Path, Yes. Pavilion, Maybe

Access and amenities at Boys and Girls Harbor could be improved soon. This is a good thing, but a word of caution is necessary first. East Hampton Town officials are studying the preservation fund-purchased former summer camp properties on Three Mile Harbor, about 83 acres in all, and talking about how the site could be made more inviting for the public. Among the ideas are a covered picnic pavilion and a paved bike trail. 

The last piece of Boys and Girls Harbor became town property in 2011 in a $7.3 million deal. Subsequently, the owners of some neighboring houses fought hard to get guarantees from the town that its future use would be limited. A petition from opponents of the town purchase at the time listed soccer, volleyball, basketball, and baseball, outdoor lighting, and problems with large crowds among their concerns. As such things go, a lawsuit ensued. Eventually, the town agreed to a restrictive management plan that allowed for educational activities, bicycling, informal sports, and trail walks. Other sports and after-dark events were taken off the table.

As to the improvements now proposed, a surfaced path for bicycles and wheelchairs is a no-brainer. A good portion of the sports field area at the former camp is level and would be, as some have pointed out, a great place to learn to ride a bike. We are less enthusiastic about the pavilion, however. 

At Maidstone Park, the only fair point of comparison, the town’s upkeep has been wanting. For example, some picnickers there toss charcoal and ashes nearby, and the sand surrounding the structure is often littered with broken glass. Plus, the grim, bunker-like restroom there is something not even a hardened prison official would be proud of. If the town puts in a picnic pavilion at Boys and Girls Harbor, bathrooms will not be far behind. 

And, while we are on the subject of bathrooms, when is Town Hall going to deal with one at Fresh Pond in Amagansett, which is a prime suspect in the ongoing fecal contamination of the creek there? That dank cinder-block structure, too, is nothing to boast about.

Unless the town can figure out a way to add staff to assure that its existing picnic areas are properly looked after, it has no business adding any more. Consider that town workers are already barely able to keep up with summertime beach trash. A new, out of the way property to maintain might prove too much of a burden without adding staff and vehicles. Town board members are deluding themselves if they think the extra garbage produced there would take care of itself.

At this point, no refuse-producing or bathroom-demanding uses should be approved at Boys and Girls Harbor. It is easy to build things; taking care of them is another story.