Residents debate fate of kayaks left behind

Residents debate fate of kayaks left behind

On Port Jefferson Harbor is the Centennial Park beach where there are four village kayak racks, each with enough space for six kayaks. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Not everyone is on board with a plan to remove non-permitted kayaks from public beaches.

A law proposal from the Port Jefferson Village Board of Trustees is stuck in a knot after receiving both support and opposition during a meeting on Monday night, with advocates decrying the vessels that clutter shorelines for long periods of time and critics saying the board is going a bit overboard.

Officials are looking to bring order to Port Jefferson beaches where people leave kayaks strewn across the sand without a permit, unattended for days or even weeks or months.

There are several village kayak racks at Centennial Park beach, on Port Jefferson Harbor, and at the beach at the end of Crystal Brook Hollow Road, on Mount Sinai Harbor — with room for six vessels on each rack. Each year, after receiving applications from residents for a spot on one of the racks, the village holds a lottery to determine which applicants get a slot. There are also signs at the beaches warning that kayaks must be properly stored in racks. But many without a permitted place on the racks simply leave their kayaks on the sand or tied up to a tree.

The village trustees have proposed a law that would give the head of the public works department authority to remove those unpermitted vessels after they have been left unattended for at least 48 hours. The village clerk would give notice that the boats were removed, with a description of the vessels, and after 30 days unclaimed they would be considered abandoned. At that point, the village could auction or dispose of the kayaks.

If someone redeemed a kayak from the department, the village would be able to charge the owner for the costs of removal and storage, and the price of the clerk’s public notification.

Dorothy Court, a resident of Waterview Drive who is adjacent to the Crystal Brook Hollow Road beach, was strongly in favor of the measure.

“I have to deal with these kayaks every single day,” she said at the public hearing on the law Monday, describing one that has been chained to a village sign for a year. “I have, like, a boatyard in front of my house.”

She questioned how many of the people leaving their kayaks are residents, and asked the village to move the kayak racks from her local beach to another place, to lessen the impact on neighbors.

“There are so many parks and beaches to put kayaks in,” Court said.

Bob Laravie, however, said a time limit as short as 48 hours before the village impounds a vessel is “overreaching” and it isn’t the right message to send to people in a maritime village.

“I think the ground should be a right,” he said, calling for the public land to remain open to kayaks.

Joel Levine said the law proposal was “shortsighted.” He called on the village to instead issue more sticker permits to Port Jefferson residents, which would represent both a revenue stream for the government and a way to organize the mess.

As the debate went on, Village Clerk Bob Juliano noted that there were double the number of applications than spaces available on the kayak racks this year, and in response Mayor Margot Garant suggested the village should put in more racks. When she asked for a show of hands from people in the audience without a rack slot who would want a village permit sticker for a vessel, several shot up.

Given the debate on the subject, the village board closed the public hearing but did not vote on the law proposal.