By Alex Petroski
Many kayak users in Port Jefferson Village were left without a paddle during the summer of 2016, and as a result, the board of trustees is examining ways to accommodate more aquatically inclined residents.
The village currently supplies four wooden racks, which hold six kayaks each at two different beaches. Use of the racks is determined after applications are submitted and a lottery is held in April each year. About half of the applicants were not granted permits because of limited space for the 2016 season, according to Village Clerk Bob Juliano at a recent board meeting. Storage is provided so that kayakers can safely and conveniently leave their vessels near the water, rather than having to transport them every time they are to be used.
The lack of available storage resulted in about two-dozen vessels being left locked to trees or simply strewn across the beach without permission this past summer. There is no cost to obtain a permit if a resident is selected in the lottery.
“My goal is to expand the number of people able to store kayaks,” Trustee Stanley Loucks, who also serves as the board’s liaison to the recreation department, said in a phone interview. He said the village is actively working on changes to improve policies for the 2017 boating season. “What I want to do is put enough racks in for any Port Jeff resident who wants to have a kayak.”
Permanent signs have been in place warning beachgoers to remove kayaks and other small boats from the racks, and by extension, the surrounding areas, by Nov. 1 or be subject to fines. The signs also warn those without permits to refrain from leaving vessels altogether. Juliano said stickers were placed on the remaining boats Nov. 2, warning the owners to remove them within a five-day period, though the village didn’t act until about two weeks later. To retrieve their kayaks, owners are required to visit the Port Jefferson Department of Public Works and pay a $100 fee.
Loucks said kayak storage and the dumping of vessels without permits got “out of control” this year.
Port Jefferson residents Lois O’Donnell Kilkenny and Jodi Casciano said in Facebook messages that they would like permits to store their vessels, but they avoid the lottery altogether because they don’t think the chances of being selected are great. Demand for spaces may be greater than the village realizes.
“We sure would enjoy having more of them, so those of us who don’t have could obtain one,” O’Donnell Kilkenny said. “It gets harder to transport them as we get older! I know I would use it a lot more if we only had to pull it off the rack and go.”
“I have, like, a boatyard in front of my house.”
Dorothy Court, Waterview Drive resident, which is adjacent to the Crystal Brook Hollow Road beach, said, at a public hearing on the matter in June, that she supported tougher rules.
“I have to deal with these kayaks every single day,” Court said. “I have, like, a boatyard in front of my house.”
Loucks said he is sympathetic to village residents who get shut out by the application process. “It’s a shame we have to limit the number of people,” he said.
According to Juliano, a Port Jefferson family had five kayaks tied together and locked around a tree that were seized by village personnel in November. They submitted a letter asking for leniency from the village when they learned of the $500 in fees required to retrieve the boats. The board approved a motion Nov. 28 to cut the fees in half.
Village Mayor Margot Garant was in favor of reducing the fine for the family, though she said at a recent board meeting that the fees are in place to discourage the practice of abandoning kayaks.
“It’s not really about the money, it’s about cleaning up the area,” she said.
Loucks said the board of trustees is considering moving existing racks to East Beach and removing them from the beach at the end of Crystal Brook Hollow Road, while also adding more to comply with demand. He said an experimental contraption was used on East Beach this year, though moving the racks there and adding more would be ideal. Garant added she would like to see the existing racks moved because of a lack of parking in the area.
The village provides racks with space for 24 kayaks at the beach at the end of Crystal Brook Hollow Road in Mount Sinai Harbor, and the same amount of spaces at the beach near the Village Center in Port Jefferson Harbor.