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Port Jefferson Country Club

Melissa Cohen with her children Andrew and Alice Turner. Photo courtesy of Alan Turner

Port Jefferson will likely be greener at this time next year, thanks to the efforts of 59 first graders at Edna Louise Spear Elementary School, their families and village trustees.

As a part of what Trustee Rebecca Kassay hopes will be an annual tradition, first graders will hear a talk in their class this Friday, April 29, on National Arbor Day, by Heather Lynch, IACS endowed chair of Ecology & Evolution at Stony Brook University. At that point, the students will also get coupons for free saplings of white oak, red spruce or winterberry shrubs.

The students and their families can plant the trees or shrubs in their backyards if they have space and clearance or at the Port Jefferson Country Club. The trees planted at the country club will not interfere with any golf games or other activities.

“We want to help foster that relationship between our young, upcoming stewards of Port Jefferson and the natural environment,” said Kassay, who spearheaded the project.

Planting trees will help offset losses incurred during storms and as some of the older trees die.

While sharing games like bird bingo, Lynch also hopes to speak with first graders about the role that native plants can play on Long Island.

“Planting trees is like a gift to their future selves,” said Lynch, who also described the effort as “paying it forward.” She hopes first graders see the role they play in Port Jefferson history by planting trees that will grow as they do and that will become a part of their enduring legacy.

While first grade students will receive saplings for free as a part of the project, Port Jefferson residents can also buy them for $1 at the farmers market on Sunday, May 8, while supplies last.

Kassay is describing the purchase for residents as a “dollar and a dream.”

Planting these trees will strengthen the ecology of the area, providing homes and food sources for local birds and insects and reducing runoff, Lynch added.

The trustees will invite the first graders, as well as community members, to help plant the tree nursery at the country club on Thursday, May 5, between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., with a rain date of May 6. Residents can park at the country club and follow signage from The Turn restaurant to the tree nursery beyond the driving range. 

Family response

For several families in Port Jefferson, this kind of effort validates their commitment and interest in the village.

Nadine and Richard Wilches moved to Port Jefferson last year with their 9-year old son Lucas and their 7-year old daughter Cecilia.

“One of the reasons we moved to Port Jefferson is to experience a closer-knit community that includes taking care of the environment,” Nadine Wilches said. “Planting this tree will be a learning experience.”

Cecilia, who is in first grade at Edna Louise Spear school, shared some of her awareness of trees.

Without trees, “there would be no air,” Cecilia said. “The tree eats carbon dioxide. We eat the opposite, which is air, so the tree does the opposite.”

Cecilia has learned some of what she knows about trees from the work her brother Lucas is doing on photosynthesis in his class.

Lucas was born on Earth Day and also appreciates the connection to preserving the planet, the mother said.

Wilches added that the family tries to be cautious about their carbon footprint and has a hybrid car and an electric car.

She appreciates that the school and the village are “reinforcing our home values around the environment.” 

If Cecilia could ask a tree a question, she would want to know if it hurts a tree when it loses its leaves.

First grader Andrew Turner appreciates how trees provide a home for animals. He will join the group planting saplings at the country club, and wants to know how long it takes a tree to grow.

Andrew, who likes woodpeckers and who currently wants to be a paleontologist like his father, Alan Turner at Stony Brook University, enjoys jumping in leaf piles in the fall.

“The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, and the second best time is today.”

— Rebecca Kassay

Andrew’s mother Melissa Cohen, who is a graduate program coordinator in Ecology & Evolution at Stony Brook University, said she appreciates how this effort will help children in the school develop an understanding of trees and the benefits they bring to the community.

Longer term, Lynch, Kassay and others hope the first graders who participate in this effort develop a connection to the trees they plant.

“We envision these kids growing up with their trees,” Lynch said. “It would be amazing if the kids could all take pictures with their trees now and we can [see] them taking pictures when they graduate high school as a rite of passage.”

Kassay said these trees offer numerous benefits, including lowering heating costs from the shade they produce, increasing property values and stabilizing the soil by soaking up runoff from storms.

“The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, and the second best time is today,” Kassay said.

Construction of a retaining wall to fortify the toe of the East Beach bluff is expected to begin this year. Photo by Carolyn Sackstein

By Carolyn Sackstein

In a continuing effort to report on bluff erosion near the Port Jefferson Country Club at Harbor Hills, TBR News Media reached out to the Village of Port Jefferson to discuss the recent visit by assessors from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.  

