05/27/10 12:00am
05/27/2010 12:00 AM

Residents challenged Greenport Village Board members Monday night to explain why they want to ban basement apartments.
There probably aren’t more than half a dozen basement apartments in Greenport, former trustee Bill Swiskey said.
“I don’t understand the purpose of this law. I think this is just overkill,” he commented at Monday night’s hearing on the matter.
His neighbor, John Saladino, doesn’t have a basement apartment but argued that a future owner of his property might and he sees no reason to prohibit it.
Trustee Chris Kempner, who sponsored a proposal to limit apartments, argued that basement apartments pose problems for firefighters in the event of an emergency. Also, flooding problems caused by the village’s high water table would become more critical if more people were living below ground level, she said.
Some basement apartments might start out as legal in terms of adherence to New York State building codes, Ms. Kempner said. But owners make changes that result in potential health and safety problems. The law would make the village code more restrictive than state requirements and that’s reasonable, Ms. Kempner said. There are other instances where the village code is more strict, she noted.
Resident Doug Moore argued that the building code should apply to basement apartments and that it should make clear what requirements are.
Mr. Swiskey said he wanted an emphasis on code enforcement, with inspections of buildings to assure they’re safe.
Board members voted to close the public hearing on the subject, but to delay further discussion of the proposal until the June 21 work session.
TRAILS PLAN POPULAR
A public hearing on the Bay to Sound Integrated Trails Initiative ran into no opposition, despite early rumors that residents along Silver Lake in the village might object to a walking path through what has been their own secluded haven.
The proposed path would cross village, town and county land and would enable hikers and bicyclists to follow a trail from Mitchell Park on Peconic Bay, through Moore’s Woods and Silver Lake to Clark’s Beach on Long Island Sound.
“I’m strongly in favor of it,” resident Jada Rowland told the board. Resident Leueen Miller called it “a great idea.” At the same time, she expressed concern about environmental impacts and safety issues.
An environmental study is under way to look at flora and fauna along the proposed trail, Trustee Michael Osinski said. He noted that one rare orchid has been identified that would have to be protected.
As for safety, Mayor David Nyce said there wouldn’t be a way to close down the trail at night, but others suggested a trail is safer than dense woods.
Former trustee Bill Swiskey said that if money is spent to develop the trail, the village would have to commit to maintaining it. Mr. Osinski wondered if some of the community preservation fund money that has been raised from the sale of properties in the village might be applied to maintenance. But John Sepnoski, who was at the meeting representing the town of Southold, said that currently CPF money can be applied only to the purchase of land for preservation, not maintenance.
The board kept the public hearing open and agreed to allow further comment at its June 28 meeting.
FALLING BEHIND
Work on the wastewater treatment plant project is about 30 days behind schedule, largely due to weather delays, utilities chief Jack Naylor told the board. Efforts will be made to get the project, still in its infancy, back on schedule, he said. The board has requested regular updates to track the progress of the project, which is largely being paid for with federal stimulus funds.
BEAUTIFICATION
Resident David Bauer got approval to create three 4-by-8-foot raised-rim community garden plots near the split-rail fence along the South Street side of the village firehouse property. The permission was granted with the understanding that the gardens must be properly maintained and that, if they become inactive, the group that created them will return the land to its original condition.
Artist Arden Scott got approval to do beautification work at Monument Park at the intersection of Sterling Street and Sterling Avenue.
CHANGES
As expected, Diana Van Buren has resigned from the Historic Preservation Commission because she will no longer be a full-time village resident. David Murray has been appointed chairman of that commission.
Lara McNeil will replace Penny Coyle as chairwoman of the Planning Board and Victoria Swensen has been appointed to fill Ms. McNeil’s seat.
INFORMATION KIOSK
The board authorized the Southold Transportation Commission to place a three-sided kiosk near the gazebo on Adams Street, close to Main Street.
RETURNING RESTAURANT
If you loved the Fifth Season Restaurant on Front Street and mourned its loss to Port Jefferson a couple of years ago, there’s good news. It’s coming back. Owner Eric Orlowski secured a letter from the Village Board Monday night asking the New York State Liquor Authority to grant his application for a liquor license without the usual delay. Mr. Orlowski will continue to operate the Port Jefferson restaurant as well. He left the village after losing his bid to add a second story to the Front Street premises.
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05/27/10 12:00am

