New Hook Pond Crossing Unacceptable

The Maidstone Club has at last, it seems, gone too far, what with a spate of recent projects including a massive new irrigation system and with a proposal now for a new bridge over an upper reach of Hook Pond. The bridge has drawn the attention of no less formidable opponents than the East Hampton Ladies Village Improvement Society’s landmarks and nature trail committees, as well as well-known local environmentalists.

The question is why. The club’s representatives have told East Hampton Village that safety is paramount. We are not buying it — and neither should the village. Pedestrians, golf carts, the club’s greens keepers, and passing motor vehicles have co-existed for years on Dunemere Lane. The village lowered the speed limit there to 25 miles an hour relatively recently, and police frequently hide their patrol cars nearby to catch those who might scoff that particular law. 

Similarly, the club got along just fine since its founding in 1891 — and the first golf rounds three years later — without a major irrigation system. That it now needs to pump water from underground to spread on its fairways and greens has never been adequately explained. Taken with the request for the bridge, it is fair to suspect that something may be afoot.

By itself, the bridge, as laid out for the village zoning board, seems a bit much. It would be 352 feet long and made of steel and timbers, resting on 42 pilings driven into the mud. Sited to the north of an existing vehicle bridge, it would bisect the Hook Pond dreen — a habitat where ducks, swans, herons, and grebes often feed and aquatic turtles are seen from time to time — and destroy the scenic vista.

Among the standards that the zoning board is supposed to consider when granting variances is whether an applicant can solve a perceived problem by another means and whether the hardship for which relief is sought is self-created. Given that there has been golf at the club for more than a century, with players and employees sharing the existing Dunemere Lane crossing, and that the impact of the new bridge on the pond and surrounding wetlands would be substantial, there can be no reasonable basis for the board to approve the project.

“Oh, but we have been such a good neighbor,” the club’s representatives say. Well, tell that to the residents who used to be able to take an off-season stroll along the golf course or fish from one of its existing bridges who are now rudely chased away.

If there is something the club is not telling the board — perhaps that it hopes to host large-scale professional golfing events — it needs to come clean. And those officials and village consultants who may be willing to show deference to the Maidstone’s wealthy members instead of the public or the environment should think again about whose interests they are really supposed to represent.