Village administrator, Joe Palumbo, detailed FEMA’s visit to the village. He said the inspectors were assigned to assess the damage caused by Hurricane Ida last September to the recharge basins on Oakwood Road, Port Jefferson. 

“FEMA’s recent visit was to inspect and assess the damage caused by Hurricane Ida to the large and small recharge basins on Oakwood Road,” Palumbo said. “For some reason, this group of FEMA inspectors were not assigned to inspect the bluff project.” Adding that he hoped to get more clarity on FEMA’s plans, he said, “I had a call with FEMA to find out why and whether they are coming back to inspect [the bluff]. I hope to have a response to these questions on, or before, my next call with them.”

In an emailed statement, the village administrator provided additional historical context surrounding this issue. He described the difficulties of working with governmental agencies that lacked the sense of urgency necessary to secure the village’s assets in a timely manner.

“The village was unable to take action to stabilize the bluff until it received permits to do so from [the Department of Environmental Conservation] and Army Corps of Engineers,” he said. “It has been a long process. We submitted our permit to DEC in 2018 and received [approval] this past June.” 

Palumbo was also asked about the concerns raised by village residents, who want a public hearing and referendum on the matter. According to him, the village has worked closely with a coastal engineer who has provided an informed assessment of the proposed projects at East Beach.

“The village has been working vigorously with an experienced and qualified coastal engineer to develop a plan that will stabilize the bluff and protect the village asset that sits atop the bluff,” Palumbo said. “This plan has been presented and approved by a majority of the Board of Trustees, and is the plan that we believe is the best to preserve the bluff for many decades to come.”

Port Jefferson is not alone in its struggle against coastal erosion. Belle Terre is also taking up measures to counteract erosion of its beaches and mitigate storm damage. When asked if there was any intergovernmental cooperation between the villages of Port Jefferson and Belle Terre, Palumbo acknowledged the limitations of coordinating village responses.

“The Village of Belle Terre is a separate entity,” he said. “Our engineers had reviewed the measures taken and material used in Belle Terre, but believe the plan developed and materials being used to stabilize our bluff is the right plan that will last for decades to come.”

While the Port Jeff Board of Trustees has already approved a $10 million bond for the two-phased bluff project, Palumbo said the village is actively seeking grant funding that may subsidize the initiative significantly. 

“The village is looking at several funding opportunities, including through FEMA disaster declarations under Tropical Storm Isaias [last August] and Hurricane Ida; discretionary funds through Congressman Lee Zeldin [R-NY1] and Senator Chuck Schumer’s [D-NY] offices; and the [FEMA] Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.”

The fate of the clubhouse at Port Jeff Country Club is uncertain. Photo courtesy of Port Jefferson Village

Debate around the future of the Port Jefferson Country Club intensified on Monday, April 4, when longtime local residents confronted the Village of Port Jefferson Board of Trustees during a public session.

Myrna Gordon and Michael Mart both condemned the board for moving ahead with plans to curb coastal erosion at East Beach without first holding a public forum, arguing that an issue of this magnitude requires greater public input. “The bluff touches every resident … and there should be a public forum for this,” Mart said. Gordon added, “This is an important issue in this village … and on this particular issue, the ball was dropped.”

Responding to these charges, Mayor Margot Garant said the bluff projects are time sensitive, requiring prompt action on behalf of the village before its permits expire.

“This is an area regulated by the Army Corps of Engineers and the [Department of Environmental Conservation],” Garant said. “The window of opportunity is closing because our permits are not going to be there forever.”

History of the country club

Philip Griffith, historian of PJCC and co-editor of Port Jefferson historical society’s newsletter, chronicled the history of the country club since 1908. According to Griffith, the club originated as a nine-hole golf course designed for the residents of Belle Terre.

In 1953 Norman Winston, a wealthy real estate developer, purchased 600 acres of land in Belle Terre and added nine more holes, establishing the Harbor Hills Country Club. In 1978 Mayor Harold Sheprow leased the Harbor Hills club for $1 and in 1980 village residents approved the purchase of the property for $2.29 million by voter referendum. In 1986 the club was renamed the Port Jefferson Country Club at Harbor Hills.