RANDEE DADDONA PHOTO
A 21-month-old girl was airlifted to Stony Brook University trauma center last Wednesday after falling off the roof of her grandfather’s Southold home.

A 21-month-old Southold girl was airlifted to Stony Brook University trauma center May 19 after falling from the roof of her parents’ Andersen Road apartment, according to a Southold Town Police report. When police arrived, they said, the girls’ parents and grandfather “appeared intoxicated.”

Candice and James Higdon said their daughter, Jayla, accessed the roof after she was left unattended in a room where the window had been left open for a cat to move in and out of the house, according to the report. James’ father, James Sr., said he saw his granddaughter hanging from the ledge before falling 10 feet onto a wooden porch step, the report says.

James Higdon Jr., 40, was denied access to the emergency helicopter after a breath test indicated he had a blood alcohol content of .13, according to the police report.

Ms. Higdon, 27, told police she sent her daughter to the second-floor room because of “bad behavior.”

Southold Police said they notified child protective services of the incident. An investigation is ongoing.

Jayla’s condition was unknown at the time of publication.

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05/27/10 12:00am

A Mattituck woman who admitted to driving drunk when she struck and killed a teenage boy on a bicycle in Hampton Bays last year has agreed to a plea deal and will be sentenced to six months in jail and five years’ probation when she returns to court on June 17, according to her lawyer and the Suffolk District Attorney’s office.

Caroline Goss, 34, will plead guilty to a felony count of second-degree vehicular manslaughter, driving while intoxicated as a misdemeanor, endangering the welfare of a child and carrying an open container of alcohol in the vehicle, said Robert Clifford, a spokesman for DA Tom Spota.

Ms. Goss, a registered nurse, will start her sentence at the county’s DWI facility in Yaphank on June 24, said her attorney, Tony Palumbo of Mattituck.

Ms. Goss was driving a 2001 Jeep Cherokee north on Ponquogue Avenue Aug. 12, 2009, when she struck Joseph Marino, 15. She told police she had reached for her phone just a moment before. Southampton Town Police said Ms. Goss had a blood-alcohol level of .13 and was driving with her then 6-year-old son in the front seat. Her son was not injured. Police also reported discovering a cup containing an alcoholic beverage by the front seat and a half-full bottle of vanilla vodka in the back seat.

She had been convicted in 2003 of driving while impaired.

Mr. Clifford said an accident reconstruction by the Suffolk County Crime Lab, a branch of the health department, concluded that the teen veered into the roadway just before impact. There was also no evidence of speeding.

Tim Kelly

05/27/10 12:00am

Tim Kelly photo
Tim Bishop

As goes the 1st Congressional District, so goes the nation?

Congressman Tim Bishop said his polling on the much-contested health care bill approved by Congress and signed by President Obama found public sentiment “is pretty much split down the middle.”

Speaking during a recent meeting of the Mattituck Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Bishop said a December poll found 47 percent favored the bill with 46 percent opposed to it. In April the numbers were 46 percent for and 43 percent against. The split for the 14,000 pieces of mail the congressman’s office received on health care was 49 percent in favor and 51 percent against, Mr. Bishop said during the meeting at Macari Vineyards.

He spoke before a small group of business owners and health care professionals who seemed skeptical that the legislation Mr. Bishop supported can meet its goals of providing health coverage for 30 million people while lowering total health care costs.

Mr. Bishop, a Democrat seeking a fifth term, said a reading of the Congressional Record from 1965 shows that the creation of the Medicare program sparked the same concerns and criticisms as those voiced about the president’s health care bill. But without Medicare, the national health insurance program for people over 65, “We would have a public health crisis of monumental proportions,” the congressman said.

