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Oct 6, 2008 9:27 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Plans for Big Duck Ranch unveiled

Oct 6, 2008 9:27 AM

A crowd of more than 200 people gathered at the Big Duck on Saturday to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the landmark’s return to its home in Flanders, as well as to listen to Southampton Town’s plans for the Big Duck Ranch, a proposed 38.5-acre park surrounding the structure that extends north to Reeves Bay.

Saturday’s festivities—which featured speeches from local officials, live music, and a quacking contest—marked the first anniversary of the Big Duck’s return to its former roost on Flanders Road, its home from 1937 until 1984.

Before the quacking contest and music from a local band called the Notations, Town Supervisor Linda Kabot explained that the Big Duck Ranch, 11 acres that was added to the New York State Register of Historic Places in July, will eventually become a combination of a heritage park, picnic area and rest stop.

Ms. Kabot estimated that the project would be completed in about five years. Beginning this fall, the town will begin work on restoring the three buildings on the property—two barns and a stucco building that are all historic landmarks.

At a more detailed presentation of plans at Tuesday night’s Friends of the Big Duck meeting, town officials could not estimate the cost for all of the restorations, as they are still seeking grant money from a preservation group and the New York State Department of Transportation.

A Victorian barn located southeast of the Big Duck will eventually house a small museum that details the history of the Big Duck and duck farming on Long Island, Ms. Kabot explained. On Tuesday, Town Engineer George Mootoo said the barn had been used to store farm machinery and feed.

Mr. Mootoo said the brooder barn located on the property, a building that housed ducks, will be only partially restored, as the back half of the structure has collapsed. The building, located behind the Victorian barn, will stand as an example of brooder barns, Mr. Mootoo said.

The stucco building located west of the Big Duck, which formerly functioned as a retail center for ducks, will house the rest rooms and an information kiosk. A sketch of the plans for the Big Duck Ranch that were revealed on Saturday also show a kayak and canoe launch for Reeves Bay.

Mr. Mootoo said that the first step in rehabilitating the buildings is ensuring that they are secure. The Town Board will be putting out a bid for protecting and bracing the buildings during their next meeting on Tuesday, October 14.

Carl Iacone, the former president of the Bayview Pines Civic and Taxpayers Association, told Mr. Mootoo and Allyn Jackson, the town’s superintendent of parks and recreation, that he found a newspaper article stating that a car struck the Big Duck in 1973 at the same location. He asked if there can be anything done to protect the landmark, such as the installation of steel bollards, to prevent another accident.

Both Mr. Mootoo and Mr. Jackson suggested that Mr. Iacone contact Suffolk County, which is responsible for maintaining Flanders Road.

At the festivities on Saturday, town officials announced that Monday, October 6, has been declared “Big Duck Day” as it marks the one-year anniversary of the landmark being moved from Sears Bellows County Park in Hampton Bays to Flanders.

According to the resolution passed by the Town Board Friday afternoon, duck farmer Martin Maurer built the Big Duck in 1931 to house his duck farm business. The structure was originally located on West Main Street in Riverhead, but was moved to its current location at 1012 Flanders Road in 1937.

About a year ago, Southampton Town was granted ownership of the duck from Suffolk County. In July, the 11 acres surrounding the Big Duck were added to the New York State Register of Historic Places.

“I used to come to the duck 50 years ago,” said Harry Gurahian of Southampton during Saturday’s homecoming celebration.

Mr. Gurahian noted that, when he lived in Mattituck 50 years ago, he came to the Big Duck for eggs and fresh duck.

“I came today because I had nothing else to do, and I wanted to see the Big Duck,” Mr. Gurahian said, noting that he sees the landmark only when he travels to Riverhead.

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On trips to Riverhead in the 60's, my parents would point out the Big Duck as we passed by. A gentlemen use to sell eggs inside the Big Duck in those days. Good to see the duck is back to it's old home. It never looked right sitting in Sears Bellows Park. Also great that the little stucco building next door will be restored. It was last a sandwich shop in the 80's called My Hero, if I recall.
By BruceB (141), Sag Harbor on Oct 8, 08 5:56 PM
The Big Duck undoubtedly has it place in our community, but in tough economical times projects such as this should be put off. Yes, maintainance is necessary BUT expanding the site into a ranch? There is talk that layoffs are in the future of town hall and we are going to spend monies that should be earmarked for salaries??? Where are the priorities of this board??
By BeachGal (72), Hampton Bays on Oct 9, 08 8:23 AM
Please, don't move it again.
By William Rodney (509), southampton on Oct 10, 08 10:25 AM
I LOVE the duck! Although kitchy - it is part of Long Island. However, I have to agree with BeachGal - aren't there better things to spend funds on?
By StregaRossa (1), Holbrook on Oct 11, 08 12:50 PM
I love the duck. I have pictures of my two grrls dancing around the duck when it was decorated for xmas. As far as spending money on it. yea it sounds like a waste of money. but at least it will be for the community and visitors and be enjoyed by many people. remember if they didnt spend it here it would be perhaps wasted on some other project not accessible to as many people. Long live the BIG DUCK. QUACK QUACK QUACK...
By delemarre (1), hampton bays on Oct 17, 08 7:49 PM