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More than 20 teams geared up to participate in the 2nd Annual Dragon Boat Race Festival at Port Jefferson Harbor on Saturday, Sept. 19.

Teams waited to show what they were made of as they competitively rowed for first place during the race.

Some groups, including the Authentic Shaolin Kung Fu school, entertained the crowd before the 8-hour event came to a close, marking the end of another successful dragon boat race.

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Students from Harbor Ballet Theatre perform a dragon dance at last year’s festival. Photo from PJCC

Dragons will roar as the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce will once again host the Port Jefferson Dragon Boat Festival on Saturday, Sept. 19, at the Mayor Jeanne Garant Harborfront Park, 101 E. Broadway, from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“This year’s ‘Dragons’ is bigger and better than last year! With the expansion of teams, entertainment and food, this festival has something for everyone,”  said Barbara Ransome, director of operations at the Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce.

“One goal this year was to create a more interactive program for the day for not just the teams but for spectators as well, including bringing in the racing course closer to land for better viewing. Collaborating with more community partners makes this event inclusive to our residents and visitors,” she added. Ransome came up with the idea of creating this festival after attending a similar event in Cape May, N.J., a few years ago.

An opening ceremony will include an Asian color guard along with the blessing of the fleet by Buddhist Monk Bhante Nanda of the Long Island Buddhist Meditation Center, incorporating the traditional eye dotting ceremony to kick off the races.

Twenty-four teams will compete in a 250-meter course in  four dragon boats provided by the High Five Dragon Boat Company and will include representatives from local hospitals, civic groups, businesses and cultural organizations. Each team will be made up of 20 “paddlers,” one steersman and one drummer. Heats will run all day with a culmination  of an awards ceremony at the end of the day.

In addition to the races, there will be a day-long festival featuring numerous performances, including a lion dance, Taiko and Korean drum performances and Asian singing and instrumentals along with educational and cultural displays and vendors. Various Asian delicacies, including pot stickers, lo mein, bánh mì Vietnamese pork sandwiches, sushi, stir-fried noodles, bubble tea and spring rolls, will be available.

Along with traditional Chinese painting and calligraphy, there will be dragon sculptures, an opportunity to paint “dragon” eggs and children’s crafts. New this year is a Fortune Cookie raffle sponsored by the Fortunato Breast Health Center, Asian souvenirs, a photo booth, photo opportunities with a friendly dragon and team contests for the best team T-shirt and best costumed drummer.

Sponsors include Confucius Institute of Stony Brook, LONGISLAND.com, New York Community Bank-Roslyn Savings Division, Fortunato Breast Health Center, SCNB Bank, Tritec, News 12, Times Beacon Record Newspapers and Unity SEO Solutions.

The event will be held rain or shine and admission is free. Bring a blanket or lawn chair and come enjoy the festivities. For more information, call 631-473-1414 or visit www.portjeffdragonracefest.com.

The Setauket Harbor Task Force is looking to inspire the North Shore to join its cause. Photo by Susan Risoli

By Susan Risoli

The Setauket Harbor Task Force will host its first Setauket Harbor Day Saturday, Sept. 12, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The free event will be held at the Shore Road dock and beach. It will include live music, food, boat tours of the harbor, kayak and paddleboard demonstrations, marine environmental education and presentations about sea captains and boat builders from bygone eras.

Task force members hope the festivities will inspire the community to join them in their efforts to clean and preserve Setauket Harbor, co-founder George Hoffman said. In a phone interview Monday, Hoffman said the group would need volunteers to help with ongoing water quality monitoring and seasonal beach cleanups. Hoffman also said Harbor Day is intended to increase recognition of how important the local coastline is to community life.

“The history of the harbor is intertwined with the history of Setauket,” he said.

Hoffman said Setauket Harbor Task Force members met this summer with Brookhaven Town officials, who said, “They will come up with a plan to dredge the pond in Setauket Harbor Park.
It is clogged with sediment.”