Seeking to allay any fears of harsh economic impacts, Mr. Bishop said that under the provisions of the new bill, a business with fewer than 50 full-time employees is not obligated to change how it provides employee coverage. Only six percent of all American companies hire more than 50 full-timers, he added.

For smaller businesses, “There’s nothing not to like about the health care bill,” said the congressman.

The code also provides tax credits to businesses providing coverage, but the average salary must be below $50,000, said Mr. Bishop. A simpler approach that would only prevent insurance companies from denying coverage for preexisting conditions would have caused rates to skyrocket, but adding up to 30 million people to the insurance pool will moderate any cost increases, the congressman said.

The new taxes levied to help finance the $95 billion program will come as a .9 percent withholding on individuals making $200,000 a year or more or families with income of over $250,000, according to Mr. Bishop. Washington additionally will impose fines on individuals who don’t purchase health insurance and penalize larger employers who don’t offer coverage, the congressman added.

Responding to the much-voiced criticism that the nation is moving toward socialized medicine, Mr. Bishop said the U.S. is currently heavily invested in social benefit programs. He continued to say that the U.S. now spends $3.92 trillion each year and a third of that goes to Social Security or Medicare.

“I studied it and made a judgment,” he said. “The people, every two years, get to make a judgment on me.”

In the mind of Ken Zahler of Cutchogue, owner of a title insurance firm, Mr. Bishop made the wrong call. He called the health care bill “a shell game” that will cause taxes “to go through the roof.”

Mr. Bishop argued that cutting taxes in line with Republican wishes won’t end the nation’s fiscal woes.

“The idea that tax cuts are a magical elixir and that the economy will take off like a rocket … simply is not supported by historical fact,” the congressman said. “The only financial policy that the previous administration had was to cut taxes. Guess what? It didn’t work.”

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05/27/10 12:00am

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO
Workmen installing pilings last Thursday for the future Hyatt Place hotel at Atlantis Marine World on East Main Street in Riverhead. The hotel is expected to open June 2011.

The start of next summer could also mark the turning point in the decades-long descent of downtown Riverhead.

Atlantis Marine World is hoping to open its Hyatt Place hotel and new exhibit space by June 2011, Atlantis principal Jim Bissett told business and community leaders gathered recently at a Riverhead Chamber of Commerce event.

Work on the project adjacent to the existing East Main Street aquarium is already under way, he said, as crews have been banging some 550 pilings into the ground to stabilize the hotel’s future foundation.

Once complete, the Hyatt will contain 100 bedrooms, a banquet hall that can seat 400 and an additional 10,000 square feet of exhibit space, Mr. Bissett said during a presentation at the monthly “Eggs and Issues” chamber event at Polish Hall in Riverhead.

“This is very important to the longevity of the aquarium,” Mr. Bissett said, “to keep a newness to the aquarium.”

“We’ve been here 10 years and we’ve drawn more than 4 million people in that time,” he continued. “They like what we’re doing, but we know that to keep them coming back, we have to keep it fresh.”

Downtown businesses are embracing Atlantis’ plans.

“They should erect statues for those guys, as far as I’m concerned,” Anthony Meras of the Star Confectionery luncheonette on the corner of Main Street and Roanoke Avenue said later. He noted that whenever Atlantis is busy, his restaurant is busy.

He said the addition of the hotel and the added exhibit space should only help. “It’s going to be great,” he said. “Anytime you can capture some business, I’m all for it.”

Mr. Bissett said he has eliminated the proposed restaurant that was in earlier plans for the hotel due to the high number of restaurants already operating downtown.

The $25 million project is expected to create an additional 50 full-time jobs, according to Mr. Bissett, who said Atlantis now has about 200 full-time jobs during the peak season, twice what they had originally anticipated.

