This Spring the Office of Parks and Recreation replaced 5,000 cubic yards of sand at Gilgo State Park from its hard to obtain emergency reserve. The beach nourishment enabled the Park to safely open this Spring to the more than 22,000 Recreational Vehicle Access permit holders. Gilgo has long been the Mecca for Parks’ users who want to get away from it all to fish, surf, and relax in a pristine Long Island beach setting.
Sand Re-nourishment – A Repeat (and Expensive) Fix
The troubling fact was that a little more than a year prior, Gilgo was sand re-nourished by the Army Corps at this very same location. In 2017-8 the winter storms left a distance of twenty eight feet between the waterline and the Ocean Parkway. To summarize recent history, a handful of years prior to that, hurricane Sandy breached the Ocean Parkway at this very same location. The fix was very expensive!
How It All Started
It all started in 1927-28 when creating the Ocean Parkway, Robert Moses filled in an existing inlet called of all things, the ‘Gilgo Inlet’. And every three years since, the Corps is expected to replenish the lost sand due to the natural Littoral eastern sand drift to insure the integrity of the beachfront and ultimately the Ocean Parkway. One of my former administrative colleagues commented about Gilgo, ‘it’s about time we stopped fighting Mother Nature and began to work with her’.
Eyes to Shinnecock
In consideration of working with Mother Nature, many believe the answer to Gilgo is to engineer a storm gated, non-navigable inlet designed solely to transport water flow. Many contend that increasing the water flow into the western Bay is a ‘Game Changer’ in our effort to Save the Great South Bay. One must simply point to the beneficial gains to water quality in the Bellport and Moriches Bay after hurricane Sandy opened ‘Old Inlet’. The inlet flow could be controlled by a Tidal Rectifier or Tide Gates. This may sound a little over the top, however this is similar technology was used in the Shinnecock canal over a hundred years ago. Many of us can remember the days when two-thirds of the worlds hard shell clams were harvested from the western Great South Bay. Let’s bring back a Bay teaming with life and recreational possibilities for all.
A Bigger, Better and More Environmentally Sensitive Gilgo State Park
Another benefit to creating the inlet at Gilgo is that while we are excavating we can finally dig out the remains of the old Coast Guard Station. The station was demolished in the late 70’s and the foundation remains as a permanent fixture to the beach scape. Unfortunately, the skeleton of the station reappears each time the sand depletes. Once uncovered the stations’ remains act as a groin and scallops out the adjoining Town of Babylon’s Gilgo Beach. It’s gotta go!
Finally, it is time that Gilgo State Park is upgraded to mirror the rest of our world class State Parks and Recreational System. The entrance and egress to the Park, as it now constituted, is impossible to navigate. The way finding signs leading to the Park are often missing. The Park could use upgrades such as electricity to assist in tire pump ups/downs (solar powered). A location off of the Parkway right-of-way should be established for this purpose. A bathroom should be a consideration and entrance parking should be made environmentally sound.
A Jewel to Be Polished
There is no fault or blame to be leveled at Gilgo’s unmet needs. The Park has grown up organically, and it now needs a plan. And the plan should include an inlet that just may Save the Great South Bay!
Gilgo State Park is another jewel in our Parks system, however yet to be polished. The first step is to finalize the science behind the inlet concept. Stony Brook’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences has studied water flow concepts in the bay but will need fine tuning in relation to the Gilgo inlet proposal.
We should all listen to Mother Nature.
About Wayne Horsley
Wayne grew up on the Great South Bay and remembers learning to swim on the Bay, sailing, and clamming. He believes that along with remediation efforts on the mainland and increased water flow, the bay will rejuvenate.
Wayne’s background includes positions with NYS Office of Parks and Recreation and as the Presiding Officer of the Suffolk County Legislature. In addition, he served as a longtime Councilman for the Town of Babylon. He has a Doctorate and Masters degree from St. John’s University in Modern World History as well as a Masters from Bernard Baruch College in Public Administration.
Photo credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams, Jr. (2016)