Hoffman also said the task force has applied for 501c3 designation as a nonprofit, and that the application will be approved in a month or two.

The task force will then apply for federal and state grants to fund harbor cleanup, he said.

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Maria Raheel, instructor at LISUP, strikes a pose on the board. Photos by Michael Chinnici

By Lisa Steuer

While surfing on Long Island is not extremely common, stand up paddleboarding is more popular than ever in the warmer months — and the good news is that you don’t need to be experienced to get started.

Long Island SUP is just one of the local companies with introductory classes featuring certified instructors, rentals, tours and even fitness classes on the paddleboard. In operation for the last 10 years, LISUP offers paddle boarding on Fire Island and in Smithtown and Patchogue.

Owner and instructor Joe Funaro was a surfer and a life guard, and also does windsurfing and kitesurfing — so getting into paddle boarding was a natural progression for him, he said.

“Surfing on Long Island is very difficult because the weather conditions have to be perfect to surf – it has to be a north wind at low tide,” said Funaro. “Stand up paddleboard surfing, because there is a paddle, enables you to surf smaller waves.”

At LISUP, first-timers typically start with the introduction to stand up paddle boarding class before coming back to rent boards and venture out on their own. In addition, like many other paddleboarding companies, LISUP also offers yoga/paddle fitness classes. More and more yogis are taking their practice to the paddleboard and the water because it creates more instability, making your core work harder.

“We call it yoga fusion because we are fusing both disciplines… so there are a lot of Pilates moves in it, there’s a lot of yoga in it, and then there’s core strength,” said Funaro.

Paddleboarding itself is not too difficult to learn – it’s harder to understand the wind direction, said Funaro. On the North Shore, for example, the wind is pushing you away from the beach toward Connecticut, while on the South Shore, the wind is pushing you in toward shore.

And while injuries are not too common, it’s important to be aware of your environment when paddleboarding and to look out for boats. If a boat creates a wake, “that wake is similar to somebody running through a stop sign; you’re not expecting that,” he said.

Plus, another way to ensure a safer paddleboarding experience is to simply go to a place like LISUP that has certified instructors and areas they already use for paddle boarding, rather than attempting to go out by yourself. “We have our locations to rent the boards because those areas we know best as far as what’s under the water,” he said.

The popularity of paddleboarding continues to grow, and there are also more long-distance races popping up, said Funaro, who has done a race around Manhattan. He has also paddled to Connecticut and Fire Island among others, and also offers paddling tours to those places as well, in addition to sunset paddling.

LISUP offers paddle boarding until October. For more information, visit www.longisland-sup.com.

Get on board
In addition to LISUP, here are a few more local stand up paddleboard companies:

  • Step Into Liquid Stand Up Paddle Board Long Island: Cold Spring Harbor. Contact: 516-302-6852.
  • Epic Paddle Boarding: Various locations. More information: www.epicpaddleboarding.com.
  • Huntington Stand Up Paddle Board: Huntington Harbor. More information: www.huntingtonsup.com.

Young bathers dive into the waters of a newly reopened beach at the Centerport Yacht Club. Photo by Rohma Abbas

The county health department warned locals on Friday against bathing at 25 Huntington area beaches, the morning after heavy rainfall drenched the North Shore.

According to the Suffolk County Department of Health Services, it issued the advisory because the rain could have led to bacteria levels in the water that exceed state standards.

“The beaches covered by the advisory are located in areas that are heavily influenced by stormwater runoff from the surrounding watersheds and/or adjacent tributaries,” the department said in a press release, “and, because of their location in an enclosed embayment, experience limited tidal flushing.”

Affected beaches include Eagle Dock Community Beach, Cold Spring Harbor Beach Club beach, West Neck Beach, Lloyd Neck Bath Club beach, Lloyd Harbor Village Park beach, Gold Star Battalion Park beach, Head of the Bay Club beach, Nathan Hale Beach Club beach, Baycrest Association beach, Bay Hills Beach Association beach, Crescent Beach, Knollwood Beach Association beach, Fleets Cove Beach, Centerport Beach, Huntington Beach Community Association beach, Centerport Yacht Club beach, Steers Beach, Asharoken Beach, Hobart Beach (both the Long Island Sound and cove sides), Crab Meadow Beach, Wincoma Association beach, Valley Grove Beach, Prices Bend Beach and Callahans Beach.