Atlantis is projecting a 65 percent year-round occupancy rate for the hotel. “That means 55,000 more people per year coming to Main Street; that’s going to have an impact,” he said.

Atlantis also plans on spending an additional $500,000 on marketing, and is hoping to tap into the New York City market, he said.

Atlantis has yet to get site plan approval for the project from the town, but has a foundation and site work permit. The 550 pilings are needed because the land was once swampland and is very unstable, Mr. Bissett said.

Atlantis also has all its county health department approvals, a process he said took several weeks.

The hotel will carry mid-range pricing, Mr. Bissett said. “We want to stay true to our base of young families, who don’t want to pay $500 for a room,” he said.

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05/27/10 12:00am

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO
Dam Pond, East Marion.

With absolutely no fanfare, a county bill renaming the Dam Pond Maritime Reserve in East Marion to honor former councilwoman and environmental activist Ruth Oliva has become law. County Executive Steve Levy, whose administration opposed the name change, signed the bill early last month. The measure, introduced by county Legislator Ed Romaine, passed unanimously. County Comptroller Joe Sawicki of Southold, who stepped in to help resolve the political impasse that threatened the bill’s passage, said this week, “It is absolutely fitting that someone who was so involved on the Town Board, as president of the North Fork Environmental Council and as a member of the Zoning Board should have the Dam Pond reserve named after her. Hopefully her memory, and the memory of all the good things she did for the people of Southold and the county, will live on after this.” Ms. Oliva died last June at age 76.

05/27/10 12:00am

I reached a new low-point last week, when I hired my friend’s little brother to mow my lawn for the summer.

Mowing the lawn was the only thing I did around my yard. Plant flowers? No way. Water the lawn? I don’t even own a lawn sprinkler. Maintain my pool? Nah, I have a guy who does that, too.

Nope, it was just me and my gas-powered Toro out in that yellow yard o’ mine.

I always knew it was the least I could do for my property, but it still felt good to get out there every Saturday morning and spend an hour in the outdoors — the steel handle pulsating in my hands as I gave my blond-headed lawn a nice buzz cut. Then I’d spend the rest of the weekend on my couch watching sports with at least some sense of accomplishment.

Turns out it wasn’t the least I could do. I now know the least I can do is sit on my rear and play video games for that hour while my friend’s brother does all the work.

It seemed like the perfect arrangement. The kid’s looking for some summer cash while he’s home from school, and for only $15 a week I get to save my time and energy.

What I didn’t count on was the immense sense of guilt I’d feel as I looked up from my spot on the leather couch in front of the 46-inch television to see him doing the one outdoor domestic chore I ever consistently dedicated myself to.

And my lawn mower looked so comfortable in his hands: It was like waiting on your Big Mac in the McDonald’s drive-through lane as your friend’s little brother drives by with his arm around your ex-girlfriend, who’s riding shotgun in his convertible.

I’d officially given up my yard. And all because I was lazy.

How’d I ever get this way? I sought advice from my friends and family this week to see how it got this bad. Was I always this lethargic?

“Yes,” my mother said. “Any time I ever asked you to do something around the house, you used to get up and run to the bathroom with a sudden bowel emergency.”

My best friend Kevin reminded me of how he used to hate to come over to my house when we were growing up. I’d always have a long list of chores that I was running behind on, and my mom wouldn’t let me go out until after the list was complete.

“I’d get stuck helping you finish your chores,” he wrote in an e-mail this week. “I did more chores at your house growing up than I did at my own.”

So I guess this isn’t a new thing. Maybe now I’m just finally starting to develop a complex about it. After all, it doesn’t make you feel good about yourself to see your older, female neighbor break out a saw to cut down an overgrown tree in your yard because she knows you’ll never do it. Heck, I don’t even own a saw.

I guess it’s true what they say about my generation. We’re the lazy bunch.

