Plum Island, its location highlighted with a red square, sits between Orient Point and Fishers Island at the eastern terminus of Long Island Sound. It is currently home to the Department of Homeland Security’s Plum Island Animal Disease Laboratory, but is set to be decommissioned starting in 2014.
Perhaps that will change in the next decade or so, as the island’s current occupants are set to move out. Since the end of World War II the island has been home to the United States Animal Disease Laboratory, run by the Agriculture Department until its transfer to the Department of Homeland Security in 2003. Now however DHS has plans to replace the Plum Island facility with a larger, state of the art facility in Kansas.
Above is a view of Plum Island, courtesy of the US Department of Agriculture’s website.
While state and federal politicians are campaigning to keep Plum Island functioning as a animal disease research laboratory even after the new laboratory in Kansas opens, it’s worth considering what to do the island in the case that is decommissioned.
According to the Times article, local residents are already salivating at the prospect of turning the island into another suite of expensive homes, in the traditional Hampton’s style.
Enzo Morabito, the director of real estate development for Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate in Bridgehampton, which deals exclusively in luxury property, said a two-acre lot of bare waterfront property on the south side of Plum Island would likely go for about $2 million.
He also said the entire island would be suitable for a golf course and luxury homes.
“That’s what I would do with it,” Mr. Morabito said. “That’s the highest and best use.”
With all due respect to Mr. Morabito, perhaps there is a more egalitarian approach to the land that could be taken. Why not consider opening the island up as a national or state park? The island fits the criteria that many set for designation as national park, it is both strikingly beautiful terrain and also of a historic value.
It is thought that Plum Island is the location of the first confrontation between British soldiers and members of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. The British Army and Navy had taken to raiding coastal Long Island for provisions and supplies at the onset of the conflict. So it is told, the first organized confrontation between the two armies occurred as American soldiers attempted to evacuate livestock from Plum Island to more secure locations on the mainland.
Additionally, Plum Island is a green haven in an increasingly developed region. Fishers Island to the northeast is an island which has been developed extensively for residential use. Plum Island could be developed only modestly, and still provide the infrastructure necessary for an exceptional national park.
As Long Island steadily looses its remaining open space to sub-division after sub-division, turning Plum Island into a national park represents a tangible opportunity to protect the environment, increase parkland and preserve local heritage.