The advisory was scheduled to be lifted at 9 p.m. on Friday, to give enough time for two tidal cycles to clear out the water. However, the health department said the advisory would not be lifted if water samples from the affected beaches showed continued high levels of bacteria.

For up-to-date information on the affected beaches, call the health department’s bathing beach hotline at 631-852-5822 or visit the beach monitoring webpage.

Stock photo

Mosquito samples from Port Jefferson Station, Rocky Point and East Northport have tested positive for West Nile virus, Suffolk County Health Services Commissioner James Tomarken announced on Friday.

In total, six mosquito samples tested positive for the virus, bringing this year’s total to 13. While the insects were infected, no humans, horses or birds have tested positive for the virus in Suffolk County this year.

Two samples collected from Port Jefferson Station on July 14; one sample collected from Rocky Point on July 16; and one sample collected from East Northport on July 17 tested positive, according to a press release from the health services department. Two other samples were gathered from Copiague and Dix Hills.

West Nile virus was first detected in birds and mosquito samples in Suffolk County in 1999, and is transmitted to humans by mosquito bites. According to the Center for Disease Control, 70 to 80 percent of those infected with the virus do not develop any of the symptoms, which can include fever, headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea and rash. Severe cases — less than 1 percent of infections — could lead to a neurological illness.

Tomarken said while there is no cause for alarm, his department is asking residents to help in their efforts to reduce the exposure to the virus.

First, residents should try to eliminate stagnant water where mosquitoes breed. Popular breeding grounds include tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots, discarded tires, wading pools, wheelbarrows and birdbaths. In addition, residents can make sure their roof gutters are draining properly, clean debris from the edges of ponds and drain water from pool covers.

To avoid mosquito bites, residents should minimize outdoor activities between dusk and dawn, cover up when mosquitoes are most active, use repellent and make sure windows and doors have screens in good repair.

To report dead birds, which may indicate the presence of the virus, residents should call the county’s West Nile virus hotline at 631-787-2200 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. Residents are encouraged to take a photograph of any bird in question.

To report mosquito problems or stagnant pools of water, call the vector control division at 631-852-4270.

For medical related questions, call 631-854-0333.

Asharoken Village beach. File photo by Victoria Espinoza

Asharoken Village residents will soon have to decide if they want support a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-backed proposal to replenish the community’s eroding beaches.

The $30 million idea involves building the beach back up with more sand to fight erosion. The issue concerning many residents is that in order for the plan to go into effect, public access must be granted to private properties that have new sand put down on their beaches.

Currently, the public is only afforded access of a private beach property below the water line. However, if the village board approves this proposal, the public would have access above the mean high water line to certain private properties.

Some trustees on the village board have said they will not approve a plan that residents don’t agree with.
According to Village Trustee Mel Ettinger, five public access points need to be established for this pitch to go through. He said currently the public can access private beaches from two different areas, and are not trespassing as long as they are below the mean high water line.

Since the Army Corps of Engineers is largely funding the project, public access is a must in order for the proposal to go through. The Army Corps would pay for 89.5 percent of the $30 million costs to help fight beach erosion, and the village would have to pay 10.5 percent, or about $3 million dollars.

“The board of trustees and the mayor are doing our due diligence in exploring the issues associated with putting sand on the beaches and making sure residents are being heard,” Ettinger said in a recent phone interview.

At the end of June, the Army Corps presented the board with five different versions of the proposal, all varying in costs and methods.

On June 30, the Army Corps met with the village board and recommended a plan that consists of a berm and a dune system with groins on the northwestern end of the project area. This area includes the properties on the side of Asharoken Avenue that touches the Long Island Sound.

