QWR: 75 Years of History!
The Quogue Wildlife Refuge celebrated its 75th year of existence in October, 2009. The Refuge has a fascinating history that started in 1934. Several exceptionally cold winters in the early 1930s caused a decline in the Black Duck population which alarmed many local duck hunters. During a meeting at the Hampton Bays Firehouse, Charlie Belt explained the severity of the waterfowl plight, and suggested they establish a waterfowl refuge, a place where they could propagate and rear waterfowl “…to put two ducks in the air for every one we take.” From this meeting, the Southampton Township Wildfowl Association (STWA) was formed with 45 charter members; all were duck hunters and pioneer conservationists from the town of Southampton. Their signatures are on the charter which hangs over the fireplace in the Charles Banks Belt Nature Center at the Refuge.
STWA used the land that was formerly the Quogue Ice Company to create a sanctuary. The easterly 104 acres of the former Ice Company was donated by Richard and George Post, sons of charter member Abram Post. This land was given to the Incorporated Village of Quogue who appointed STWA Trustees as the official stewards of the land. In 1938, STWA rallied friends to purchase the westerly half of the Quogue Ice Company, 107 acres for $1,400 from charter member Erastus Post. Another 100 acres of land was added to the Refuge for preservation by Southampton Town in the 1980s, when town officials agreed to rezone a nearby subdivision from two- acre lots to one- acre lots.
Feeding the birds was a top priority. This was a huge undertaking, requiring two men for at least two hours a day. These men volunteered their time to cut ice from the pond and feed the famished flocks. In one year alone, over thirty tons of grain-potato mix was prepared and fed by STWA volunteers.
In 1936, STWA was awarded First Prize in a National Waterfowl Contest, sponsored by More Game Birds in America (Ducks Unlimited, Inc.) for the vast amount of work accomplished through volunteer efforts. The engraved Silver Cup remains on the mantle.
What was known as the Quogue Waterfowl Sanctuary on old maps is now known as the Quogue Wildlife Refuge. The Refuge has evolved over time to take school groups on tours, to care for permanently injured animals in the Distressed Wildlife Complex, and to offer educational programs for people of all ages throughout the year. The 305 acres remain a safe place for plants and animals, and a peaceful haven for people to visit.