The preservation and protection of environmentally sensitive lands, parklands, and historic farmland remains a high priority in Suffolk County. Since the late 1950s, Suffolk County has purchased more than 50,000 acres of land to preserve important environmental resources and significant ecological areas including wetlands, drinking water supplies, river corridors, and upland habitat such as the Pine Barrens. The County has also acquired land for active recreation, hamlet parks, and historic and cultural park uses. In addition, the County has acquired the development rights to more than 10,000 acres of productive farmland. As a result of these actions, there has been a permanent improvement to the quality of life of the current and future residents of Suffolk County. If you are interested in selling your property for open space preservation click here.
Open space is land that cannot be intensively developed for residential, commercial, industrial or institutional use (such as municipal parkland). Open space serves many purposes, whether it is publicly or privately owned. It includes forests and agricultural land, undeveloped shorelines, undeveloped scenic vistas, public and private parks, and preserves. It also includes waterbodies such as bays, lakes and streams. A community garden or small marsh can be open space, as can a narrow corridor or pathway for walking or bicycling, even if it is surrounded by developed areas. Suffolk County began the acquisition of environmentally sensitive lands on a significant scale starting in 1986. Among the many powers that local governments have for conserving open space is a provision in the Municipal Home Rule Law that authorizes the adoption of local laws for the protection and enhancement of the physical and visual environment.
People benefit socially, environmentally and economically from the conservation of open space in their communities. In terms of social benefits, the quality of the lives of the people in each community in Suffolk County depends upon the quality and character of their environment. The open spaces in our communities are all part of the heritage of Suffolk County. Interesting and diverse recreation areas and scenic open spaces have a special ambiance and attractive qualities. The simple awareness that special places are set aside from development is a value that is difficult to measure terms of dollar value. Public access to the unique and distinctly different shorelines in Suffolk County is a public benefit, and access to parks and preserves can provide the opportunity for relaxation, exercise, escape from everyday life, social interaction, and/or education for adults and children. These attributes help to define these communities and they lead residents to a strong identification with their neighborhoods.
There are obvious environmental benefits to open space preservation. Forests, lakes, rivers, stream corridors, wetlands, bluffs, dunes and seashores all provide habitat for a diversity of plant and animal species. They also serve a variety of human needs. In Suffolk County, undeveloped land also protects the quality of our underground drinking water supplies. Open space conservation often provides multiple benefits. Land conserved because it is important wildlife habitat often contains wetlands which aid in flood and storm water control and water filtration. Preservation of farm fields for agricultural activities may simultaneously preserve the scenic qualities of a rural road.
There are also economic benefits to open space preservation. Parks, beaches, scenic landscapes, historic sites, lakes, streams and coastal areas are central to Suffolk County's tourism and travel industry. Increasingly, businesses make decisions about where to develop or expand facilities based on the quality of life available to prospective employees. Communities that plan carefully for their future and conserve their important open spaces are better able to attract the businesses and jobs that improve the local economy and that create quality communities. The protection of open space through acquisition or clustered development can reduce the costs of infrastructure such as utilities, transportation and public works construction and maintenance. And finally, preserved open space adjacent to residential areas improves property values and attracts homebuyers.
All types of communities benefit from the preservation of open space, even areas where it seems there is no threat to natural and cultural resources. Communities that are fully developed, communities on the urban/rural fringe, and communities in the most thinly populated portions of the County can benefit from open space preservation. Preserved open space protects environmentally significant habitats, rare and endangered species, and scenic vistas. But open space also provides recreational facilities to enhance the economic and social life of the community. It also can enhance downtown areas by providing shade and small sitting areas, and can form links between recreation areas through greenbelts and bicycle trails. To see how Suffolk County evaluates potential open space properties click here.
The Open Space Rating Viewer, found here, can provide an approximate rating for any potential open space acquisition in Suffolk County. The rating provided in the viewer is designed to inform the recommendation and acquisition process for parcels of land that might be acquired with funds from the New Drinking Water Protection Program or any of the other County open space programs that are designed for the protection of open space. The ratings provided on this website are NOT final. They are offered for informational purposes ONLY. All ratings are subject to additional verification by Suffolk County Economic Development and Planning (Department) staff. Final ratings may be adjusted higher or lower based on additional resources provided to Department staff.
The Suffolk County Division of Planning and Environment has authored numerous reference reports, including many that concern open space and farmland protection, such as: