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Beach

Village kayak racks at Centennial Park beach don't provide enough space to meet demand. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Before the boating season gets into full swing, officials are trying to agree on what to do about people who leave their kayaks strewn on Port Jefferson beaches without a permit.

During a recent trip to the beach at the end of Crystal Brook Hollow Road, village Trustee Larry LaPointe saw “there were five licensed kayaks on the rack and 20 on the ground scattered over the entire area, some chained up to trees, most of them just laying there,” he said during a recent board of trustees meeting.

In April, the village held its annual lottery to determine which residents would get to use its kayak racks at that beach, which is located on Mount Sinai Harbor, and the beach at Centennial Park, on Port Jefferson Harbor.

“All of the slots were accounted for” in the lottery, LaPointe said, “so that means most of the people who won the lottery haven’t put their kayaks down there yet.”

There are signs at the beaches warning that kayaks must be properly stored in racks, yet there are still many left unattended. To solve the issue, a code proposal would give the head of public works authority to remove unpermitted vessels that have been left unattended for 48 hours, Village Attorney Brian Egan explained at the meeting. The village clerk would give notice that the boat was removed, with a description of the vessel, and after 30 days unclaimed it would be considered abandoned.

At that point, Egan said, the village would be able to sell or otherwise dispose of it. And LaPointe said there could be an annual auction of the abandoned vessels.

“And what do I do when some of [the owners] come to kill me?” Trustee Bruce Miller joked, referring to potentially angry kayak owners confronting public works Superintendent Steve Gallagher.

The trustees also discussed kayaks being unmarked with ownership information.

“What happens when they say, ‘That’s my kayak,’ and the other guy says, ‘No, that’s my kayak,’” Trustee Bruce D’Abramo said.

“How do you prove that’s your kayak when there’s no marks,” LaPointe agreed.

D’Abramo replied, “Yep, I could get a free kayak.”

As the code would allow the village to charge those picking up impounded vessels with the costs of removal, storage and the price of the clerk’s public notification, another question raised was what the “reasonable costs” referenced in the proposed code would entail.

Mayor Margot Garant said she hoped to have a list of recommended fees by the time the matter went up for a public hearing at the board meeting on June 6.

Centennial Park beach is located on the Port Jefferson Harbor. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Join local environmental group Coastal Steward for a beach cleanup on Saturday, May 28, and help keep the North Shore beautiful.

Volunteers are meeting from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Centennial Park in downtown Port Jefferson. Snacks, water, gloves and garbage bags will be provided, but volunteers are encouraged to bring their own sunscreen and tick protection.

It is recommended that participants wear clothes and shoes that they would not mind getting wet or dirty.

Centennial Park is located behind the Port Jefferson Village Center, off East Broadway and next to the Port Jefferson Yacht Club.

Volunteers should register at www.coastalsteward.org by clicking on the release form, under the beach cleanup program, filling it out and bringing it to the event. Community service credit is available.

For more information, contact Pat at 631-334-6824.

Sills Gully Beach scattered with litter. File photo

Federal dollars are giving Sills Gully Beach and Gully Landing face-lifts.

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) announced that Brookhaven Town will receive $2,275,000 in federal funding to repair Sills Gully Beach in Shoreham and the town’s Gully Landing Road drainage facility in Miller Place, which were severely damaged due to high winds, heavy rains and the tidal surge during both Hurricane Irene in 2011 and Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

“Working closely with the Brookhaven Town finance department, Brookhaven highway department, Federal Emergency Management Agency and the New York State department of homeland security, my staff and I were able to successfully expedite the necessary federal funding to make critical repairs to Sills Gully Beach and Gully Landing Drainage Facility,” said Zeldin, who is a member of the House of Representatives’ transportation and infrastructure committee, in a press release. “As a result, Brookhaven Town will now be able to make renovations to protect, restore and strengthen the beach, so that Long Islanders can enjoy its beauty for generations to come.”

The funding will be used to repair and reinforce the bluffs by installing a bulkhead. According to town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), the drainage systems and shoreline protection at the locations had been so severely damaged that it was no longer serving its primary function.

