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.