“The club is 114 years old and it is not private anymore,” Griffith said in a phone interview. “Once the village took it over, it opened membership to all residents of Port Jefferson. Membership pays a fee and they operate the club not by using the residents tax money, but by membership dues paid to the country club.”

Due to the erosion of East Beach, the clubhouse, which sits along 170 acres of village property with golf, tennis and parking facilities, is in danger of falling down the slope. Village residents and elected officials are now weighing their options. 

Man vs. Mother Nature

TBR News Media sat down with Mayor Margot Garant in an exclusive interview. She addressed the rapid erosion of East Beach, the precarious fate of the clubhouse and the measures her administration is taking to address this growing problem.

“This is a village asset,” Garant said. “We always say that the country club is one of the five crown jewels of the village and I feel I have to do everything I can — and I will continue to do so — to preserve that facility because I think that’s in the best interest of the community.”

Projects to combat erosion have been ongoing since 2015. Intense storms, such as hurricanes Irene and Sandy, prompted shoreline restoration efforts on behalf of the village. However, as officials addressed the damaged beach, they spotted an even more alarming trend along the bluff.

“We noticed that the bluff started to have chunks of land just kind of detach and start sliding down the hill,” Garant said. 

Malcolm Bowman, professor of physical oceanography at Stony Brook University and distinguished service professor at the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, said eroding bluffs have become commonplace for coastal communities along the North Shore.

“It’s a particular problem on the North Shore of Long Island because these bluffs are very steep, they’re very high and they’re made of what we call unconsolidated sand,” Bowman said in a phone interview. “In other words, it doesn’t stick together and it’s only held together by vegetation, which can be very fragile and can be easily eroded.” 

In 2018 Garant filed permit applications with the DEC and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. These applications were subjected to multiple rounds of modification, with the approval process lasting over three years. During that period, the bluff continued to wither away.

“Because there’s no protection of the slope, we lost 16 1/2 feet of property in three-and-a-half years, so now the [clubhouse] is in jeopardy,” Garant said.

Man-made efforts to resist erosion do not offer long-term solutions, according to Bowman. Nonetheless, coastal engineering projects can buy valuable time for communities before large swaths of territory get washed away to the sea.

“In the end it’s futile because, basically, you’re buying time,” Bowman said. “You can fight it and you may get another 50 years out of it. And you might say, ‘That’s almost a human lifetime, so therefore it’s worth it.’ The taxpayers of the incorporated village — they’re the ones who are paying for it — might say, ‘It will allow me to enjoy the club for another 50 years and my children, maybe.’” He added, “Beyond that, it’s anybody’s guess.”

In a unanimous vote, the Board of Trustees approved a $10 million bond on Nov. 15, 2021, to finance bluff stabilization. The entire project will be completed in two separate iterations: phase I to secure the towline of the bluff, and phase II to preserve the clubhouse.

Phase I: Lower wall

“Phase I is going to consist of hardening the toe of the bluff with steel riprap rock and some concrete, as well as the revegetation of the bluff itself,” said Joe Palumbo, village administrator. “We’re basically creating a seawall there to slow down, or prevent, any further erosion.”

In its initial permit application, the village planned to construct a 20-foot-high steel retaining wall that would run approximately 650 linear feet along the toe of the bluff. However, due to concerns about the wall’s length and height, DEC asked the village to scale down its proposal.

“Part of the modification of the permit required us to eliminate the steel wall for the portion of the property behind the tennis courts,” Garant said. “We originally wanted to go in — I’m going to estimate — 650 linear feet and they pulled it back to about 450 linear feet.” The mayor added, “We went a little back and forth with DEC, saying we don’t understand why you’re making us do that, but we’ll do it because I’m trying to get something started to protect the integrity of the bluff.”

Phase II: Upland wall

After a 4-1 vote to approve phase I, the board is now considering ways to protect its upland properties, including the clubhouse, tennis courts and parking lot. Phase II involves constructing an upland wall between the clubhouse and the bluff to prevent any further loss of property. 

“The upland project will consist of driving steel sheets into the ground behind the village’s [clubhouse] facility, extending past the courts on the lower side and the upper side,” Palumbo said. “Some revegetation in front of that wall and behind the wall will also take place. I believe the wall itself will extend out from the ground about 15 to 24 inches so as not to impede the view that exists there.” 