Berms are wedges of sand that face the sea. They are composed of sand from offshore, and help indicate that the beach has been gaining sand in recent weeks or months. Dunes are hills of sand that have either accumulated over time or have been bulldozed in. Artificial dunes help to hold an eroding shoreline in place.

“Groins in combination with new sand would reduce the erosional effect of existing groins and reduce the frequency of re-nourishments needed,” James D’Ambrosio, public affairs spokesperson for the Army Corps of Engineers said.

According to D’Ambrosio, if the residents of Asharoken do not approve this idea, then the Hurricane Sandy funds that were allocated this project would be used elsewhere.

Ettinger said once the board decides on a plan, it is required to write a letter to the Army Corps requesting which plan they want to go ahead with. Then, assuming the Army Corps approves the decision, the board will prepare a presentation to the village residents that explain all aspects of what it would mean to move forward with the plan.

“The best decision is to come up with a plan that the residents are in agreement with,” Mayor Greg Letica said in a recent phone interview.

Letica also mentioned that there are other options to ensure the safety and longevity of the beaches in Asharoken while still maintaining private access. If residents themselves entirely footed the bill, then there would be no need for the Army Corps financial assistance, and thus no obligation to make private beaches public.

“We need to protect the beaches, I understand the residents that don’t want to give access to their private property, but I think this is something we need to do,” Christine Peterson, an Asharoken resident said in a recent interview. “It’s not like we’re opening up a new beach and expect many new visitors to come and use it.”

Participants paddle across Northport Bay in a previous Distant Memories Swim. File photo by Rohma Abbas

Alzheimer’s Disease Resource Center, Inc. announced that Bryan Proctor, a Huntington resident and a physical education teacher, will lead a team of swimmers in the 12th Annual Distant Memories Swim on Tuesday, July 28, to draw attention to the disease that impacts more than 60,000 families on Long Island.

In its lifetime, the swim has raised in excess of $100,000 for those with Alzheimer’s disease and their unpaid caregivers. Opening ceremonies are expected to begin at 9 a.m. Proctor and his teammates will take to the water at 9:15 a.m.

The swim will start at Asharoken Beach and move across Northport Bay to Knollwood Beach in Huntington — a distance just under three miles. The swim will also help raise funds for Alzheimer’s Disease Resource Center, Inc. The goal is to raise $20,000.

The issue is close to Proctor, as his grandfather and aunt died from the disease.

“Bryan is a champion for those with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Mary Ann Malack-Ragona, executive director and CEO of Alzheimer’s Disease Resource Center, Inc. “He is a role model for the youth of our country.”

Over 5 million people in this country are currently living with Alzheimer’s.

“It is my hope that substantial funds will be raised to assist Alzheimer’s Disease Resource Center,” Proctor said.

For more information about this event, visit www.memoryswim.org. For more information about ADRC, please contact Malack-Ragona  at (631) 820-8068 or visit www.adrcinc.org.

Pols reopen beach after seven years

The shore at the Centerport Yacht Club is open. Photo by Rohma Abbas

The push to clean up Suffolk County’s water quality saw a major milestone on one Centerport shorefront Monday.

Lawmakers and community members gathered at the Centerport Yacht Club on Northport Harbor on a hot summer day to mark the reopening of the beach, which had been shuttered for seven years because of its poor water quality. The harbor is celebrating a cleaner bill of health thanks to multi-governmental efforts to reduce pollution — most significantly through recent upgrades to the Northport wastewater treatment plant.

“Today is unprecedented due to the efforts of many stakeholders,” Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) announced at a press conference inside the clubhouse. “…This is the result of a lot of hard work.”

Officials cut a ribbon to mark the reopening of the beach at Centerport Yacht Club. Photo by Rohma Abbas
Officials cut a ribbon to mark the reopening of the beach at Centerport Yacht Club. Photo by Rohma Abbas

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D), Spencer and a number of Huntington Town officials including Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) cut the ribbon opening the beach, and the county officials hand-delivered a beach permit to the supervisor.

