New ramp to open inlet access

In transforming an old boat yard on Mattituck Inlet just south of the Sound, the DEC’s environmentally friendly efforts include planting native vegetation on what will be the agency’s largest public access location in New York.

Months after local artist Lillian Ball, funded by a grant, installed what she calls “Waterwash” — an eco-friendly, colorful, permeable surface — to replace a gravel parking lot at the southern end of Mattituck Creek, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is working on its own environmentally friendly project nearby.

The DEC is in the midst of improving the site of the old Petersen’s Marina, across the creek from the Waterwash project, just south of Long Island Sound off Naugles Drive in Mattituck. The goal is to make it a state-of-the-art public access facility,

Covering 3.5 acres, it’s the largest public water access project of its kind in the state.

Construction on the $1.8 million project began last October and is expected to be finished by June 1, said Charles Hamilton, DEC’s regional natural resources supervisor, who spearheaded the project with Southold Town Trustees about two years ago.

The landscaped planting of all-native vegetation, removal of decades-old steel bulkheading and a sunken barge along the creek and installation of pumpout and washdown stations are among the environmental and functional improvements planned for the access site. A 100-foot, two-boat ramp has already replaced a temporary single boat ramp, which was installed four years ago after the DEC bought and cleaned up the old marina.

With a trail and launching area for kayaks also being developed at the site, Mr. Hamilton said he hopes to attract water enthusiasts of all types to a place that used to be populated mostly by clammers and lobsterman.

“We’ll get the kayakers to the Jet Ski guys to the fishermen over here now,” he said. “This is a neat way to get the public back in the water on the East End.”

“People will be able to use the ramp at high tide and low tide,” said Jimmy King, Southold Town Trustee and a lobsterman who has worked out of Mattituck Creek for 40 years. “The shoreline will be restored to its natural state. The site will be spectacular when it’s done.”

A permeable surface resembling cobblestone — different from but just as effective at letting rainwater seep into the ground as the Waterwash material to the south — has replaced bluestone gravel in the parking lot and in the driveway leading up to the ramp. The new surface will diffuse runoff and filter out contaminants, but the first pumpout station the site has ever had will make the biggest difference in water quality, Mr. King said.

“This is my dream,” Mr. King said of the pumpout station. “We’re trying to clean the inlet up, and we really needed this. It’s a huge step.”

Dozens of fishing boats on high and dry racks once peppered the property, parts of which were still used by private companies for gasoline and asphalt storage until about a decade ago, Mr. King said.

“Barges used to come in with asphalt back when they were extending the expressway out east,” Mr. King said. “There used to be a dock here years ago and they used to pump asphalt into tanks. But they’ve all since been demolished.”

The state acquired the Petersen property in November 2005 for $2.25 million from the State Environmental Protection Fund. Mr. Hamilton said it took about two and a half years to complete the design work for the project. Mr. King credited Mr. Hamilton with coordinating state, local and county agencies and local contractors such as Corazzini Asphalt in Southold to get the work started.

“And he’s extremely conscious of the community,” Mr. King said of Mr. Hamilton. “He has made sure that this will not disturb the neighborhood. We don’t want to impact the surrounding community. We want to restore the natural shoreline.”

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