The Board of Trustees is also exploring the option of demolishing the clubhouse, a less expensive option than building the upper wall, but still a multimillion-dollar project due to the cost of demolishing the building and adding drainage atop the cliff. “I’m trying to get all of that information together to put on the table, so that we can make an intelligent decision about the upland plan while we proceed with advancing the installation of the toe wall,” Garant said. 

Weighing the options

Although the village’s acquisition of the country club was finalized by voter referendum, residents have not yet voted to approve phases I or II. Garant believes voters had a chance to halt these projects during last year’s election process.

“When the Board of Trustees voted 5-0 to borrow the $10 million, that’s when the public had an opportunity to say, ‘Hey, wait a minute,’” Garant said. “I could have put it out as part of the election that’s coming up or had a separate vote, but the clock is ticking on my permits.” She added, “I feel I have the authority — and my board has the authority — to do these kinds of projects.”

During the interview with Garant, she agreed that bluff stabilization was an unforeseen expense when the village purchased the property. Asked whether the country club is a depreciating asset, Garant maintained that the property has been a lucrative investment.

“It’s not just the building [that we’re protecting], it’s all of the country club’s assets,” she said. “The parking lot is a tremendous asset. I’m trying to preserve some of the sports complexes up there and even expand on them.”

One of the central arguments made for preserving the clubhouse is that the country club raises the property values of all village residents, and that to lose the facility would hurt the real estate market. Jolie Powell, owner of Port Jefferson-based Jolie Powell Realty, substantiated this claim.

“What makes us unique here in the incorporated Village of Port Jefferson is that we are one of very few [villages] that offers these amenities,” Powell said in a phone interview. “It adds value to the community and to prospective homeowners because they want to live in a village that has a private beach, country club amenities and pickleball.” She added, “The country club is essential to a prospective buyer who comes to the village. … They’re looking for amenities and the golf course is huge.”

When asked about the potential costs to village residents, Powell offered this perspective: “I don’t know what that cost will be for the residents, but it will be nominal. Our taxes are so low to begin with compared to every other community.”

Another sticking point is the long-term prospect of golf as a recreational activity. Martin Cantor, director of the Long Island Center for Socioeconomic Policy and author of “Long Island, The Global Economy and Race,” said the popularity of golf has waned in recent decades. He suggests any proposal related to the preservation of the clubhouse should also include a plan to boost recreational activity at the golf course.

“Golf is not as widely played as it was 30 years ago,” Cantor said in a phone interview. “If the village puts up a retaining wall, then it has to also have a development plan or a plan for how it’s going to generate economic activity to pay back the loan for the retaining wall.”

Responding to Cantor, Garant said the COVID-19 pandemic has helped to revive interest in the sport. “Prior to the pandemic, I would say that might be right,” the mayor said. “Since the pandemic, the sport is booming. That program up there is so robust that they have not only paid back the money they owed the village to help them run operations, but they’re now exceeding their budget and have money to put up netting.” She added, “Right now golf is the thing.”

Since bluff stabilization is closely linked to the activities at the country club, Cantor suggested that an economic feasibility study may add clarity to this issue, allowing residents and officials to determine whether preserving the clubhouse is in the fiscal interest of the village. 

“In terms of economics to the village, other than the rent, all of the money that gets paid in the golf club stays within the golf club,” Cantor said. “They have to do a feasibility study on the economics of keeping it open.”

Factored into this multivariable equation are also the qualitative benefits that the clubhouse may offer to the community. Griffith packaged the country club with the library, school district, public parks and other amenities that raise taxes but contribute to the character and culture of the village.

“These are things that add not only to the monetary value, but also the cultural and aesthetic value of the village,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to see those kinds of things eliminated. Each of these amenities — these assets — are wonderful values that make this village what it is.” He added, “It’s not just a home. You’re buying into a community and a community has to offer something beyond your own little piece of property, and that’s what Port Jefferson does.” 

Griffith added that he would like the issue to be put on the ballot so that residents have the final say. “I am in favor of having a public hearing on the matter and then having a public referendum. Let the people decide, just as they decided to purchase the country club.”

