With Sag Harbor’s Long Wharf set to open this week, some minds are turning their attention to linking together the three most central public places in the village: Long Wharf, Windmill Park and the recently acquired Steinbeck Park.
It’s not entirely a new idea, and, in fact, one that has been floated for more than two decades. The concept is to provide more public access to the water by creating a promenade that would, eventually, run the length of the village shoreline from the Sag Harbor Yacht Yard in the east to the village’s A and B docks near Baron’s Cove in the west.
The easternmost section is already easily accessible to walkers, from the Breakwater Yacht Club adjacent to the yacht yard, through and past Marine Park, and via a sidewalk around Bay Street Theater to Long Wharf. The westernmost portion is presently only possible by walking in the street.
But this week’s completion of the wharf, with its new boardwalk, railing and deck designed by landscape architect Edmund Hollander, has provided renewed interest in the project and creating a mid-section of the walkway by continuing the walk from Long Wharf, to Windmill Park, then along the bulkhead to the passage under the bridge, and on into Steinbeck Park.
“We see these three places as integrated,” Village Trustee James Larocca said during a walk along the route last Thursday morning. “We would like to cement that idea in the public’s mind.”
The Long Wharf renovation, which has been in the works for at least four years, now provides a more inviting environment for pedestrians, with its new generous boardwalk made of ipe wood, and lined by a rail of steel cable with posts of ipe capped with stainless steel and stainless steel hardware on the rail’s gates. A broad deck at the northern end will provide planters and benches for seating. While it was possible to navigate around the wharf prior to the renovation, the narrow bit of blacktop between the low wooden rail that separated cars from the edge of the pier, and the steel sheathing facing the pier, was often treacherous and unfriendly toward families with small children. The new walk is about 6-feet wide and pedestrians are protected from toppling into the water by the steel cable rail.
“For many years, the village had turned its back on the waterfront,” said Mr. Larocca, adding that most waterfront cities and villages had done the same because the water had always been a place for commercial or industrial traffic. But as the need for rivers and bays as transportation highways receded, and, as in Sag Harbor’s case, the need for waterfront for industry disappeared, municipalities turned their attention to creating recreational and tourist opportunities.
“When Steinbeck Park started coming online, the Harbor Committee started asking about the promenade,” Mr. Larocca said.
Bruce Tait, who had been a longtime member and chairman of the committee, agreed.
“When I started, we looked at the LWRP, and, right in the beginning it says ‘look for future projects,’” Mr. Tait said of the decades-old waterfront planning document that encourages protection of, and access to, the waterfront. “It’s sort of been there all that time.”
As envisioned, the new walk would extend past the western foot of the wharf and run along the windmill hugging the bulkhead through the grassy area toward the bridge. The incline is naturally very level, observed Mr. Larocca, and could easily satisfy the requirements for the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). He said he believed the village could complete the walk “inside of $200,000.”
The walkway, which Mr. Larocca said he hopes can be accomplished using the same ipe wood as on the wharf, would continue under the bridge, which is currently scarred with graffiti, but also provides some shade and is popular with fishermen.
The walkway would then emerge into Steinbeck Park. And here is where much work has yet to be done to bring the park to life. At this moment, the village is hoping to improve the lawn at the park, and has just recently received approval to install a permanent irrigation system, Mr. Larocca said. The next immediate efforts to improve the park will be installing vegetative buffers, shielding the park from the new construction on the Bialsky property immediately to the west, and along the bordering wall of the adjacent 7-Eleven building.
Those projects, along with the addition of a few tables and benches, however, will probably be it for the park in the immediate future.
The system of linkages is a project the village hopes to accomplish within the year, said Mayor Kathleen Mulcahy. “I’d love to see it next fall,” she said, “it all depends on money.”
She said the village is moving forward, seeking approvals from the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
“We’ve been doing a lot of waterfront thinking,” said the mayor. “Once we see how the wharf operates when it is open, and how people interact with Steinbeck Park, we may find more opportunities.”
“I sat down here the other night,” said Mr. Larocca, curious as how the Steinbeck Park was being used. “There was a family from New Jersey who had stopped to pick up a pizza and brought it down here to eat. They wiped down the tables and were enjoying themselves. Couples come down here to watch the sunset. It’s being found, people are discovering it.”