Photo courtesy of Friends of Connetquot River State Park Preserve
Remembering Gil Bergin
SUFFOLK COUNTY—On April 4, Gil Bergin, the longtime manager of Connetquot River State Park Preserve, passed away peacefully at the age of 88. He passed on the grounds of the park’s Sportsmen’s Club, where he spent most of his life in a home overlooking the Main Pond.
“It’s the end of an era,” noted Ginny Fields, president of Friends of Connetquot State Park Preserve. “He was well-respected and made many friends in his years at the club and the park, and is thought of as a legend.”
In a bio she prepared, Fields wrote about Bergin’s long relationship with the park. He grew up in the adjacent hamlet of Great River, where his father had been a herdsman for the farm on the Westbrook estate that had been owned by William Bayard Cutting. The property is now the Bayard Cutting Arboretum. Across the highway was the gentlemen’s South Side Sportsmen’s Club, where New York aristocracy gathered to hunt, fish and generally enjoy the great outdoors. He began working for the club in 1945 as a teenager, guiding the members on fishing expeditions, carrying their gear and cleaning the fish they had caught.
Bergin became superintendent of the club in 1960. In 1963, New York State purchased the property for nearly $6.2 million. However, the club members leased the property for another 10 years and their superintendent stayed on.
In 1973, Bergin continued his work there for the state as park manager. He spent another 45 years managing the 3,473 acres working in the trout fish hatchery that helped stock the streams. He saw the park through some difficult times when in 2008, the hatchery was forced to close because of a fish virus. He was there to see it reopened and flourish again in 2016.
Bergin could be spotted either walking, riding horseback or driving through the park to check on proper permits and making sure that those who were visiting the park were in the correct areas for fishing, riding or hiking. He had been interviewed on numerous occasions on the vast history of the South Side Sportsmen’s Club and even starred in a couple of YouTube videos to share the natural beauty of the property.
After the organization Friends of Connetquot State Park Preserve was formed 20 years ago, Bergin was an important resource for the group and worked closely on their efforts to improve the buildings and grounds.
Friends member and former president Richard Remmer said he had been a friend of Bergin for the past 55 years.
“It’s amazing to think that under his steadfast guiding hand, the property transitioned from a private preserve enjoyed exclusively by the rich, famous and powerful to an unspoiled treasure enjoyed by all,” Remmer said.
“Gil always took great pride in welcoming anglers from all walks of life and all experience levels. Thanks to Gil’s vision, small children, Boy Scouts, Army cadets, wounded soldiers and breast cancer survivors involved in Casting for Recovery all had and continue to have the opportunity to enjoy and benefit from the fishing, nature and educational opportunities at Connetquot [Park].”
“He will be sorely missed,” Fields added.
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