In an era of social distancing and warnings against indoor gatherings, outdoor public spaces are playing a more crucial role for local families and community groups.
And while there’s no shortage of preserved land, hiking trails and parkland in Southold, there are few options for outdoor meeting areas.
That could change with a new pavilion proposed for Tasker Park in Peconic.
Recreation supervisor Janet Douglass presented plans for the 20-foot by 40-foot structure at a work session last Tuesday, saying that even before the pandemic, multiple groups vying for public meeting space had put a strain on indoor recreation facilities.
Ms. Douglass said there are over 50 local nonprofits and community organizations hold their meetings at town facilities, where town-run fitness and art classes are also held.
Many of those groups, she said, could reap the benefits of a covered outdoor meeting space since some of them, like Scouts, can’t meet on private property. “They have to meet in public locations and there’s just no public space in the town that’s covered, so as soon as you get a drip or a drizzle they have to pack it up for the day,” she said.
The proposed pavilion would be built in a central location, just north of a newly installed playground at Tasker Park. “[Tasker Park] is such an activity hub right now,” Ms. Douglass noted. It would be funded primarily by an anonymous $50,000 donation, though work to install the structure and lay a concrete slab may cost the town extra.
She said at least 10 picnic tables could be kept under the pavilion, which could also provide space for expanded town programming and offer quick shelter during passing rainstorms.
While Ms. Douglass said the main goal is to accommodate community groups, she noted that similar covered outdoor spaces at Orient Beach State Park and Indian Island County Park in Riverhead are available to be rented out daily for $250 and $125, respectively, and could be a revenue generator for the town.
“We don’t necessarily have to allow for private parties,” said Supervisor Scott Russell, adding that the board could discuss that down the line.
The Town Board would have to adopt a resolution accepting the $50,000 donation and receive cost estimates before moving forward.