Beach Rake Is ‘An Animal’ at Cleaning Rocks, Debris from Havens Beach

Joe Weeks guides Sag Harbor's borrowed Cherrington beach rake along Havens Beach on Tuesday. Peter Boody photo

“I call it the animal,” said Dee Yardley, Sag Harbor’s superintendent of public works, as he watched his man Joe Weeks drive a Cherrington model 5000 sand sifter-beach rake over Havens Beach on a rainy Tuesday morning.

The machine, “which sounds like a train coming down the road,” Mr. Yardley said, can remove debris as small as about a quarter-inch in diameter from as deep in the sand as six inches. When the machine fills up, it can lift the load up and spill it directly into a dump trunk for removal.

Mr. Yardley is borrowing the beach rake from its owner, the Town of East Hampton, at no charge through an intermunicipal agreement he arranged with Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc. Sag Harbor’s only cost is operating, maintaining and repairing the machine. No Village Board resolution was required, Mr. Yardley said.

“I think it’s fabulous,” said Mayor Kathleen Mulcahy as she watched the machine at work on Tuesday morning. “I think East Hampton’s a good neighbor!”

Mr. Yardley noted that Havens Beach is in the Town of East Hampton and that East Hampton children do come to the beach for a month-long swimming program.

The village has had the machine — which had been sitting idle for a year in East Hampton, according to Mr. Yardley — for two months. So far Mr. Weeks has made three or four passes with it at Havens Beach and he also has used it to clean Windmill Beach west of Long Wharf, Mr. Yardley said.

Havens Beach is a sore subject when it comes to rocks and debris.

After the village agreed to allow the spoil from a county dredging project on the west side of Long Wharf in late 2017 to be piped onto Havens Beach for what the county called “beach nourishment,” winter visitors found it littered with rocks, bits of coal and artifacts that had surfaced over time since the dredging, including jug shards, bottle glass, clay pipes, nails, screws, spikes embedded in corroded hunks of iron and a fork engraved with the emblem of the E. W. Bliss torpedo company, which once operated from a building on Long Wharf.

A local environmental lobby group — the Friends of Havens Beach —came together in response to the dredge spoil problem and other issues, including water pollution from runoff that is directed to the beach.

Last year, Mr. Yardley hired a contractor for $5,600 to do a one-visit cleaning at Havens Beach but, he said, the machine used for that job couldn’t dig as deeply into the sand as the Cherrington beach rake can. That single job cost far more than the $300 he spent fixing a hydraulic pump on the rake.

Will the beach rake make the Friends of Havens Beach happy?

“Well, they’re never going to be happy, no matter what,” Mr. Yardley said, “but since we’ve brought it down here, it has quieted things down.”

“I’m glad they’re doing it,” commented Jean Held, a founder of the Friends and a close observer of the beach, in a phone interview on Tuesday. Because the machine is being used regularly, “It is better, oh yeah,” she said of the debris problem.

“We’ll continually hit it,” promised Mr. Yardley. “If you get a big rain, you might get a few rocks that come up. But it’s hard to find any big rocks on the beach now” following the rake’s multiple passes this summer.

Asked if a pattern of larger pebbles on the beach wasn’t a natural phenomenon, unrelated to the dredge spoil’s residue, Mr. Yardley replied, “Yeah, but there was nothing here before. We’re trying to get back to that.”