Bringing a Park Back to Life
Community Preservation Fund Restores Ranger Station at Former Girl Scouts Camp
The natural beauty of the East End landscape is what draws many to the Hamptons. The ocean and bay beaches, acres of farmland, and preserved open space set this corner of the world apart. There’s a strong need to be outdoors, especially as we look toward the famous Hamptons summer season. All of this is worth fighting for, and many that live and work here have. The Community Preservation Fund (CPF), a program that began through the efforts of local elected officials and citizens in the late 1990s, preserves the rural character of the East End. In Southampton alone, nearly 5,000 acres have been saved from development through these preservation efforts. Throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, this preserved land has been a saving grace.
As one of the most desirable places to own a home, there is a growing demand to develop on the East End. The CPF allows Hamptons and North Fork towns to purchase lands that would otherwise be lost to development, such as farmland, open space, wetlands, woodlands, and historic properties. Notable victories include preserved acres of beach and bay front along Dune Road, creating recreational trails like Paumonack Path, and historic restoration projects. When the pandemic hit last year, an opportunity to restore another historic property presented itself.
Lisa Kombrink, who works in the Department of Community Preservation in the Town of Southampton, found the CPF offices in Hampton Bays were too small for social distancing. Having visited the Ranger Station at the former local Girl Scout camp, known as Squiretown Park, she found that the building would be an ideal home base for field employees. Having sat unused for 10 years, it needed some work.
“We spent months in between other projects cleaning up the building and making it comfortable, Kombrink shares. “This included recycling old desks from Town Hall and painting them to suit the atmosphere of the camp, refurbishing existing furniture, and making use of memorabilia and lighting donated by friends.”
The interior of this building maintains the camp feel with its décor. Up next is painting the exterior. There is another structure on the property Kombrink shares is being eyed for renovation as well. Built in 1940, the building that had been the Winter Cabin, known familiarly as the “Dining Hall,” had served as the main lodge in the camp. After decades of use, the Town purchased the property in 2007 with funds from the CPF, and continued to host local Girl and Boy Scout troops for overnight camping trips. The Winter Cabin had been used until that year.
Now, the Town’s Landmarks Board is considering an application to landmark this building. If approved, the CPF will begin the process of renovating this unique space so that it can once again be enjoyed by the community.
As CPF staff began to work at the Squiretown Park site regularly, Kombrink saw a noticeable change in the atmosphere with the park coming back to life. “I have walked the trails through the property, and find something new every time I am there,” Kombrink says. “My absolute favorite part of the park is the view just a short distance from the Ranger Station. The trail winds through the woods and passes along a high bluff overlooking Great Peconic Bay.”