Hurricane Sandy “was not only a South Shore event — our North Shore communities were affected as well, and Sills Gully Beach and Gully Landing Road were particularly hit hard,” he said. “I thank Congressman Zeldin for securing the funds so we can finally begin work to repair the damage so residents can once again safely enjoy this popular recreation spot.”

The funding will also be used to upgrade the existing stormwater drainage system.

“We were able to finally cut through the bureaucratic red tape after years of inaction and allocate the necessary federal funding to modernize our stormwater infrastructure and repair badly eroded bluffs, protecting the endangered surface waters of the Long Island Sound,” town Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R) said. “Shoreline protection projects such as these are critical in our efforts to maintain our shoreline and ensure its resilience.”

The federal grant was secured through FEMA. The funding is being provided under authority of Section 406 of the Robert T. Stafford Act and will be granted directly to New York State.

“I appreciate the hard work of Congressman Zeldin, the Town of Brookhaven, the highway department and Councilwoman Jane Bonner [R] have done for our community to get this project approved,” said Marc Mazza, a board member of the Miller Place Park Homeowners Association. “I offer my heartfelt thanks.”

Community clubs and organizations were just excited to see the beach restored for local enjoyment.

“We are very, very grateful,” said Jennifer Juengst, a board member of the Shoreham Shore Club. “The funding obtained with Congressman Zeldin’s efforts are a lifeline for the health of this North Shore beach and will ensure that future generations of beachgoers will enjoy safe summers for years to come.”

This version replaces an incorrect photo.

Coastal geologist Aram Terchunian. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

The considerations for the Asharoken beach and dune restorations continue.

Coastal geologist Aram Terchunian from First Coastal Corp. consultants delivered a presentation to the board of trustees on Feb. 3, and trustees said they still agreed to go forward with an $84.5 million plan that would transform Asharoken’s beaches and dunes.

Several months ago, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers presented the board with five different alternatives to combat the flooding and erosion problems the village has encountered, specifically those that arose after Hurricane Sandy.

Trustees said they preferred the plan known as alternative (1), which uses sand to fill the coastline along Asharoken Beach. The plan includes filling the beach with a particular type of offshore grain that is compatible with the native beach sand. There will also be a dune made on the west end of the beach.

The initial volume of beach fill is 600,000 cubic yards with 80,000 cubic yards of nourishment every three years, Terchunian said. The total estimated cost for construction alone of this plan is just more than $21 million, Terchunian said.

He said that the construction cost is shared roughly 70 percent by the federal government, 20 percent by the state and 10 percent by local government. But the maintenance-costs share changes to only 50 percent federal, 35 percent state and 15 percent local.

The coastal geologist also said the sand alternative plan is the least expensive to construct, but the most expensive to maintain over time due to the amount of annual sand needed.

He said the Army Corps “did their homework” with the proposals they presented to the board, and he particularly praised the plan for alternative (1) because of the type of offshore sand the Corps planned to use.

Asharoken Trustee Mel Ettinger. Photo by Victoria Espinoza
Asharoken Trustee Mel Ettinger. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

“Looking at these sediments, the Corps made an astute observation,” Terchunian said. “Designing the project with a slightly heavier grain size than exists on beach, from offshore, is an excellent match [to the sand type currently on the beach].”

He said the grain size is “critically important” to the success and endurance of this plan.

In a phone interview on Friday, Asharoken Mayor Greg Letica said the board has concerns with the groin components in the other alternatives presented by the Army Corps.

“We are also concerned about the fact that there is not guaranteed long-term replenishment money which could leave the groins exposed, become a possible eyesore and cause more erosion downstream,” he said.

The main concern of residents and the trustees alike throughout this entire process has been the issue of public access. It is required by the federal government for public access points to be made if government funds are used to help finance the project. Currently, the public is only afforded access of a private beach property below the waterline.

However, if this proposal goes through, the public would have access above the mean high waterline to private properties on the Long Island Sound side.

Letica asked Terchunian if there is anyway Asharoken could get around the additional required public access points. Terchunian said that the Army Corps is not allowed to have any flexibility with the projects they propose, and the U.S. Congress said, “If they spend the money in this location, these are the requirements.”

Local politicians such as Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) and Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) have written to the Army Corps headquarters asking for the public access points on private property to be reconsidered.

Terchunian has years of experience working with the Army Corps, most notably with the Village of Westhampton Beach for dune restoration.