I thought about this a lot as I watched “The Pacific” on HBO. These guys spent years in foreign jungles and beaches slaughtering the enemy as their friends were lying in pools of blood beside them. Then they returned to America, got jobs and raised their families without ever complaining about how tough they had it.

Me? I have a three-day weekend like this one coming up and all I can think about is finding ways to maximize couch time.

And it’s not just me. I asked some of my friends about their laziest moments.

My friend Kim reminded me of the time she sent me a text message to look up the number of her favorite Thai restaurant so she didn’t have to get out of bed to use her computer, which was located just feet away in the same room.

My buddy Matty C. told me about a recent day off in which he made a mental checklist of all the things he wanted to do that day. Twelve hours later he said the only thing he’d accomplished was to polish off a half black-olive, half mushroom pizza and a two-liter bottle of soda, and he never even got dressed.

But toward the end of his e-mail he also helped me realize why it is we’re so lazy.

He signed off by saying he also spent two hours that day exchanging instant messages with the girl of his dreams. A pretty young lady he hadn’t seen in years.

Now, she’s his girlfriend.

Which brings me to my conclusion on laziness, something I got tired just thinking about.

With technology improving our lives in so many different ways, we can now afford to be a little lazy.

You see, our parents and grandparents had to work for everything they have.

We can pick up girls in our sweatpants, with eight slices of pizza in our stomachs and the sunlight quietly tucked behind the four walls of our homes.

So here’s your $15, Patrick. Don’t forget to put gas in the mower. I’ll be on the couch if you need me.

05/27/10 12:00am

Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) may have to wait awhile for an opponent, but there’s no such uncertainty in this year’s state legislative elections.

Political newcomer Regina Calcaterra of New Suffolk received the Democratic nod last week to take on veteran GOP State Senator Kenneth Lavalle. In the North Fork’s Assembly race, Republican County Legislator Dan Losquadro of Shoreham now stands in the way of Democratic incumbent Marc Alessi’s re-election hopes. (See separate story.)

But there will be no bruising fight to fill the county comptroller’s seat. Not only will incumbent Comptroller Joe Sawicki run unopposed, the Southold Republican has again secured the Democratic line. Suffolk’s Democrats also endorsed Republican County Clerk Judy Pascale.

Mr. Bishop, who is seeking his fifth two-year term, was formally renominated during the Democrats’ May 20 convention in Hauppauge. He may have to wait until September to know the name of his GOP foe. During their convention a few weeks back, the county’s Republicans did not choose a candidate for the First Congressional District, instead opting for an “open primary.” If more than one would-be candidate files nominating petitions by the July deadline, party members will fill the slot during a Sept. 7 primary election.

The list of potential GOP candidates includes businessmen Randy Altschuler and Chris Cox, former Securities and Exchange Commission lawyer George Demos and Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick.

In the race for State Senate, incumbent Republican Kenneth LaValle faces what is arguably the most spirited and organized challenge in his 34-year career. New Suffolk resident Regina Calcaterra, a partner in a New York law firm, has been actively campaigning for the seat since last summer.

Ms. Calcaterra, who grew up in foster homes and homeless shelters, paints the incumbent as the ultimate Albany insider and an example of the entrenched party leadership responsible for a dysfunctional state government.

Mr. LaValle argues that his seniority has only benefited the district and that a vote for Ms. Calcaterra is a vote for the New York City Democratic machine.

Ms. Calcaterra said property taxes are the top issue on the minds of voters she’s met since announcing her run. “The state has been using people’s homes as piggy banks,” she said. “There’s been no effort whatsoever by my opponent to deal with the spike in tax rates or the unfunded school mandates.”

Coming from outside the “bubble of Albany,” Ms. Calcaterra said she is in a better position to be an agent of change.

“The longer our representatives are up in Albany, the less they’re aware of the impacts their votes have on our lives,” she said. “It’s not one party over the other, it’s both parties. Albany really does need to be reformed.”

The incumbent said taxes only went up when Ms. Calcaterra’s party gained control of both houses of the State Legislature.

