The Quogue Wildlife Refuge will celebrate its 80th birthday with an afternoon celebration on Sat., Nov. 29, complete with hay wagon rides up the old bicycle path, deserts and refreshments, guided walks and stories to be told between 1:30 and 4:30 p.m.
The refuge was formed during the winter of 1934-35, one of those biting, unforgiving winters where everything freezes solid and there’s nothing to do but keep frostbite at bay and wait for spring.
A group of duck hunters who often met for coffee in Myron Perry’s Drug Store in Quogue were alarmed to watch the dwindling number of ducks who could survive here as all the East End waters froze over.
The druggist and a crew that included Charles Banks Belt, Russell Carman, Ross Federico, Bert Pierson, Waldermar Burding and other duck hunters were granted the use of the pond at the Quogue Ice Company at the end of Old Country Road, where they cut a hole in the ice and brought in black ducks to overwinter. Today, that pond is in the center of the Quogue Wildlife Refuge, and the nature center on the pond is named after Mr. Belt.
In the decades since it was founded, the refuge’s weaving, secluded trails have become part of the childhood memories for many East Enders, who in turn bring generations of children back to walk the trails and watch the waterfowl they saw there as children, while injured wild animals find permanent homes at the refuge as well.
“This place holds its own specialness. It’s important to so many people,” said the refuge’s Program Director, Marisa Nelson, on a walk through the preserve earlier this year. “They come back and they bring their friends.”
Ms. Nelson said the refuge is holding a celebration this year because people who remember the early days won’t be around if they wait to celebrate until the park is 100 years old.
The refuge continues to offer tried and true classic programs, like its school break camps, full moon walks, reptile talks and a spooky walk at Halloween, and they’re trying out new programs, including a “Light the Night” trail walk held Christmastime last year, and a magical performance art piece called “Zima” with the dance troupe Neo-Political Cowgirls.
The refuge can be reached at 631.653.4771.