Sag Harbor Hopes To Undertake Initial Improvements To Steinbeck Park

Renderings of Steinbeck Park by Hollander Design. COURTESY SAG HARBOR VILLAGE

Admittedly, it’s not much to look at — yet. Sag Harbor’s John Steinbeck Waterfront Park is little more than a patch of grass interspersed with a handful of picnic tables tucked in the shadow of the Lance Cpl. Jordan Haerter Veterans Memorial Bridge and separated from the 7-Eleven parking lot by a split rail fence.

Despite its humble appearance, the park has been a “godsend” during the coronavirus pandemic, according to Mayor Kathleen Mulcahy, that has provided village residents with a new outdoor space where they can eat their lunch, or just sit quietly reading a book or chatting with a friend.

And the village has big plans for the 1.25-acre site. Last year, officials unveiled a series of sketches of the park prepared by landscape architect Ed Hollander. But like so many other things during the pandemic, those plans have been put on hold.

The Village Board plans to dust them off when it meets at 6 p.m. October 13 and wants to hear from village residents about the improvements they would like to see prioritized.

There is currently about $200,000 set aside for the park, most of which came from the Party for the Park fundraiser organized by the Sag Harbor Partnership two years ago, the mayor said, but with the state government staring down a multi-billion-dollar deficit, the prospect of obtaining grant money is slim.

The board discussed the park at a September 23 work session — which also happened to be the 60th anniversary of the launch of the novelist’s journey around the country with his French poodle Charley, that formed the basis for his book, “Travels with Charley,” published in 1962.

In the year since their unveiling, Mr. Hollander said several features have been cut from the plans, including food cars and a bird-watching tower that was dropped because there was no feasible way to make it compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Another feature, a raised platform with the kind of tables and chairs one might expect to find in a place like Paris, for instance, is still under discussion, according to the mayor, who said she was leaning more to the kind of heavy-duty American picnic tables that are there now and that would be sure to stand up the kinds of fierce winds the village gets during nor’easters and hurricanes.

Plans for an amphitheater along the water’s edge, a small public dock that would allow residents to launch small watercraft like kayaks, and either literary or natural history trails are also envisioned.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the village to create something that will be last for generations,” Mr. Hollander said.

The mayor said the village is actively soliciting donations for the park as it seeks a way to work with a nonprofit that could serve as a conduit and make those donations tax deductible. Anyone wishing to make a donation has been asked to contact the village office.