “And opens up the park for clearing.” Long-term plans include clearing the property so that a view of Reeves Bay can been seen from Flanders Road.

Mr. Rumph said the archeological review of the property has been completed. He also noted that before the clearing can begin, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation must give the go-ahead as fragile wetlands are located on the property.

Long-range plans for Big Duck Ranch include access to Reeves Bay for recreational activities such as kayaking, canoeing and hiking. Mr. Rumph said those plans are 5 to 7 years away and will likely cost several million dollars to complete.

In 2001, the town spent $1.65 million in Community Preservation Fund money to purchase the 37 acres surrounding the Big Duck. The landmark’s relocation to Flanders was part of an overall effort to revitalize the hamlet of Flanders.

In July, the 13 acres immediately surrounding the landmark were added to the state and national registers of historic places. The duck itself was already on both lists.

Back in April, Town Board member Chris Nuzzi joined Mr. Sheldon and his group in planting hostas and marigolds to add a little life to the historic spot. “The better the image of the duck, the better for the community,” Mr. Sheldon said.

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