“The problem has clearly been with the New York City Democrats in the Senate, who have taken our state aid away from us and given us an MTA tax,” said Mr. LaValle. “I’ve worked with groups and communities to solve problems. That’s what being a representative is all about.”

As a former State Assemblyman, Mr. Sawicki has an insider’s knowledge of the rigors of campaigning, but he has no need to tap that experience in his run for another four years as county comptroller. As was the case when he first sought re-election four years ago, Mr. Sawicki is running on both the Republican and Democratic lines.

“Let’s face it, there’s no Democratic or Republican way to watch taxpayers’ money,” he said. “There’s only the right way.”

Mr. Sawicki said he’d developed close relationships with many of Suffolk’s top Democrats, particularly District Attorney Tom Spota.

“When you pool the DA’s investigative resources with my auditing resources, we make a great combo in going after white-collar crime,” Mr. Sawicki said.

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05/27/10 12:00am

PHOTO COURTESY OF LONG ISLAND UNIVERSITY
LIU undergraduate students pose at the school’s entrance in Riverhead.

Long Island University at Riverhead may be small, and the school may share a campus with a community college, but its operating principle — taken from a 20th century anthropologist named Margaret Mead — is big and bold and inspiring.

Ms. Mead’s words echo the vision of countless others throughout history: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world,” she said, “Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

When LIU’s Riverhead branch opened in 2006, small would have been an understatement. Its first graduating class in 2008, earning master’s degrees and advanced certificates in education and homeland security, totaled a whopping 55 students. Even its 2010 class, which graduated this month, showcased only 75 graduates. But the school, with a total enrollment of 275 for 2010, recently launched an undergraduate program, and school officials see the LIU campus standing at the cusp of a radical shift in the educational prospects for East End students.

The undergraduate program, which just wrapped up its first year with 19 students pursuing bachelor’s degrees in childhood education, will serve to strengthen the university’s growing importance within the educational field, especially in eastern Suffolk County, school officials said. With Stony Brook’s Southampton campus — the only other school offering undergraduate degrees on the East End — paring down its academic programs and suspending on-campus residence, LIU may indeed be filling an educational void in Suffolk County.

“We’re the only private university on the East End,” noted John Brush, the campus’ director of liberal arts education. “Students can now come to Suffolk Community, complete their first two years there, then continue on to complete their bachelor’s degree and master’s degree at LIU, all while staying on the East End — and that’s really something that’s never been done before.”

The school, which resides in Suffolk County Community College’s old Montaukett Building, currently boasts seven classrooms, one computer lab and a library. Although space might be tight, sharing a building with SCCC’s eastern campus makes the transfer from Suffolk to LIU “seamlessly” easy for undergraduate students looking to finish their education, Mr. Brush said.

“So for students who want to stay local and don’t want to commute, it’s the perfect thing for them,” he said.

In addition to the university’s growing undergraduate program, graduate students can earn master’s degrees and advanced certificates in numerous other fields, including homeland security management, an online certificate program whose students include members of the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, New York Police Department and nearly a dozen other organizations. Since it’s inception, LIU’s Homeland Security Management Institute has been so successful that Congress designated it a National Transportation Security Center of Excellence in 2007.

Ultimately, the goal is follow in the footsteps of LIU’s three other main campuses located in Brooklyn, Brookville, and Brentwood, building upon the university’s initial success by slowly expanding their masters program’s and offering more undergraduate opportunities, school officials said. However, despite its plans for a steady but slow growth, university members hope it never loses the small community feel that has made the campus so unique.

“They’re all a very close-knit group,” said Andrea Borra, director of admissions at LIU. “We definitely want to grow the program, but right now we take pride in being able to give that one-on-one attention, to have that close-knit community feel. That’s really what we’re working on now — keeping that strong.”

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05/27/10 12:00am

PHOTO COURTESY OF SPLISH SPLASH
Patrons float down Splish Splash’s Lazy River attraction during the Riverhead water park’s first season in 1991.

