A project that has been germinating for nearly three decades, the removal of a bulkhead and the installation of runoff-absorbing rain gardens at a popular parking area that straddles Sag Harbor Village and Southampton Town, at Round Pond, is set to begin. It’s being called a huge win for the village, the town, the pond, and nearby residents.
The town had estimated that the project would cost $425,000. The job, however, went to South Fork Asphalt, which, out of nine bidders, came in with a low bid of approximately $300,000.
“It’s being funded through a community preservation fund water quality grant,” Nicholas Jimenez, the capital projects manager in the town’s Department of Municipal Works, said by phone this week.
The work will cost Sag Harbor Village nothing.
“This is an important place in
Sag Harbor,” Southampton Town Councilman Tommy John Schiavoni, who has been integral in moving the project forward, said at a public hearing in February. “I remember ice-skating there as a kid.”
He said a kick-off meeting for the project was scheduled for today at 10 a.m. He was confident that work would begin this month.
“I’m excited about the project,” Sag Harbor Village Mayor Thomas Gardella said. “It took a lot of work. It’s finally come to fruition thanks to the help of Southampton Town.”
“All the major earthwork, grading, and improvements will be done this fall,” Mr. Jimenez said, with most of the project complete by the end of the year. “The only thing that might get kicked into the spring are some of the plantings if some inventory isn’t available.”
Not only will the bulkhead be removed, but also 120 to 150 feet of roadway at the end of Middle Line Highway, which will reduce the amount of stormwater making it to the rain gardens.
In place of all that asphalt will be about 1,500 native plants, which Mr. Jimenez said would be substantial, not small nursery stock. The plantings aren’t just for looks, they are to function as a filter, sucking up nitrogen and phosphorus and acting as a barrier against larger particles caught in stormwater runoff. A regraded slope will gently drop from the new edge of the pavement to the pond.
A 12-foot-wide path of permeable grass pavers will provide access for firefighters, kayakers, birdwatchers, and wintertime ice-skaters.
The rain garden would have rock rubble, or riprap, at the end of the cul-de-sac to accept rainwater. In a quarter-inch rainfall, for instance, the water would get no farther than the retention area, full of native plants.
In heavier rain, that first area would overflow into a second one, still never reaching the pond. In much heavier rain, such as fell on July 16, when anywhere from two to seven inches fell across the region, the retention areas would overflow into the winding, channeled depression of a bioswale.
“The water that seeped into the bioswale would eventually discharge into the pond, substantially cleaner than it would have been without the plantings,” Mr. Jimenez said.
Mr. Schiavoni said that during rain of several days in duration the bioswale could resemble a small running stream, but that its check dams would prevent erosion.
“This is the way to deal with stormwater in a healthy way,” Mr. Jimenez said.
An educational plaque explaining the restoration will greet visitors at the end of the cul-de-sac. A purple martin house will be set up in the hope of attracting a colony to help with mosquito control.
The project will also connect two pieces of greenway, the 26-acre Oakland Cemetery and the Kennedy Preserve, a 3.6-acre preservation fund purchase in 2011 that abuts the south side of Middle Line Highway.
“We’re looking forward to Round Pond being protected now,” Dai Dayton, president of the Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt, said. “It’s going to be amazing. I thank Tommy John Schiavoni for following this through, it’s been a long time since this was first proposed. This will be something that people can look at and do on their own properties.”
Ann Welker of the Southampton Town Trustees also saw the project as a way to educate homeowners about being better stewards. “It’s almost as if it’s a pilot project,” she said at the hearing. “This can set an example of what it looks like when you remove a bulkhead and recreate a natural shoreline.”
Ken Dorph, who has lived next to the pond for 27 years, even exploring its depths while snorkeling (“I’ve never found the bottom”), also hailed the collaborative work. “Tommy John was the one who finally brought all the heads together.”
“This is the northernmost coastal plain pond we have. Bringing cars right down to its bank is damaging. There’s a cluster of broken bottles within 20 feet of the bulkhead. If you snorkel, you see where all the garbage is,” Mr. Dorph said. “We couldn’t be happier the work is beginning.”