The need for this project was first introduced by Letica in 2012, in a letter to federal legislators urging them to find funding to protect Asharoken Avenue, which he had called “exposed,” after Sandy and multiple nor’easters continued to reduce the size of the dunes protecting the shore.

The village had until yesterday, Feb. 10, to respond initially to the Army Corps. Letica said the board intends to keep the community completely in the loop as it comes closer to making a decision on whether or not they go forward with a plan.

“We want the board to not make these decisions unilaterally,” he said, adding that the trustees will look into forums like public hearings or public surveys to gauge residents’ desires.

Volunteers hold the immobile sea turtles they discovered at West Meadow Beach, where Brookhaven Ranger Molly Hastings is working to nurse them back to health. Photo from Molly Hastings

December’s wacky weather made life more difficult for everyone — but sea turtles at West Meadow Beach had a particular struggle.

Recent outdoor temperatures were largely above normal, with some brief moments of frigid cold. Molly Hastings, who serves as Brookhaven’s environmental educator and park ranger, saw some of the environmental consequences of this when she received an unusual knock on her door on Dec. 20 after a volunteer encountered two immobile, or cold-stunned, sea turtles.

An immobile sea turtle discovered at West Meadow Beach is being nursed back to health. Photo from Molly Hastings
An immobile sea turtle discovered at West Meadow Beach is being nursed back to health. Photo from Molly Hastings

Hastings said the knock came from Celeste Gorman, who was taking a hike along West Meadow Beach as a volunteer in search of turtles rendered immobile by the cold weather. She ended up finding two in a very short span of time.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration described sea turtles as cold-blooded animals with circulatory systems that can slow to the point of immobility when exposed to extremely cold temperatures. Various factors have helped contribute to the higher prevalence of cold-stunning, like more shallow bodies of water and more dramatic temperature changes, NOAA said.

Hastings said she was well aware of the impact an unpredictable climate has on the wildlife living not only at West Meadow, but across the town and country. She said this small, isolated incident with the sea turtles should serve a greater purpose.

“Hopefully, the turtles will recover from this climate change-caused incident,” Hastings said. “Regardless of their individual fate, let it serve as a gentle reminder that we all are charged of fixing what we’ve done to the great outdoors.”

A West Meadow Beach bench sports a new plaque honoring former park ranger Eileen Gerle. Photo by Eric Santiago

By Eric Santiago

More than 30 North Shore residents gathered around a park bench at West Meadow Beach on Sunday for the chance to see former Brookhaven park ranger, Eileen Gerle. The bench — which now bears a plaque commemorating Gerle’s work as an environmental educator — was dedicated to her after she retired and moved to Florida last year.

“It’s hard to put into words,” said an emotional Gerle. “It’s very overwhelming and touching to be loved by so many people.”

Gerle returned this week for a special Eagle Scout award ceremony of one of her former students just in time for a group of residents and friends to seize the opportunity and formally show her the plaque and celebrate old times.

Former town park ranger Eileen Gerle is honored at West Meadow Beach. Photo by Eric Santiago
Former town park ranger Eileen Gerle is honored at West Meadow Beach. Photo by Eric Santiago

“She was the best,” said Paul Feinberg, a West Meadow watchdog who helped organize the dedication along with a handful of other North Shore natives.

They were all frequent guests at Gerle’s “Sundowner” beach parties, where they would drink wine, eat cheese and watch the sunset. When it was clear Gerle was going to retire, the group hatched a plan to honor her work.

“We just decided that a simple plaque would be the nicest thing to do,” said Naomi Solo, a Port Jefferson resident who worked on the dedication.

As park ranger, Gerle was responsible for maintaining the beach, the area wildlife and, critically, educating people about the environment. She worked at West Meadow from 2009 to 2014 and said she made many friends along the way.

It was for this reason Solo and the others contacted Brookhaven Town for permission to install the plaque on a bench at the beach.

Her influence was so impactful that immediately after she resigned residents campaigned for town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) to guarantee that her position would be filled with another full-­time park ranger. Their efforts were successful and Gerle’s successor Molly Hastings took over the spot at West Meadow.

A year into the job, Hastings said the response has been nothing short of warm.