The Port Jefferson Country Club at the edge. Photo from Village of Port Jefferson

It’s been a long and harrowing timeline of events for local officials and residents who use East Beach and the surrounding country club.

For years now, the village has been preparing for this moment, where the tennis courts and Port Jefferson Country Club have seemingly moved to the edge of the cliff overlooking the beach thanks to climate change and the ever-increasing erosion.

To the naked eye, one can see a gazebo in photos hanging by a thread. The tennis courts will be next. Eventually, if nothing is done, the club could potentially collapse into the harbor and have devastating impacts on the local environment. Over the course of several months, Mayor Margot Garant, village administrator Joe Palumbo and the village trustees have been anticipating this moment where something needs to be done now.

“We lost so much material,” Garant said. “The deck is approximately 30 feet from the bluff line … the gazebo isn’t there anymore. We’re getting very, very close to the bluff.”

Because the tennis courts are so close to the edge now, tennis at the country club had to be canceled for this season.

A view of the eroding bluff. Photo from Village of Port Jefferson

The backstory

In February, a representative from CGI Engineering, Varoujan Hagopian, presented to the board what could happen with three different options on the table: build a wall at the bottom of the bluff; renovate the building and surrounding areas upland; or do nothing at all.

Hagopian said that many clients he works with on the Eastern Seaboard are experiencing the same, or similar issues. “If you do nothing, this kind of erosion will continue,” he said. “I estimate the building will be totally damaged or gone in three to five years. I’m not trying to scare you, but these are realistic calculations.”

Hagopian added that although the building might be gone, that means it will impact the road and East Beach as a whole. The erosion won’t stop at the club.

Two weeks later at the March 3 work session, the board listened in to Garant’s presentation on the bluff, where she gave a detailed history of just how much East Beach has been through over the last decade.

The restoration project began in 2010, with engineering group GEI working on several projects that included the sea wall restoration, the west end wall extension, a ramp installation, a large jetty project and sand dredging, which was finally completed in 2021.

Garant said that the village and its surrounding beaches have seen devastating effects of different storms throughout the years, including Irene, Sandy and more recently, Isaiah back in September.

Aerial shot of Port Jefferson Country Club. Photo from Village of Port Jefferson

Finding funding

Meanwhile, Palumbo has been working with the DEC and with FEMA applications to try to get some federal funding — a feat that takes a lot of time and a lot of patience.

The East Beach Bluff Stabilization Phase I project’s DEC permit was originally filed in 2016, finally being awarded in June 2021, with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ approval being obtained in September.

The DEC approved plans call for 454 linear feet of steel wall and rock revetment with tiebacks to stabilize the lower bluff and bolstering the “groin” to prevent further erosion into the roadway, according to a February presentation.

A significant expense of the entire project is the replanting of the entire flank of the hill which includes core logs, erosion control blankets, wood terracing, soil anchors and tens of thousands of native plants, including woody plants, beach and switch grasses.

The comprehensive project and detailed drawings were put out for competitive bidding. Twelve bids came in ranging from $4.8 million to $6.2 million. Funding the project will require a bond initiative, which will have an impact of increasing the typical household tax bill by approximately $147 per annum over the 15-year term if no other sources of funding are available or if no other budgetary changes are made.

The final awarded bid for the lower wall project ended up being $4.3 million. But when it comes to federal funding, the village is competing with other locations which have had their share of issues with Mother Nature.

“We were denied the application for the reimbursement of the bluff, they claimed, in short, that it was an existing condition,” Palumbo said. 

“We’re appealing that because we know it’s a preexisting condition and it’s going to be a condition that will continue to occur if our measures aren’t taken to the bluff.” 

The village has recently enlisted the assistance of Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-NY1), who is offering his full support to the appeal to FEMA and helping to seek other funding sources. 

Palumbo added that he has been in talks with decision makers with FEMA weekly, and has been scouring to find other types of funding that could help offset the cost.

“This is probably one of the most expensive projects any municipality on Long Island has ever had to deal with,” Garant said. “This is a severe erosion issue and it’s not going away. We might lose a lot more than we already have lost if we don’t act quickly.” 

For more information, including the plans to stabilize and restore the bluff, visit the website portjeff.com/eastbeachbluff. 

Photo by Kimberly Brown

Staying active has been hard enough during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Most indoor sports still have restrictions or are closed entirely, making it difficult for Long Islanders to keep them-selves occupied while living life under pandemic rules.

