East Hampton Village has its own version of the classic Weeble Wobble toy — the Hedges Inn, which took another body blow from a speeding car in the small hours of Monday morning. This time, it was a load of UpIsland teenagers running from the cops; the time before that, an out-of-town livery driver. After each incident, the Hedges rebuilds the fence outside and completes the needed repairs, only to have it happen again, generally sooner rather than later. Something needs to be done, the innkeeper agreed. To this we have one word: bioswale.
Picture this: Instead of the flat grass opposite the right-angle turn from Woods Lane onto Main Street, one might create a bioswale like the one snaking the length of the village green just up the way. But what is a bioswale really, you ask? The concept is an intentional recreation of a wetland to slow rainwater runoff, capturing pollutants. Native plants help complete the picture. Once a bioswale goes in, generally just occasional removal of invasive plants is required to keep it going. A soggy dip between Woods and James Lanes, stocked with bending shrubs and grasses, would perhaps catch and cradle most errant vehicles — and be good for wildlife, too. Just ask anyone who has been in a car that roared into a phragmites stand — you don’t get very far. This seems better than one alternative mentioned following the latest Hedge Inn strike: a giant net, if such a thing could even be found.
A vehicle going 50 miles per hour creates more than 21,000 pounds of force when it strikes a stationary object. Nets need to be attached to something, so that wouldn’t appear to work. As Mayor Jerry Larsen, who had seen more than his share of terrible car accidents as a village police officer and department chief, said, a wall or solid barrier would be a “death sentence” for a driver. The thing about a bioswale there, well-planted with tall grasses, cattails, and bushes, would be that it would be visible. All but the most blotto driver behind the wheel would be able to see it. And for those who don’t, plowing into a muddy marsh must be better for all involved than blasting into the beleaguered Hedges Inn porch.