Southampton Trails Preservation Society
Content copyright 2015. SOUTHAMPTON TRAILS PRESERVATION SOCIETY All rights reserved.
We Are A 501(C)(3) Not For Profit
P.O. Box 1171
Bridgehampton, NY 11932
KURT BILLING LOOP TRAIL IN THE
TUCKAHOE WOODS PRESERVE
With the help of the Southampton Trails Preservation Society, the Group for the East End, and a number of close
friends of Kurt Billing, a new hiking trail has been created in the Tuckahoe Hill Preserve.
Named the Kurt Billing Loop Trail in honor of one of the key players who worked for many years to establish the
preserve, the 2.5-mile route has been designed to showcase the preserve’s scenic views and interesting
From the parking area on Sebonac Road, walk past the trailhead sign and across a flat meadow to the terraced
footpath leading up the slope of an old sand bank that is being revegetated (1). The trail continues north,
following along the top of a low ridge covered by an oak and hickory forest with its typical understory shrub layer
of huckleberry and lowbush blueberry. At the north end of the ridge, the trail descends towards a small vernal
pond that was partially excavated, perhaps for its clay soil, many years ago (2).
At the west end of the pond is a trail junction where the Kurt Billing Loop Trail, marked with yellow rectangular
blazes, passes to the left and right. Take the right, and pass along the north side of the vernal pond before
turning left and passing through stands of clethra and swamp azalea, and having several views of other vernal
ponds and swamps from the trail.
There are many of these vernal ponds and swamps dotted throughout the preserve, adding much biodiversity to
the area and playing an important role in the lifecycles of several species of amphibians. In the early spring,
wood frogs and spring peepers call from the cold waters to attract mates and lay eggs. Spotted salamanders
emerge from their subterranean haunts in the forest and move silently towards the ponds to mate under the
cover of darkness.
By mid-spring the ponds are full of egg masses, fairy shrimp and other tiny aquatic organisms. Later in the
season, grey tree frogs and the secretive spadefoot toads add their egg masses to the mix. In a wet year, the
odd-looking salamander larvae and tadpoles will metamorphose into their respective adult terrestrial forms and
exit the pond. In other years the pond may dry up completely, eliminating that year’s new recruits but ensuring
that the ponds remain free of fish predators.
At the next trail junction (3) a spur trail out to Sandy Hollow Road (marked with plastic blazes) goes off to the
right. Turn left to continue on the yellow blazed loop trail, ascending two knolls whose oaks have been hit hard
by consecutive years of insect damage, killing quite a few.
After crossing a very straight path that is actually an old property boundary (4), and a wide woods road that leads
to another sand pit, the trail passes through two small groves of American beech before beginning the gradual
ascent to the summit. A large portion of the summit is covered with non-native grasses that were introduced by
Southampton Village’s composting operation. Although only 127 feet in elevation, the top of Tuckahoe Hill offers
an amazing 180-degree view to the north with only one structure visible on the south fork: the tall silo near
Scallop Pond at Cow Neck.
We hope to get permission from Southampton Village to construct a viewing platform over the remains of the
concrete foundation that was part of a lookout tower with a 360-degree view during World War II. We also hope
to convince village officials to dedicate their property, which lies in the heart of the preserve, as a “nature
preserve” and discontinue the shooting range, fire drills, and composting activities that are not compatible with
the surrounding publicly-owned, nature preserve lands.
Continue along the loop trail, descending by way of a low, narrow ridge (5) that leads to another old woods road.
Turn left, and note the very dramatic, steep-sided and deep kettlehole on the right (6).
The yellow blazes leave the woods road at a right turn, and the trail continues to descend through mountain
laurel thickets and into a red maple and tupelo swamp and across a small footbridge before intersecting with
another wide, woods road (7). A right turn here leads to North Magee Street and eventually into the Tuckahoe
Swamp Preserve where hikers can access the Paumanok Path. Turn left to continue on the loop trail, crossing
another small footbridge and skirting the edge of an extensive swamp before encountering another intersection
(8) where several small American chestnut trees can be seen.
The west side of the loop trail (from #8 to #10 on the accompanying map) is an old trail that predates the
preserve. Several sections follow the fall line on relatively steep slopes (such as found at #9) and are in need of
rehabilitation to stem the erosion.
Crossing Southampton Village’s access road (10), the trail winds alongside another vernal pond (11), enters
another beech grove (12), and soon rejoins the spur trail to the start (2).
Please consider joining the dedication ceremony and nature walk this Saturday, October 24, at 9 a.m. and getting
involved in trails stewardship with the Southampton Trails Preservation Society (southamptontrails.org/). Hope
to see you there!
Directions: From the section of Route 27 near Southampton Village also known as County Road 39, turn north at
the Magee Street traffic light. Turn right at the stop sign (Tuckahoe School on your right) onto Sebonac Road.
Trailhead parking is on the left, approximately 0.2 mile from Magee Street.
Mike Bottini is a naturalist and author of The Southampton Press Trail Guide to the South Fork, Exploring East
End Waters: A Natural History and Paddling Guide, and The Walking Dunes: East Hampton’s Hidden Treasure.
Check www.peconic.org for Mike’s field naturalist classes
November 15th, 2014