Yet luckily for some, there is one sport that has not let anyone down in 2020 — golf.

While other activities were cancelled throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, golf courses like this one at the Port Jefferson Country Club became a popular pastime. Photo by Kimberly Brown

As the virus pandemic hit Long Island in March, golf became one of the most popular outdoor sports to play throughout last year. It is one of the few activities where contact is either extremely limited, or even nonexistent, as it can even be played alone.

General manager of the Port Jefferson Country Club, Brian Macmillan, explained how his business has done ex-ceedingly well given the circumstances.

“We saw a great increase in membership and play,” he said. “With many off of work or not losing time in their day-from-work travel, more people were on the course. It seemed to be the only safe activity for anyone to do.”

But the pandemic has created minor setbacks for some golf courses like PJCC. The shortage of cleaning supplies stunted the business for only a short time, but what became a bigger issue was the shutdown of production from golf companies.

“Keeping up with golf balls and gloves was an issue that hit later in the year,” Macmillan said. “The golf compa-nies shut down production for a period while product was in the highest demand ever. Getting products in the door was tough, but we found ways to use different companies to get our members what they needed.”

Besides the increased play, there were many positive attributes to come out of the pandemic. For example, the Wil-low Creek Golf & Country Club in Mount Sinai said COVID brought their members closer together as they com-bated the new mandates New York State implemented.

Photo by Kimberly Brown

“The challenges of 2020 triggered changes in how we operate on a day-to-day basis,” Robin Rasch, general manager of Willow Creek, said. “This strengthened our team here as we continue to evolve and adapt to COVID mandates.”

Without consistent loyalty from golf members, country clubs would have had a difficult time surviving. Thankfully, the businesses have been able to thrive while simultaneously bringing golf lovers together, at a safe distance of course.

“Eventually, golfers came to understand that being on the golf course was a safer place to enjoy the outdoors — the game of golf — and connect in a safer manner with friends,” Rasch said.

Stock photo

The Port Jefferson Country Club, 44 Fairway Drive, Port Jefferson will host the Port Jefferson Lions Knights of the Blind’s 25th annual Golf Classic for Charity on Thursday, Oct. 15. The event includes lunch/brunch, on course refreshments, a cocktail reception/dinner and an awards ceremony. 100 percent of the proceeds will go to local charities including Hope House, Angela’s House, local soup kitchens, Friends of Karen, Maryhaven Center of Hope, Veterans of Foreign Wars and more. To register, visit https://birdeasepro.com/portjeffersonlions. For further information, email [email protected].

By 2020, the courts at the Port Jefferson Country Club are nearly at the edge of the bluff. Photo by Royce Perera

I have spent my lifetime fighting to protect our land, water and the air we breathe in every few seconds of our lives. So, it was especially meaningful to meet Sapphire Perera, a young person in our community whose deep caring for and connection with our environment has propelled her to play a role in its protection.  

One of Sapphire’s talents is writing, and she uses this skill to spread awareness and inspire others to action. Our local newspaper, TBR News Media, has given Sapphire Perera an opportunity to use the platform of a column in the paper to inform us about environmental issues. This is a good thing because young people can introduce fresh ideas and outlook to environment-related issues and breathe new life into our motivation to protect and improve the environment that sustains us.

— State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket)

By Sapphire Perera

The beauty of the Port Jeff shoreline should not blind us to the growing problem of land erosion. Similar to the fact that the majestic stone figures of Easter Island should not hide the ecological disaster that overcame their island. All over the shores of Port Jeff and Long Island, there are eroding bluffs. While people just see these eroding bluffs as being steep cliffs of sand that can be climbed on, they pose a much greater threat to our environment and to the buildings that line the top of the land. 

In 2012, satellite images show much more room left between the Port Jefferson Country Club’s tennis courts and the bluff.

