It’s not easy to get folks together for volunteer work on a weekend. So it took some cajoling and a couple of emails from Richard Poveromo, the head of the East Hampton Trail Preservation Society’s volunteer maintenance crew, to prompt some of us to meet him last Saturday morning to work on the new Amsterdam Preserve trail system. But by noon, when we had completed cutting the mile-long loop trail, all of us were very glad he had done so.
Amsterdam Beach is a 123-acre Montauk property running from Montauk Highway, just across the street from Theodore Roosevelt County Park, south to the ocean. In the summer of 2005, funds from the state, county and town, along with a $1 million federal grant secured by U.S. Representative Tim Bishop, were pooled to acquire the property. In 2008, an additional 77 acres, part of the Dick Cavett estate, adjacent and west of Amsterdam Beach, were acquired.
The preserve, now totaling 200 acres, is a mosaic of freshwater swamps, marshes, ponds and vernal pools, and it includes more than a mile of classic Montauk ocean bluff shoreline. Despite its size, the labyrinth of wetlands proved to be a challenge in designing an interconnected trail system. There were a number of people involved in proposing and scrutinizing various segments of the proposed trail system, and Montauk State Park manager Tom Dess probably spent more time than anyone checking them out in the field. But, ultimately, Scott Wilson and Andy Gaites of the East Hampton Town Land Acquisition Department, after inventorying and mapping all the existing trails on the 200 acres, came up with the perfect design.
The trail system includes an interior mile-long loop, a half-mile leg with amazing views on the ocean bluff, and access to the ocean beach, as well as a link‑after crossing Montauk Highway to the Paumanok Path. The route includes several very pretty low ridge walks among old twisted, wind-stunted oaks, whose monstrous lower limbs reach out significantly farther horizontally than the trees reach in vertical height.
Avid Montauk cyclist Chris Pfund selected the routes heading up and coming down the ridges, taking care to avoid steep grades and include twists to shunt water off the path. Once off the ridges, the trail skirts sedge-filled marshes, tiny secluded ponds, running brooks and large expanses of ferns.
One species of the latter, New York fern, had a few fronds that were still green last weekend. But most noticeable among the interesting vegetation were the hollies: A number of individuals of both the evergreen American holly and the deciduous winterberry holly were sporting brilliant red berries.
Tom Dess led a crew to clear the route south of the loop trail to the ocean bluff top, and he reported that it was very slow going among the thick, wind-stunted, krumholz-like trees and shrubs. But he pointed out that the trees along much of that route stood less then head high, providing spectacular views to the west, south and east. That made the hard work a pleasure.
There’s still some additional work to be done. If you would like to help out, please contact Richard Poveromo at firstname.lastname@example.org.