Two Mattituck park commissioners appeared before the Town Trustees last week, seeking permission to install bulkheading along superstorm Sandy-ravaged Veterans Memorial Park beach on the bay in Mattituck.
The pair walked out of Town Hall without a yes, but also without a no — and that doesn’t sit well with the commissioners, who say the beach is highly vulnerable to additional storm damage.
“It’s a viable plan and necessary to the residents of Mattituck and Laurel, who have supported this beach since the late 1940s, early ’50s,” said Gerard Goehringer, commissioner board chairman. “This is one of the most beautiful sugar sand beaches in the world and that’s what we’re trying to preserve.”
The beauty of the beach is also why the Trustees say they didn’t automatically agree to the park district’s application to install 619 feet of bulkheading.
“It’s a wide, beautiful, sandy beach right now,” said Trustee Dave Bergen. “We’re saying let’s meet out there and look at other options.”
With the project on hold, it’s unclear whether any work can take place before Memorial Day, the traditional start of the summer season. The park district has also applied to both the Trustees and the state Department of Environmental Conservation for permission to remove storm debris, including parts of the asphalt parking lot closest to the water that were destroyed by Sandy. That work is expected to be completed in time for summer.
In its application, the park district proposed replacing the skeletal remains of bulkheading on the property’s west side and the cracked and sinking concrete barrier along the edge of the parking lot on the east side with standard bulkheading. It includes one opening, for a handicapped-accessible ramp, in front of the old concession stand.
Since pressure-treated lumber is no longer permitted, new bulkheading must be either vinyl or steel. Mr. Goehringer said bids for the work went as high as $1 million and the commissioners have accepted the low bid of $315,000.
“We just built a building there in 2005 and we need to protect that building, which would now cost about $1 million,” Mr. Goehringer said of the meeting room that’s sometimes rented out for private functions. “The most westerly bulkhead is just standing there and all that sand is gone. If we have another storm like Sandy there’s nothing to hold it back.”
But the town’s Conservation Advisory Council, which offers non-binding advice to the Trustees, is adamantly opposed to bulkheading there, saying “it’s doomed to failure.”
The council, said Mr. Bergen, “felt very strongly about it.”
As an alternative, the Trustees suggested installing some bulkheading along the western side of the beach but then switching to a rock revetment, with the height diminishing from west to east. The boulders in a revetment dissipate wave action, which scours sand away from the base of bulkheading and shortens the beach, Mr. Bergen said.
The board believes the boulders could be placed farther back from the water than the bulkheading as the project is currently designed, which would leave a wider beach.
With a revetment it’s also easy to include openings to provide more than a single access point to the beach, Mr. Bergen added.
But the park commissioners remain unconvinced.
The Trustees have not approved revetment for any other shoreline area in Mattituck or Laurel, said Mr. Goehringer, a point Mr. Bergen conceded. But the Trustee added that the widespread damage left by superstorm Sandy included a considerable amount of bulkheading.
The Trustees are scheduled to take another look at the beach on May 8.