The Suffolk County Department of Health Services, with oversight from the New York State Department of Health, conducted more than 600 tests in 20 locations at the beach since April, Spencer said. The results found that the quality of the water meets “required stringent standards,” Spencer’s office said in a statement.

Northport Harbor, once the “epicenter of red tide in the Northeast,” has seen a dramatic reduction of nitrogen, from 19.4 lbs. per day to 7.5 lbs. And there’s been no red tide in the harbor in the last three seasons, Spencer’s office said.

Officials said a significant upgrade to the Northport sewage treatment plant had a huge hand in turning the tide.

Bellone, who said the county is facing a “water quality crisis,” recognized Northport Village officials for being on top of the issue. He called the rehabilitation of Northport Harbor an “example of what we need to do around the county.”

Petrone and Bellone said Spencer had a big hand in making waves on the issue.

“The doctor’s orders worked,” Petrone said.

Young bathers dive into the waters of a newly reopened beach at the Centerport Yacht Club. Photo by Rohma Abbas
Young bathers dive into the waters of a newly reopened beach at the Centerport Yacht Club. Photo by Rohma Abbas

The issue of Northport Harbor’s water quality gained steam among Centerport Yacht Club members when Joe Marency, past commodore, was at the helm about five years ago. He praised the beach reopening at Monday’s press conference.

“There’s still a lot to do but this is a big step in the right direction,” he said.

At the close of the press conference, lawmakers gathered outside the club on the water. They excitedly uprooted a “no swimming” sign posted there, and Bellone and Spencer exclaimed, “Who’s going in?”

Assemblyman Andy Raia (R-East Northport) waded into the water, ankle-deep. It took a pair of bold bathers seconds to dart towards the shore and dive in.

“It’s beautiful and warm,” said Randall Fenderson, one of the swimmers who emerged from the water.

Fenderson, who presently lives in Santa Monica, California, said he grew up in the area and has a personal connection to the beach, and was sad to see it closed.

A group of children also made their way to the water, include Greenlawn sisters Paige and Madelyn Quigley. The girls, 6-years old and 10 years old, also said the water felt nice.

“Now we’ll be in here forever,” Madelyn said.

Photo from the health department

Blue-green algae has made some waters in Suffolk County unsafe for residents, according to the county health department.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation reported recently that in seven nearby bodies of water, levels of cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, have exceeded health criteria, according to the Suffolk County Department of Health Services.

While cyanobacteria appear naturally in lakes and streams in low levels, the department said, they can become abundant and form blooms that are green, blue-green, yellow, brown or red in color. The algae can appear in “floating scums on the surface of the water, or may cause the water to take on [a] paint-like appearance.” Contact with those scummy or discolored waters should be avoided.

Currently affected waters include parts of Lake Ronkonkoma; Old Town Pond, Agawam Lake and Mill Pond in Southampton; Maratooka Lake in Mattituck; Kellis Pond in Bridgehampton; and Wainscott Pond in Wainscott.

Lake Ronkonkoma Beach has already been closed to bathing for more than a week, a health department official said on Monday, because test results showed high levels of a different bacteria — E. coli, caused by fowl droppings.

The levels of cyanobacteria and “associated toxins” are particularly high at Agawam Lake, the health department said in a recent press release, so residents should avoid direct exposure to water there.

At all of the affected locations, the health department said, residents should not use the water, and should not swim or wade in it. Officials also advised residents to keep both children and pets away from the areas.

If people or pets come in contact with the affected water, health officials said, they should be rinsed off immediately with clean water. If the affected person experiences symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, allergic reactions, breathing difficulties or irritation in the skin, eyes or throat, he should seek medical attention.

More information about cyanobacteria is available on the county health department’s website.

To report a cyanobacteria bloom at a county beach where bathing is permitted, call the Suffolk County Department of Health Services’ Office of Ecology at 631-852-5760. To report one at a body of water in Suffolk County without a bathing beach, call the Division of Water at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation at 518-402-8179.

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