• Coming Soon – Humes Preserve, Mill Neck

    The North Shore Land Alliance purchased the Humes Estate (28 acres) from the Humes Family for conservation purposes on July 10, 2015. Two years later we purchased the adjoining Humes Japanese Stroll Garden (7-acres) and Smithers connector parcel (7 acres). The Estate property had been severely neglected for many years prior to our acquisition. It included eight structures in various stages of disrepair, a central meadow which had been used as a public dump (for a decade) and eight underground oil storage tanks that required removal! The purchase price was $5.2 Million, and the Land Alliance needed to borrow $4 Million to close the deal. At this point, some might have questioned why we took on this challenge. Five years later, thanks to the help of many (and a few complicated transactions), the Land Alliance retired its Humes debt in January 2020. With that behind us, we have begun to make the long-awaited improvements necessary to open the Humes property to the public. In this instance, foresight has paid off and things are coming together beautifully. The Land Alliance hopes the Humes Preserve will become an integral part of our community – a place where people can watch birds, observe native plants, hike woodland trails or sit on a bench by the meadow watching the grasses bend in the wind. We see this as a place where a growing family can push a stroller, a young child can safely learn to ride a bike or climb on a log and feel joy when a chipmunk pops out to say hello. We hope this will be a place where people can connect with the wonders of nature while appreciating the richness of the past and working together to build a better future. The Humes Preserve is not intended to have the manicured perfection of Planting Fields or Old Westbury Gardens, nor will it have the undisturbed nature present in Shu Swamp. It is more of an in-between place – a place where people meet nature! On one end of the preserve, one can experience the culture and formality of the Humes Japanese Stroll Garden. From there you can connect to a trail which will take you through the woods to the wonders of Shu Swamp and extends all the way to Upper Francis Pond. If you veer right, you will pass the outdoor exercise area, cross the child-friendly interior road and end up in the newly restored meadow. The possibilities are endless! While we will have to get back to you as to an exact date for opening (pending Mill Neck Village approval), we hope to welcome you later this summer. Only then will you understand why it was so important to protect this wonderful place. While taking on the debt took some courage, the conservation value of the land, then and now, was just too great to risk losing it to development. Those values included: Connectivity: With its location between Shu Swamp, Upper and Lower Francis Ponds and adjoining 15-acre Nassau County property, the Estate created an important open space corridor on the North Shore of Long Island, totaling nearly 150 contiguous acres. Water Quality: The Humes property is referenced as a priority parcel in the 2009 and 2014 New York State Open Space Conservation Plans. It is a Class I freshwater wetland area and falls within the Town of Oyster Bay’s Special Groundwater Protection Area. It also is a United States Geological Service designated watershed and in FEMA’s 100-year flood zone. Scenic and Habitat Value: The Humes property is comprised of beautiful sloping land, specimen trees, historic buildings and garden remnants. It has the potential for a series of scenic hiking trails. It will provide community access (including disability access) to a valuable natural area that has not been previously available to the public. It also is home to noteworthy flora and fauna, including regionally rare plant species. In addition, it provides an area for species adaptation as sea level rises. Historic Significance: The Humes Estate is part of a historic 1650 border treaty, which created the boundary between the Dutch to the west and the English to the east. The evolution of the property paralleled the development of the North Shore from its earliest days as a home to the Matinecock tribe, followed by farmers and finally, the country estate of former U.S. Ambassador to Austria, John P. Humes, Sr. and his prominent wife Dr. Jean Schmidlapp-Humes.


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  • Benefits of Native Plants

    With warmer months finally settling in and more time spent at home, many of us have been planting. Have you considered native plants when making your choices? In the past, beautiful and hearty native plant options, especially Long Island species, were not readily available but that has changed. There are numerous benefits to having these species in your garden. : Native plant species attract and support native birds, pollinators and other wildlife. Douglas Tallamy, University of Delaware Professor, points out in his now infamous Bringing Nature Home, that a native oak tree can support 500 species of butterflies and moths. The caterpillars of these insects in turn provide a large volume of food for hungry chicks. Just think about it: a single nest of recently hatched chickadees will gobble up 6,000 to 9,000 caterpillars while under their parents’ care. The juicy caterpillars (and many of the insects native plants support) are easy for adults to shove into nestlings mouths. It’s no wonder nearly all (call it 96%) terrestrial bird species depend on caterpillars as a major food source while nesting. And speaking of food for wildlife, an important part of garden maintenance is not removing seed heads on plants in fall/winter. They provide further sustenance for wildlife throughout the colder months until spring arrives. In addition to food, native plant species provide many more of the shelter resources our wildlife requires than non-natives. Long Island’s warm-season grasses, for example, often grow in bunches, leaving open areas among them so that ground-nesting birds can escape from predators. Conversely, non-native species can cause harm. Note the heartbreaking effect of invasive black swallow-wort and pale swallow-wort on the Monarch butterfly. It is well known that Monarch butterfly eggs will hatch only from milkweed plants. When these butterflies instead lay eggs on swallow-wort, which are in the milkweed family (Asclepiadaceae) but native to Europe, the caterpillars will not eat them which results in wasted reproduction attempts that can cause a sink in Monarch populations. Swallow-wort can also outcompete the native milkweed. Planting natives in turn supports greater biodiversity and abundance of native wildlife. When buying, look for straight species (non-cultivars – missing the “name in quotes” following the species name). While some cultivars are bred for traits in ways that result in plants almost identical to the straight species (from a pollinator benefit perspective), many do not have the nutritional value non-cultivars do and some are even toxic to wildlife. Native species also tend to require less maintenance than their non-native counterparts. Once established, native plants generally do not need regular (if any) watering. Natives do not rely on use of fertilizers and pesticides to thrive. A reduction in phosphorus and nitrogen found in fertilizers means less algae-producing runoff into our waterbodies. Native plants, in addition, do not require mowing as lawns do. Substituting native plants for part of your lawn, then, will yield more food and shelter for wildlife while decreasing water use and contamination of our water resources. And if it’s only the bottom line that counts (though we know that for readers of Conservation News this is not the case!), keep in mind that maintaining a wetland or native grassland costs a fraction (about 15% over 20 years, according to one study by Applied Ecological Services) of lawn maintenance costs.  


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  • Humes Preserve Opening

    The Land Alliance purchased the Humes estate in 2016. After four years, we’ve retired our debt and are now preparing to open this spectacular 28-acre property as the Humes…


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  • Humes Meadow Restoration

    The Land Alliance acquired the Humes property in Mill Neck on July 10, 2015. The property completes one of the most significant open space corridors on…


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  • Humes Property

    Humes Meadow Update

    When protecting important natural areas land trusts are also protecting parts of history. The significance of the history can range from a simple record of land…


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