EAST PATCHOGUE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Long Island duck is known around the world, but most of the hundreds of duck farms are long gone.
On Wednesday, Suffolk County opened a new chapter in its duck farming history and the only webbed feet will be in the wild.
For more than a century, Long Island ducklings did more than turn up on menus worldwide. They also clogged up Long Island waterways with their waste.
“You had duck farms all along our waterways so you had waste, that nitrogen going into streams and bays,” Suffolk County Executive, Steve Bellone said.
Now, dilapidated relics of the once thriving industry are coming down as part of a $5-million state and county effort to clean up polluted old duck farms.
For generations, 2,100 acres produced millions of ducks and millions of lbs of duck sludge.
“Government has a responsibility. You can either walk away from it or say, ‘let’s do what we can to return it to its natural state and make it open to the public,” New York State, Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul said.
There are 46 acres in East Patchogue that used to be home to the Gallo Duck Farm. Michelle Gallo Cook said years ago, her family had little understanding of the impact on nearby — aptly named — mud creek, which feeds into the Great South Bay.
“Unlike today where we are so environmentally conscious, back then there was really no concept of what it was,” she said.
The old abandoned duck pens will be cleared and the land transformed into a public park with a boardwalk and fishing of the rare, native brook trout.
“They’re going to be able to hike and fish those brook trout, it’s really a great asset and environmental resource, and great for our water quality,” Suffolk County Legislator, Rob Calarco said.
Officials hope it can serve as a model for how to return other former duck farms to their natural state, and in two years families in nature lovers can flock to the area.
Crescent duck farm in Aquabogue has invested heavily to keep up with environmental regulations. The DEC said it regulates discharge.