Patrick and Catherine Keogh, who recently took over the running of Deep Hollow Ranch in Montauk from Diane and Rusty Leaver when they moved to Texas, are thrilled to be the new . . . .Pat pauses, they’re not the “owners,” the county owns the land, they’re actually leasing the property from the county, but they’re not the “lessees,” either. Pat suggests “concessionaires.” In fact, according to Emily Lauri, the Community Relations Director for Suffolk County Parks, the preferred designation for the Keoghs is “concessionaires,” or “licensees.” In any case, there’s no ambiguity about how the Keoghs feel about the ranch and the area. It’s “an incredible place,” Pat says, “the history, the beauty.” They do own the horses, by the way, 53 in all, plus two ponies and the tack, not to mention the two German Shepherds who wander around, gently nuzzling up visitors.
Deep Hollow Ranch sits on surrounding land that underwent a name change 14 years ago—from Montauk County Park to Theodore Roosevelt County Park. A trail map, however, taken from a South Fork Place Names book and referenced by Robin Strong, archivist at the Montauk Library, shows the former name as Indian Field County Park or simply Indian Fields, which is different from the Indian Field Burial Ground off East Lake Drive. “It can be confusing,” Strong says. The new name, she conjectures, was probably given in 1998 to honor Col. Theodore Roosevelt and his Rough Riders, who came to recuperate at Camp Wicoff in Montauk after their decisive victory at San Juan Hill during the Spanish-American War. The entire 1,157-acre park is the result of a series of acquisitions in 1973, 1975 and 1986-7.
The Keoghs are operating under the name Deep Hollow Stables Corp. on the Leavers’ contract, which was reassigned to them by the county. It obligates the Keoghs “to fulfill all items in the contract between now and year-end when the contract expires.” And then the Keoghs become the new concessionaries? Not yet, says Lauri. An RFP (Request For Proposals) must first go out (and be advertised in various local papers). But then, assuming the Keoghs win the bid, they will be the concessionaires for . . . how long? “That depends,” Lauri says. It could be for a year or several years. Meanwhile, the Keoghs are getting documents signed and investing in whatever needs attention to ensure the safe running of the ranch.
The Deep Hollow property, which lies north of the highway, includes historic Third House and comprises a number of acres. How many? Lauri notes that the Department of Parks “does not break out specific acreage,” only “designates areas that can be used.” As for the beach and trail rides Deep Hollow Ranch Riding Stables offers that extend throughout the park, access is subject to the “discretion” of the Commissioner of Suffolk County Department of Parks (as of this month, that would be former Acting Commissioner Greg Dawson), meaning that environment rules and if particular areas need attention, they go off limits for restoration.
The Keoghs see themselves as natural custodians of the land. Catherine Keogh’s family goes back generations in Montauk where she was born and raised, and Patrick, who hails from Colorado and has over 30 years of experience breaking in, training and riding horses, spent several years working at Deep Hollow. On a chance visit one cold and rainy morning, the Keoghs could be seen readying up a trail ride for six people of varying degrees of experience, checking the prep and offering up words of encouragement. Both Keoghs exude a deep love of Deep Hollow and Montauk, where Pat has been a fireman for 11 years. He nods to an old photo showing Deep Hollow, when it was a guesthouse and cattle ranch and points out the valley that gave the place its name. The park for him is “magical, unique,” words that inform his dreams for the future. These include bringing back some cattle to the ranch—“not too many, but enough to roam the back pasture” and recreate a sense of the past when Deep Hollow was the nation’s “oldest working cattle ranch” (est. 1658), all the more wondrous for its being in the East.
Other thoughts include starting a 4H-kind of program for youngsters and opening opportunities for the disabled. Kids with Muscular Dystrophy, for example, could ride the trails, perhaps in a horse-drawn wagon, and a Wounded Warrior-type project might also be started to draw on the “healing benefits” of the area. The Keoghs, it would seem, are concessionaires who concede nothing to what Deep Hollow might inspire.