“It was really nice,” she said of when she started working at the beach. “I literally pulled up with the moving van and people were greeting me and welcoming me as I was taking the sofa and bed off of my truck.”

But Gerle’s greatest legacy lies in the students she taught, those at the ceremony said.

Aidan Donnelly, 13, was one of those who attended the educational programs Gerle organized. The newly appointed Eagle Scout was also the recipient of the William T. Hornaday badge — a prestigious award for “distinguished service in natural resource conservation,” according to the Boy Scouts of America website.

Aidan attributed the work he’s done, and the work he hopes to do as a future environmental physicist, to the lessons he learned from his mentor.

“She taught me everything I know about the beach,” he said of Gerle. “I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for her.”

Crab Meadow Beach in Northport. File photo by Rohma Abbas

Three boys got more than they bargained for on Monday when they paddled their canoe toward the Long Island Sound with the hopes of fishing and met powerful winds that blew them 1.5 miles offshore.

According to the Suffolk County Police Department, the Huntington Station kids — brothers Davin Miles, 12, and Kenyon Miles, 10, and their friend, 12-year-old Chris Gurr — launched the canoe from Northport’s Crab Meadow Beach early in the evening but as the paddled away from the shoreline, the wind picked up and they were blown out 1.5 miles.

Marine Bureau officers Michael O’Leary and Charles Marchiselli, on SCPD patrol vessel Marine Bravo, were on routine patrol on the Sound when they discovered the kids and brought both them and their canoe aboard.

Police said the boys were all wearing flotation devices and were uninjured, but had been unable to paddle back to the beach because of 15 to 20 mile-per-hour winds and 2-foot waves.

O’Leary and Marchiselli brought the kids to their parents, who were waiting at Crab Meadow.

Huntington Town hosts 4th Annual Sand Castle Contest

Five teams competed in Huntington Town’s 4th Annual Sand Castle contest, held at Crab Meadow Beach on Wednesday, Aug. 19. The event, hosted by Councilman Mark Cuthbertson’s (D) office, included lifeguards as judges and teams won awards for designs that were most creative, most original and more.

Photo from SCPD

It was like a scene out of “Mission: Impossible” — four guys damage a vacant building at the Vanderbilt Museum and then flee to a waiting boat and get away.

The Suffolk County Police Department said it is on the hunt for the suspects, who allegedly damaged a door and roof panel on a building at the Centerport museum on Little Neck Road on Friday afternoon.

Police said after a witness noticed the vandals, the men fled in a red boat that had been parked on the adjacent beach.

Officers from the SCPD’s 2nd Precinct Crime Section and Suffolk County Crime Stoppers are asking for the public’s help to identify and locate the men, who are wanted for criminal mischief. Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers anonymously at 800-220-TIPS. There is a cash reward of up to $5,000 for information that leads to an arrest.

Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point), right, and Park Ranger Molly Hastings at the stewardship center. Photo from Brookhaven Town

Town officials recently toured the newly reconstructed boardwalk at the Marine Environmental Stewardship Center at Cedar Beach.

The 500-foot-long loop begins and ends at the center, which is located off of the nature trail at the beach, and offers visitors two resting off shoots with benches. Visitors can stroll along the walkway to see a variety of wildlife and watch the sunset.

The boardwalk isn’t the only thing residents can see at the center. The center is open until Labor Day, Sept. 7, Thursday through Sunday from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.  In addition, the center is hosting a variety of summer programs open to people of all ages throughout the month of August:

The Giving Tree Aug. 8, from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Discover how dependent we are on trees. Trees give us cleaner air, food, medicine, shelter and much more.

Shellfish Facility Tour Aug. 14, from 10 to 11 a.m. Tour the grow-out facility at Cedar Beach. Learn why we are giving nature a helping hand.

Marine Life Jeopardy Aug. 15, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. All ages. Play with family and friends together or as opponents; you choose. Test your knowledge of Long Island Marine life.

Nature Center Tour Aug. 21, from 10 to 11 a.m. Take a tour of the newly upgraded Nature Center. Environmental displays, touch screen interactive computers, marine tanks and touch tanks.

All programs are free and registration is required. To register call Ranger Molly Hastings at 631-751-6714 or email at [email protected] Leave your name, number of people attending and the program name.