Ever since 2012, the residents of Port Jeff have been trying to solve the issue of the eroding bluffs. The lack of vegetation and increasing deforestation have only made the erosion worse. To combat this problem, the village has planned on constructing seawalls and barriers and are still waiting for permits from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. They also hope for Suffolk County to dredge the area surrounding Mount Sinai harbor and return sand to the beaches. Currently, the Town of Brookhaven is in the midst of reconstruction of the jetties at the mouth of Mount Sinai Harbor. The jetties had been worn down over time, leaving them not as effective as they used to be, with holes and submerged rocks allowing sand to run over and through. Previous Port Times Record editor Alex Petroski wrote about the eroding bluffs in Port Jeff [“Eroding Port Jeff beach causing concern for village,” June 1, 2017], and his article included pictures of the bluffs of Port Jeff and Belle Terre. In February, my brother Royce Perera captured the image of these bluffs from a similar angle with his drone. If you compare the two pictures and examine the bluffs near the country club, the worsening erosion of the bluffs is clear. Bluff erosion has only gotten worse and without any deterrents or solutions, more land continues to end up on our sandy beaches.

Most recognize the problem but are ignorant of how the erosion of these bluffs has continually gotten worse and how human interaction can increase the rate at which erosion occurs. Many factors contribute to erosion but in recent years, there have been intense storms, strong winds and frequent human interference. While erosion is a natural process, coastal erosion on Long Island’s North Shore has been designated “critical” by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. As sand is continually sliding down the bluff to the beach, it is taking away land from the Island. Currently, the Port Jefferson Country Club tennis court is facing this problem because erosion of the bluff has come dangerously close to it. As more and more land disappears from the bluff, there is more of a chance for erosion to occur less stability. 

Sapphire Perera

Personally, when I have visited the beach, I have witnessed young kids and young adults walking up and down the bluffs. While this is perceived as a harmless act, these people are actually acting as catalysts to the process of erosion. The weight of that person pushes down more sand and destroys plants that hold the sand together. Sometimes there is garbage thrown down onto these bluffs which ends up destroying vegetation. Vegetation is one thing that helps maintain the structure of the bluff since it is holding particles together through the roots.

In order to protect the land and preserve the tennis courts at the country club, the Town is inching closer to finalizing reconstructing the jetties with hopes that it will be a barrier against erosion from tides, currents and waves. Other ways that would prevent erosion include the diversion of surface runoff away from the bluff, minimized paved areas that increase runoff and a decrease in additional weight on the bluff edge, such as pools, buildings or storage sheds.

Anthropologists now say that the grandeur of the Easter Island statues exists at a huge cost, namely the permanent destruction of the Island. We in Port Jefferson must learn from others’ mistakes and curb human activity in order to conserve Port Jeff’s beaches, water and land. 

Sapphire Perera is a junior at Port Jefferson high school. This is the first of a planned column series by her called “Turtle Island,” which refers to the Native American mythology about North America existing on the back of a great turtle that bears every living being on its spine.

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Lanscaping for new pickleball courts is already underway at the Port Jefferson Country Club. Photo by Kyle Barr

Pickleball is on the plate for the Port Jefferson Country Club, and while bids still have to come in, village officials said courts in the village proper that were previously considered are currently off the table.

In previous years, some residents called for pickleball courts at other places in the village. Local Port Jeffersonite Myrna Gordon was one who pleaded for such a sport to be accessible in the village. 

She said restricting the courts to the country club has severely limited the number of people who could use them.

“Most people don’t realize that we stand alone up there.”

— Stan Loucks

“Why would you charge village residents for this recreational program?” she said in an email. “No fees should be charged to any village resident for use of the now being built pickleball courts.”

Landscaping has already started at the country club just west of the tennis courts on the left-hand side of The Waterview building. Despite calling the landscaping and removal of bushes and trees “environmental devastation,” she asked why there wasn’t more consideration for a pickleball court next to the basketball courts near Rocketship Park or in the Texaco Avenue Park in Upper Port.

Stan Loucks, the vice mayor and liaison to the country club, said in a phone interview Jan. 24 that the village originally intended to modify the basketball court off of Barnum Avenue and paint lines for pickleball with removable nets available for certain times when not being used for basketball. However, that idea came under “considerable opposition” from people who wanted it to be maintained for children’s use.

Gordon had been one of those critics, writing in a letter to the editor it was “eliminating a space where culturally diverse people come to play pick-up games,” adding the space was already highly utilized. She instead asked why pickleball could not be built next to the basketball courts, but Loucks responded, saying space was a major consideration.

Gordon, in previous letters to the Port Times Record and in talks to the village board, had suggested placing the court structure at the Texaco Avenue Park, which was recently constructed along with the neighboring parking lot. 

