A project years in the making to preserve the waterfront along the edge of New Suffolk reached a milestone last week with the completion of the John Page Bridge.
“It has been a — not long haul — but a very interesting many years,” said Pat McIntyre, chair of the New Suffolk Waterfront Fund, at Friday morning’s dedication.
The bridge and a boardwalk, which was also completed recently, feature a sign dedicated to the memory of John Page. Mr. Page, who died last year, was one of the first community members to donate a large sum of money to the project, which Ms. McIntyre said eventually led more than 750 people to contribute. Nine of them donated over $100,000 each.
“John wouldn’t be happy being so honored all by himself because there were so many other people that were involved,” said his partner of 33 years, Joe McKay.
Mr. McKay said the project really kicked off around 2004 when Diana Schwatka, a former NSWF chair, said she thought it was the perfect time to acquire the 3.5-acre waterfront property.
“And it was like this incredible revelation,” Mr. McKay said. “So John, yes, he was very generous. I’ll never forget sitting with him when we said, ‘We should really donate big-time to this.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, OK. What are you thinking, like $20,000?’ And he said, ‘No, no, no, no. A lot more than that. If you start with $20,000, you’ll never get what we need.’ ”
Ms. McIntyre said the entire NSWF project, which is still in progress, began about 35 years ago when a large development was proposed for the area. With the help of Peconic Land Trust, along with loans from The Conservation Fund — a national nonprofit that provides money for conservation projects — and a small-business administration loan, the group was able to preserve two acres.
With the help of the loans and donations, Phase I of the restoration project — the rebuilding of the marina and the badly damaged Galley Ho — was completed. Local architects and artisans performed all the work, Ms. McIntyre said.
Latham Sand & Gravel completed the marina work and Sid Beebe & Sons Builders of Cutchogue handled construction. Former New Suffolk Waterfront Fund chair Barbara Schnitzler, an architect, also contributed, as did Stacy Paetzel, who did landscaping.
The group is now looking forward to Phase II, which includes fixing the southern end of the marina. This entails cleaning out the rusted bulkhead, removing metal chunks of garbage in the revetment and making the beach safe for community members to use. The site’s red machine shop also needs updates, as only two thirds of the building are structurally sound.
“Everything we do here is going to have to be 100 percent donations,” Ms. McIntyre said. “These are not easy projects; they’re not inexpensive projects.”