When Splish Splash water park opened its gates for the first time Memorial Day weekend 1991, Chip Cleary, the park’s senior vice president and founder, was frantic.

The plastic tubes were inflated, the water was flowing down the park’s slides and the restaurant was stocked with burgers, fries and hot dogs.

But there was one question left to answer: Would anyone come?

Mr. Cleary, who admittedly hadn’t slept much in the seven months prior, said he had his hand in every department that first day, from checking on the filter pumps to selling admission tickets.

“If it meant cooking food or cleaning, I was there,” he said.

As soon as he saw the parking lot filling with cars, it became clear that Mr. Cleary’s work had paid off.

The water park, then affiliated with Farmingdale’s Adventureland, attracted 4,000 people that first Monday alone, three times the number management expected.

“I went home and said, I think we’ve arrived,” Mr. Cleary recalled.

Twenty seasons later, the park, located just off exit 72 on the Long Island Expressway in Calverton, is consistently rated one of the best water parks in the country by the Travel Channel. It attracts nearly half a million visitors each summer, and has given thousands of local young people their first job.

What began as a small family-owned business with three rides and a lazy river, has exploded into a major East End destination now featuring more than 36 rides and attractions, and entertaining guests from every state and beyond.

Splish Splash has also served as an economic engine for the area, attracting customers to nearby restaurants and the Tanger Outlets. In addition, the park’s owners, Palace Entertainment, will pay just under $300,000 in school and library taxes this year, and about $130,000 in town taxes.

However, the road to where they are today wasn’t always an easy one for Mr. Cleary, who said he dealt with naysayers who said the park couldn’t be a success.

“There were a lot of people at that time who I don’t think understood the concept of a water park,” he said.

Opinions were mixed when the idea was first proposed two decades ago, with the idea of building a water park in the Pine Barrens raising plenty of questions.

The Town Board voted 4-0 to grant the park’s permit in 1990, though some environmentalists were more reserved.

Pine Barrens Society executive director Richard Amper noted it was included in a lawsuit involving 234 projects filed by the Pine Barrens Society in 1989 against several municipalities. The lawsuit sought an environmental review of any project proposed within the Pine Barrens.

Despite the ongoing litigation, Splish Splash moved forward with construction, one of only two projects named in the suit to do so. The other was a strip mall on Middle Country Road in Lake Panamoka.

Mr. Amper said the Pine Barrens Society lost the case in state Supreme Court, but a ruling in the appellate court necessitated the creation of the Long Island Pine Barrens Protection Act in 1995, a move he said would have prevented a project of Splish Splash’s size from being built at its current location.

“If Splish Splash were to be proposed today, it would not qualify for approval,” he said.

Then town supervisor Joe Janoski told the News-Review he thought the park was a “beautiful addition to the town” the week Splish Splash opened in 1991. “I think everyone would agree now, even those who had reservations, that they have done exactly what they said they would do.”

Original opposition aside, by all accounts the water park has been a resounding success.

“No one ever thought it would get as well known nationally as it is,” said general manager Mike Bengston.

Though the park sits on what was once undeveloped land, Mr. Bengston said Splish Splash has made it a point never to cut down a tree. Instead, trees are moved during construction to another area of the 96 acre property, or attractions are built around them. Rides are also built mainly using wooden beams, rather than steel supports.

“We’ve kept the natural beauty of the area,” he said.

Mr. Bengston added that chemicals are removed from the 2 million gallons of water used every season before it is returned to the ground.

To celebrate the start of the 20th season, the park is offering $20 admission tickets during opening weekend. The park kicks off its 20th season Saturday at 10 a.m. Also, 20 lucky guests exiting the park will be given a free pass to return.

Mr. Bengston said the park will continue to grow and that it adds, on average, one new ride every other year to keep customers coming back for more.

“Guests want to see something different,” Mr. Bengston said. “For us, it’s about adding to the experience.”

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