State Grant Will Allow Sag Harbor To Install Walkway At Steinbeck Park

A rendering of the planned waterfront walkway in Sag Harbor Village's John Steinbeck Waterfront Park. COURTESY SAG HARBOR VILLAGE

A pile of topsoil tucked off to the side of John Steinbeck Waterfront Park doesn’t look like much for now, but in the coming months, Sag Harbor Village will use it to level the surface as it installs a new wooden walkway along the waterfront.

The walkway, the first major part of what is expected to be a $4 million project to fully develop the park, was made possible when the village won $279,500 in New York State economic development funds to cover its cost. That money was included in nearly $3 million in state grants for Suffolk County projects that were announced last month by Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr.

“The plan to connect Long Wharf to Windmill Park and Steinbeck Park is underway,” said Mayor Jim Larocca, who has made developing the park a priority. He added that the walkway will start in Steinbeck Park largely because the village has obtained the permits it needs from the state Department of Environmental Conservation to do the work.

Larocca said the village would like to continue the walkway in some fashion but needs to first see what type of plan Bay Street Theater submits for its proposed new theater on the site of the Water Street Shops complex.

The concept of a waterfront promenade, which already partially exists on Long Wharf and along the boat basin in Marine Park, has been a long-time village goal, first discussed more than two decades ago. Larocca said that having a walkway that would cross all the private property along the waterfront would not be feasible, given the value of that property and the unwillingness of owners to surrender it to the village.

Trustee Aidan Corish, who oversees grant applications for the village, said he was happy to see “progress with the park.” He said when completed, the walkway would provide improved access to the waterfront for the disabled, the elderly, or even someone with a baby in a stroller because it will provide a flat, firm surface and eliminate the need to cross Route 114 at the foot of Bay Street for those who cannot otherwise walk along Windmill Beach.

Ed Hollander, the landscape architect who has provided design services for the park for free, said the grant money would pay for the entire waterfront boardwalk in the park. Hollander said his goal was to have the walkway and a small amphitheater proposed for the center of it completed in time for a grand opening this summer.

Hollander said the village had originally gone out to bid on the project during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, but that the work was temporarily shelved. He praised Chesterfield Associates, the winning bidder, for agreeing to do the work for the same price it accepted last year, even though costs have risen over the past year.

Larocca thanked Thiele and Kevin Law, the former director of the Long Island Association, who now serves on the Regional Economic Development Council, for their work in seeing the grant to fruition.

Southampton Town used $10.5 million from the Community Preservation Fund to buy Steinbeck Park in 2019. The Sag Harbor Partnership has been collecting donations to help underwrite the development of the park, and, as of last summer, had raised nearly $400,000 in donations and pledges.