The Suffolk County Legislature has unanimously approved the $1.96 million purchase of 11 acres in downtown Jamesport known as “Sharper’s Hill,” the site of an ancient Native American burial ground.
After a two-year-long process, the legislature voted April 24 to purchase the property using the county’s Drinking Water Protection Fund.
“This is major advance in preserving the character and the history of downtown Jamesport,” said Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski, who sponsored the legislation which authorized the appraisal of the property, the first step in the county’s preservation process. “Saving this land was a community effort started long before the county became interested in acquiring the land, and it could not have been done without the willingness of the landowner and the support of the Town of Riverhead, the Native American community, the Greater Jamesport Civic Association, Save Main Road and the all the individuals who showed up at meetings or wrote letters in support of the acquisition.”
“All parties came together in unison and worked together to achieve this incredible outcome,” said Greater Jamesport Civic Association President William Van Helmond.
Although the artifacts have been removed, the area containing the burial grounds will be identified with signage and will be cordoned off, as it is considered a sacred site.
“I am excited about the effort being made by Suffolk County regarding the historic preservation and protection of our local Native American burial mounds, and the Jamesport site,” said author and historian Sandi Brewster-Walker, who is also a member of the Montaukett Indian Nation and is Board Chair of the future Long Island Indigenous People Museum. “The Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990 protects Native American ancestral human remains, and provide a process for remains and cultural items excavated or discovered. In the event of discovery of human remains or items during activity in the Jamesport site, I sincerely hope Long Island Indian Country will be notified, and our history respected. This is just another step in Suffolk County understanding its local Native American citizens’ history and culture!”
The parcel, along with 33 acres of farmland immediately north of the future hamlet park, was the subject of several development plans, which included shopping centers, restaurants and an assisted living facility. Mr. Krupski initiated the preservation of the northern farmland parcel, which will be done so through Suffolk County’s purchase of development rights program. It is expected that the closing on both the hamlet park parcel and the farmland parcel will happen concurrently.
Riverhead Town partnered with the county and will improve the site with a parking area, trails and benches.
“The town has worked hard in partnership with the community, and the county to preserve this land for future generations to enjoy,” said Riverhead Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith. “It is so gratifying to see those efforts payed off for Riverhead residents, and all residents of Suffolk County, who come to enjoy the town’s natural beauty. It’s a great addition to Jamesport.”