Would Wetland Be The Solution At Havens Beach In Sag Harbor?

Harbor Committee member John Parker discusses the Havens Beach drainage system with Mayor Kathleen Mulcahy and Trustee Aidan Corish. STEPHEN J. KOTZ

It was one part campaign stop, one part informational tour.

A group of about a dozen curious village residents gathered at Havens Beach on Saturday morning to stroll around the upland portion of the park, where a drainage ditch, stagnant in dry weather, fast-flowing during heavy rains, is sealed off from the rest of the park by a black chain-link fence.

They were asked to imagine a meandering wetland in its place that would help remove harmful bacteria and nitrogen from road runoff, while providing increased natural habitat and helping prevent post-rain pollution of the bathing beach it drains into.

The small group was led by Sag Harbor Mayor Kathleen Mulcahy and Trustee Aidan Corish, both of whom are seeking reelection on Tuesday. Their supporters made up most of the attendees.

Mr. Corish said, if reelected, this will be his final term, and he would like to dedicate it to finding a way to prevent the storm-borne pollutants from flushing into the bathing beach. A reconstructed wetland is one potential solution, he said, provided grant funding could be found.

The idea was first proposed by former Mayor Pierce Hance in the 1990s, but neighbors opposed it, saying it would provide a breeding place for mosquitoes. The village abandoned the idea, but Mr. Corish said he believed there had been a major shift in thinking about water quality in the past 20 years.

The village tried a compromise solution some years ago, installing a series of filters in a vault near the mouth of the drainage ditch. But Mayor Mulcahy said the filters had never been cleaned, diminishing the effectiveness of the system. This year, village workers cleaned them and will do so twice a year going forward, she said.

Joining the group were Mary Ann Eddy, the chairwoman of the Harbor Committee, and John Parker, one of the committee’s members.

Ms. Eddy pointed to recent water testing being conducted by Dr. Christopher Gobler of Stony Brook University that was helping the village learn the types and sources of the contaminants entering the bay and forcing beach closures after heavy rains. She said she hoped that knowledge would win support for a renewed effort to restore the wetland at the park.

Mr. Parker showed the small group, where dredged spoil had been dumped on what had once been a natural wetland for years, creating a mound of sandy soil.

Jean Held, the indefatigable volunteer researcher for the Sag Harbor Historical Society, came prepared with a 1930 map clearly showing Little Creek zigzagging its way to the bay, with mosquito ditches draining into it.

On her car, she mounted a visual display showing an aerial photo of the 20-acre park with Little Creek plainly visible as well as a painting of the creek done in the early 1900s by Annie Cooper Boyd and a sketch of the same area done by William Wallace Tooker in 1969.

The wetlands were filled in in 1937, she said.

Village officials stressed that any work would set aside enough space so the dog park would remain, as well as maintaining a safe area for medevac helicopters to land.