The former Old Barge restaurant in Southold could soon become a new community aquaculture center, providing public access to the waterfront and an incubator for marine businesses.
Cornell Cooperative Extension, which runs a marine research station at Cedar Beach in Southold, is in discussions with Southold officials on a possible town purchase of the Old Main Road property.
The idea is still “just a concept,” said Supervisor Scott Russell, who invited four Cooperative Extension representatives to discuss a proposal for a town-owned, CCE-run project at Tuesday’s Town Board work session.
The 3.2-acre property was listed for sale by Corcoran Group for $3.1 million last year. The property has 1,300 feet of protected shoreline and a 3,900-square-foot restaurant that can seat 120.
Mr. Russell said the town can put a boat ramp on the site.
Emerson Hasbrouck, director of the extension’s marine program, said his organization could immediately move its Peconic Bay Scallop Restoration Project to the new site.
He also envisions a community shellfish garden, dockage for CCE workers and baymen, a conch project, a small exhibit and museum space, storage of fishing gear and pots and a business incubator for marine-related projects. He said The Old Barge building, a former military barge, could be used for classrooms.
“I think it provides some exciting opportunities for the town as well as us,” Mr. Hasbrouck said.
The Cedar Beach program would continue, he said, but CCE has outgrown that space and needs more waterfront access elsewhere.
Chris Smith, a biologist with the program, added that the water quality is better at The Old Barge site than at Cedar Beach.
Board members were cautiously supportive of the proposal.
“It sounds great. The devil for me is in the details,” said Justice Louisa Evans.
One of those details is determining who would renovate the existing building and develop additional infrastructure on the site.
Mr. Russell said he’d like to form a committee of town and CCE representatives in the next two weeks to examine the possibilities.
DOG PARK DONE
The town’s Department of Public Works has finished its expansion of the dog park behind the town recreation center on Peconic Lane. The project cost about $8,500 — half the amount expected.
The Group for the East End plans to organize volunteers this spring to help beautify the park by planting native species that will be valuable to wildlife and require little maintenance, according to a press release issued by the group Tuesday.
The group also facilitated a donation of American elm trees by Dart’s Tree Farm.
“This is the type of project that makes our guys happy,” Jeff Standish, deputy director of the town DPW, said in the release.
“Expanding the dog park and installing these trees provides a community benefit, and it feels good to be a part of that.”
“These public play areas are so important for the well-being of our dogs, both physically and mentally,” said Dawn Bennett, co-owner of North Fork School for Dogs and an organizer of a public campaign to expand the dog park.
“Dogs that are socialized with people and other animals become the best members of society, and exercise reduces the likelihood of aggression and anxiety problems,” said Ms. Bennett’s business partner, Asha Gallacher.
HUNT GOES WELL
Mr. Standish, who also manages the town’s fall deer archery season, said hunters have taken 118 animals during the hunt on town lands that began in early October and have donated 87 of them for venison to be delivered to food pantries.
He asked the Town Board Tuesday to let sportsmen on a waiting list participate in the hunt.
He added that the state Department of Environmental Conservation is expanding the bow hunt window, which normally lasts only to the end of December, through January.
Mr. Standish butchered a deer last week and put bags of venison in a freezer truck behind the recreation center for members of the public who would like some at no cost but have no use for a whole deer.
Town land management specialist Laura Klahre is also working with Suffolk County to open up county lands in Southold to hunting next year.