After a process that took four years, Southampton Town in 2019 anted up $10.5 million to buy a 1.25-acre parcel in the shadow of the Jordan Haerter Veterans Memorial Bridge to create John Steinbeck Waterfront Park. Now comes the hard part.
This week, the Sag Harbor Partnership formally announced that it would partner with the village to lead a private fundraising effort to raise the estimated $4 million it will take to transform what is now little more than a vacant lot into “a jewel for our village,” said Mayor Kathleen Mulcahy.
“We just announced a soft launch of the fundraising mechanism on our website,” said Molly Bishop, who became the partnership’s director this fall. She said a more formal rollout would follow in the coming weeks.
Ms. Bishop said the project can be divided into two parts: improvements to create the park itself and the construction of a pathway that will wind from the park, under the bridge and connect with Windmill Park and Long Wharf. She estimated that both projects would cost about $2 million, with priority going to completing the park portion first.
Although Mayor Mulcahy said the goal was to get enough money in the coffers to launch the project by fall, she acknowledged that was dependent on how quickly the partnership is able to raise the money. In any event, the first order of business will be to shape the topography, get grass planted and an irrigation system installed before moving on to walkways and other improvements.
The mayor noted that the village is not allowed under law to directly accept donations for municipal projects. And with other major projects, from a sewer treatment plant expansion to a new firehouse in the pipeline, the village would be hard-pressed to borrow additional money for the park, even at low interest rates, the mayor said. On top of that, after a year in which the coronavirus pandemic lay waste to county and state budgets, the prospects for landing grant money are grim.
Ms. Bishop said donors can go to the partnership’s website, sagharborpartnership.org, and click on “Steinbeck Park.” From there, they can click on “Steinbeck Park Shop,” where they will find a variety of choices for donations. The site can also be accessed through the village website, sagharborny.gov, and clicking on “John Steinbeck Waterfront Park” and then “Sponsorship.”
Although any and all donations are welcome, a series of sponsorships are available, starting at $1,000 to put your name on a chair in the dining grove to a cool $1 million for the naming rights to the boardwalk. If that is a little too rich, donors can underwrite a weather station for $10,000 or a shade tree for $5,000.
The park’s amenities will include a short public dock, where residents will be able to launch small crafts like kayaks and canoes, a beach, an amphitheater, mini-libraries and reading nooks.
Landscape architect Ed Hollander, who has a home in Sag Harbor, has donated his services for the park. Ms. Mulcahy said a number of other businesses have donated their services to the effort as well.
“The design is really beautiful,” Ms. Bishop said. “Once that is a reality it is going to be such an incredible addition to the village. Thank God, village and town officials preserved this piece of property to make it available for everybody.”