Shelter Island cultural institutions are slowed but still serving the public


The Island’s sense of quiet and  lack of public events that departs each spring is lingering longer than usual as residents stay home and organizations and businesses close their doors.

But thanks to a sense of community unique to Shelter Island, several organizations are doing what they can to keep Islanders entertained and active. Here are updates from Sylvester Manor, Mashomack Preserve, Shelter Island Historical Society and the Shelter Island Library.

Sylvester Manor Educational Farm

On March 12, Sylvester Manor closed the office and asked that all staff able to work from home do so, said Tracy McCarthy, director of operations. Farm staff will continue to work on the farm along with the grounds crew. Ms. McCarthy also said the organization “increased our cleaning procedures in the office and have used more hand sanitizer and disinfectant than we previously used.”

On March 16, the manor’s trails, usually closed November through April for hunting, opened to the public from dawn until dusk. The grounds immediately surrounding the Manor House are also open.

“Because we know people are going to need access to outdoor spaces now more than ever, we have opened up the trails early for everyone’s enjoyment,” Ms. McCarthy said. “Dogs are allowed, as long as they are leashed and cleaned up after.”

Since it’s a busy time for farm preparation and general infrastructure maintenance, that part of the operation is in full swing right now. In addition, the manor’s chickens need to be attended to.

In unison with store shelves going bare, the Manor crew is looking into how its farm can help the community with food security.

“We are investigating donating eggs from our chicken flock to those in need — whether it is the food pantry, the seniors or the students who usually receive free lunch,” said Ms. McCarthy. “Depending on the length of time and the state of the food supply, we may be able to supply more than eggs once we are able to grow and harvest produce on the farm.”

The Shelter Island History Center

On March 18, the Shelter Island History Center announced its indefinite closure. The press release said:

Dear Neighbors,

Shelter Island Historical Society cares about your health and well-being. The Society is vigilantly monitoring news about the corona virus and following CDC guidelines to help keep you and our staff healthy. At this time, the History Center is closed. However, our staff is working remotely to continue to plan programs and events and provide research services. At this time, we expect to move forward with our major events and Havens Farmers’ Market. While you stay healthy and hunker down you may consider exploring your family history or other interesting Island topics. Email your inquiries to [email protected] and we will get to work to see what our archives may provide. We will continue to monitor the updates about COVID-19 and will let you know when we will re-open.

Sincerely yours, Nanette Lawrenson, executive director.

“We are closed until further notice,” said Alexandra M. Binder, the center’s operations manager.

Shelter Island Library

On March 11, the Shelter Island Library announced the cancellations of all programs through March. Just days later on March 14, the library announced it was closing its doors to the public out of caution for COVID-19.

Prior to that, library staff had been doing their part to prevent the spread of the virus.

“We have been doing a lot of research to make sure the information we are sharing with our patrons is correct,” said Terry Lucas. “We made an informative pamphlet which we passed on to the town and the Senior Center.”

In addition, one staff member made a cleaning chart and every few hours someone cleaned tables, doorknobs, flat surfaces and computer keyboards with Clorox wipes. DVD cases and books were wiped down when they were returned or delivered from the library system.

Like all the other Island institutions, the library asked staff to stay home if they were feeling ill.

“We also encouraged people to stock up on plenty of reading and viewing materials,” Ms. Lucas said. The library will also deliver care packages of books and/or DVDs to those looking for a way to pass the time. Call 631-749-0042 or email Ms. Lucas at [email protected] and leave a message with the genre you prefer. The library will deliver free materials.

The library is also consulting with the Suffolk Cooperative Library System which is tracking library closures throughout the county.

Like the rest of the organizations on the Island, Ms. Lucas says they haven’t experienced a similar situation before.

“We really think hard before even closing for snow, so you can imagine how difficult this decision is. The health and safety of our staff and patrons is paramount,” she said. “At the same time, we are a gathering place for many people, we are the only computer access for others and a safe place for kids after school. We really do not like to close our doors.”

Perhaps the silver lining is seeing a community coming together to help each other in a time of need.

“It’s been a tough few weeks and I could not be prouder of the staff who have pitched in to make sure the library is as safe as we could make it,” Ms. Lucas said. “They have been unfailingly k­­ind and patient dealing with questions and concerns.”

Mashomack Preserve

To limit opportunities for community transmission of COVID-19, The Nature Conservancy’s Mashomack Preserve has closed the Visitors Center and preserve offices.

Trails remain open to the public but restroom facilities are closed.

Mashomack Preserve is committed to serving as a community resource where visitors can enjoy all the benefits of time in nature. “Time in nature helps us decompress. With all the fast-paced news of this week, we invite you and your family to take a stroll through the woods, enjoy the sights and sounds of spring, and relax. Whether you’re looking to entertain the kids, get some exercise, or just escape for a little bit, we’re here for you,” the preserve said in a press release.

Trails are open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.­­­­­­