Close to seven acres in size and near Sag Harbor, may be the easiest of the Long Pond Greenbelt ponds to visit. Sitting a half-mile south of the Jermain Street intersection with Madison Street/Sagg Road, you can drive up to a bulkhead at the pond’s edge by going west on Middle Line Highway (you’ll see the pond from the crossroads) or, if you’re in the mood for a walk, you can head a little further south on Sagg Road to Round Pond Lane, where you’ll find a trailhead at the end of the cul-de-sac.
To Round Pond neighbor and FLPG board member Ken Dorph, the pond is much more than a lovely view from car or trail, it’s a source of wonderment, a water world to be experienced and relished throughout the seasons, as you’ll see in his tribute to Round Pond below.
I sometimes wonder about the imagination of the early European settlers. Long Pond is just that: long. Crooked Pond is, well, crooked. If you swim out into Round Pond’s middle it feels so round you swear you are at the center of a perfect circle, with all sides equal distance. Google Earth shows a slight wobble, but it does hold remarkably true to its name.
Round Pond, like all the other ponds of the Greenbelt, is a coastal plain pond, an expression of the groundwater. It is a remnant of a time when glaciers melted, leaving depressions in the earth. No stream fills Round Pond but rather constant groundwater seepage. I have snorkeled around looking for distinct springs but have only found places where the flow seems slightly stronger.
Snorkeling in Round Pond is fun. The creepiness that many folks associate with ponds lies with the mystery beneath the surface, the goop. Snorkeling brings it alive: the grass waves as if a field, fish poke their heads about, lily pads unfurl like graceful hands – purple before they reach the surface then opening green. I find that if I have flippers on I can always catch the painted turtles if they try to out swim me. If they dive, they are gone.
When we first started swimming in Round Pond, local kids would warn us about the monster snapping turtles. These universally seem to fill folks with dread; toes snapped off. Truth told, in all our years on the pond, we have never actually seen a snapping turtle in the water. I suspect they hold their breaths for months at a time.
We know they exist. We saw the babies hatching from the shells at least once and have seen their big mamas on shore laying the eggs, most famously once on a FLPG hike. But in the water? Never. They must hang on the very bottom in the deep middle, waiting for dead fish to sink to the murky depths. Toes would never make it.
The pond speaks to us of seasons. Ice-skating in winter, hot chocolate in a big pot. Buffleheads when the ice melts. Spring and the ospreys return. In late spring, the beloved dragonflies emerge, leaving their perfect shells on the lily pads. By midsummer they are flitting about in the hundreds, a spray of metallic hues. Thanks to them, we never see mosquitoes. Late afternoon swallows try their luck catching dragonflies. When the sun’s rays lengthen the muskrat shuffles about, a furry torpedo.
I worry that none of our neighbors ever seem to use the pond, except as a view. Can you care about a view the way you care about a creature you live in? I wonder.
So much history in Round Pond: dock remnants from the ice house days, an unbroken nineteenth century bottle, a still-sharp flint arrowhead lost by some crestfallen brave. Perhaps the Native Americans had meaningful names for these ponds that gave them life. The names of friends.
Note: FLPG is trying hard to prevent the cutting of vegetation around the ponds. Dragonflies need the surrounding vegetation to mature and loss of habitat can kill them. Southampton Town mandates a one hundred foot buffer around each pond that must be kept in its natural state.
-Ken Dorph, FLPG