By Susan Risoli

The Setauket Harbor Task Force will host its second annual Harbor Day for the community, on Saturday, June 18, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The free event will take place on Shore Road, at the Setauket Harbor dock and beach. This year’s theme is “celebrate the magic of the natural harbor.”

Task Force trustee George Hoffman said the all-volunteer, not-for-profit group works for cleaner water in the harbor. The organization grew out of shared concerns that the area was starting to degrade, Hoffman said, and because local people thought “it looked like the harbor was struggling.”

There will be free boat rides every half-hour as part of the event, Hoffman said. Visitors will be invited to experience touch tanks full of clams, hermit crabs and snails.

There will be kayak exhibits, talks about shoreline vegetation and marine animals and lessons on how to render the local environment with watercolors. Live music and food will be on hand.

The past year has been a busy one for the Setauket Harbor Task Force, Hoffman said, and now “we’ve become the go-to group for information about the water quality and marine environment in Setauket.” Members speak at meetings of local civic organizations, “telling people things they can do to keep the harbor clean.” The Task Force has been working with Brookhaven Town to reduce stormwater runoff from surrounding roads into the harbor, he said.

Hoffman said the Task Force applied in May, together with the town, for a $35,000 federal grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to continue the harbor cleanup. The funds would also be used to make the water and its shoreline more accessible for recreational use. Hoffman said word will come in August as to whether or not the grant application is approved. “We know the town is strapped for resources,” Hoffman said. “So we try to come up with some resources, by partnering with them on grants.” The Task Force works closely with Brookhaven Town, Hoffman said, and “[Town] Supervisor Ed Romaine and Councilwoman Valerie Cartwright are partners with us.”

The Task Force plans to work with the town, Hoffman said, to unclog Setauket Pond, the body of water next to the Se-Port Deli on Route 25A, so that the pond can do a better job of straining pollutants out of stormwater runoff. “That drainage basin is so important to the health of the harbor,” he said. “The town of Brookhaven will dredge the pond and clean it, so that it can catch heavy metals and prevent them from going into the harbor.” And when invasive vegetation and dead brush is cleared from the pond, it will help make the harbor more visible to passers-by, Hoffman said.

In the past year, the Setauket Harbor Task Force was registered as a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization, and was appointed to the Long Island Sound Study, an environmental research and restoration collaboration between the federal Environmental Protection Agency, the states of New York and Connecticut and concerned citizens.