Loucks said there was no room for such a court at the park, and it would also take redrawing up plans that were already approved.

The penned-in court complex going in at the country club is measured out to be 64 by 116 feet for three pickleball courts, though a normal-sized, regulation court is only measured at 20 by 44 feet. The Texaco park contains a small play set and basketball court, along with a walking path and some spare seating.

“No fees should be charged to any village resident for use of the now being built pickleball courts.”

— Myrna Gordon

Pickleball is cited as one of the fastest growing sports in the U.S., according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association. It’s played on a smaller court than tennis and uses paddles instead of rackets to volley a plastic ball back and forth across asphalt courts.

Bids are supposed to come back for the pickleball courts Feb. 6, and potential contractors have already done a walk-through of the property. Loucks is waiting for those bids to come back on a project that could cost anywhere between $85,000 and $128,000, which also includes partially completed landscaping at the country club, at a cost of several thousand to the club itself.

The rest of the funds, the trustee said, would have to be bonded for. Most likely, since the country club cannot issue bonds, the village would apply for the bond and then the country club would use its funds to pay it off. A similar agreement was worked out when the country club installed a new irrigation system for the golf course, which cost around $2 million, or just over the total amount of the club’s entire yearly budget.

The pickleball courts, Loucks said, are a way of hopefully generating more revenue for the country club.

“Most people don’t realize that we stand alone up there,” he said. “We’re trying to make end’s meet — we’re hoping pickleball brings in some additional revenue.”

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Site plans for the pickleball courts Photo by Kyle Barr

Port Jefferson village has put out bid requests to add several pickleball courts to a portion of the tennis space at the Port Jefferson Country Club.

Deputy Mayor Stan Loucks said the game has picked up in popularity, and has been reported as one of the fastest growing sports in the U.S. 

The Sport and Fitness Industry Association reported that participation in the sport has increased by close to 10 percent over the past three years, with a total of 3.3 million participants in the country, compared to 2.815 million in 2014.  

The game of pickleball is often compared to an enlarged game of ping pong, or a shortened game of tennis. Instead of rackets, players use large paddles to get a plastic perforated ball across a net. Unlike tennis, serves are underhand. It can be played one-on-one or two-on-two.

Many people attribute the sport’s popularity to it being relatively simple. It doesn’t require a lot of rapid body movement but requires good hand-eye coordination.

Loucks, the liaison to the country club, said original plans were to include the pickleball courts to the west of the current tennis courts, but that would have required extra revetments and erosion mitigation along that end of the bluff. The new designs show the three new pickleball courts to the north of the existing tennis courts, about 32 feet from the existing parking lot. Original estimates for the project range from $85,000 to $128,000, a total that combines both the landscaping and the building of the asphalt courts. Excavation started for the courts Jan. 7.

The village has struggled in recent years to get permits from the New York Department of Environmental Conservation to build new revetments and structures to halt erosion on the bluff near the country club. Loucks said they are losing a few feet of bluff every year, making it precariously close to taking out the tennis courts. Mayor Margot Garant said the DEC is finalizing everything, and they are hoping to get those permits back “soon.”

“I think it’s a great move — we’re not losing any parking area,” Loucks said. 

The pro shop for tennis will also cater to pickleball players. The village set the membership rates for pickleball at $400 for a resident, $500 for nonresidents, and each will pay a $50 annual assessment plus a $135 minimums fee. Country club members interested in playing pickleball will be charged an additional rate of $300.

Loucks said he hopes the sport will be popular.  The only other two local pickleball courts are a private space in the Village of Belle Terre and a public court in Centereach.

“I’m hoping to 50 to 100 members the first season,” he said.

Final deadline for new bids is Feb. 6. After that the village will choose a contractor and then more work can begin. Loucks said that while asphalt companies don’t open their doors until April, he expects the project to be done by the beginning of May.

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Both children and adults beat the wind and rain and celebrated Halloween at the Port Jefferson Country Club Oct. 31. Photo by Kyle Barr

Despite gusting wind and spits of rain, some children still managed to hit the streets Halloween night for some old fashioned trick or treating. But for parents and their kids looking to avoid that, the Port Jefferson County Club opened its doors to people of all ages during its annual Halloween party.