Southampton Town cleans up beach at Wildwood Lake

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO Southampton Town workers began importing sand and clearing trees and shrubs at the Wildwood Lake beach last week. The town’s long-range goal is to build a full-service public beach there and hire lifeguards, but budget constraints have hampered that plan.

Southampton Town’s parks and recreation department last week began pouring sand on the beach at Wildwood Lake and relocating underwater vegetation.
The department also has cut down some trees in the area recently.
“We’re finishing up a cleanup there,” said parks superintendent Allyn Jackson. He said new sand hasn’t been placed on the beach in a while and the old sand had gotten washed out over the years.
The town has been planning a new public beach project at Wildwood Lake since 2000, but has never had the money to get it started. While people swim in the 66-acre freshwater lake, there is no lifeguard there, and several drownings have occurred over the years.
But Mr. Jackson said it still can’t be called a beach, since there is no lifeguard.
“It’s a picnic area,” he said.
The town has a state Department of Environmental Conservation permit for the cleanup job, which also involves digging up vegetation in the water and moving it to another part of the lake. Mr. Jackson said the current effort will cost only about $8,000 and is not the larger project that was originally proposed for the lake.
That project called for creating a public beach with a lifeguard and building a pavilion and a walking bridge over a wetland lagoon.
Southampton Town’s proposed capital budget for 2011 includes $30,000 for Wildwood Lake beach renovations, including removing and replanting vegetation from the swimming area and the purchase and placement of clean beach sand, which appears to be what is being done now. The capital budget also calls for the creation of a handicapped pedestrian path from the parking area to the picnic area, the installation of security lighting and, possibly, the purchasing of new picnic tables, trash cans and upgrading of the bathroom.
Mr. Jackson said the work currently under way only involves adding sand and relocating vegetation from the swimming area.
“The community has been working to get that beach restored for about 15 years,” said Brad Bender, president of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association. He said he was under the impression that the project would reclaim about 75 feet of waterfront for a swimming area.
Mr. Bender said that over the years, during volunteer cleanup efforts, they’ve picked bicycles and other garbage out of the lake. He said there was even a submerged lawn mower about 40 feet out that no one was able to get out.
But he said he’s happy that the town has done some work at the lake.
“I’m glad we finally have got someone thinking of us here in Northampton,” Mr. Bender said.
Wildwood Lake was once owned by the Wildwood Lake Homeowners Association, which operated a private beach there that was very popular. In the 1990s, however, the association fell behind on taxes and the beach was eventually taken over by the Town Trustees, who are leasing it to the town.
Trustee Eric Shultz said the big plans for the lake beach are not in the cards now, and the town hasn’t had the money to hire lifeguards for the beach in recent years.
“Right now, the aim is to keep it as natural as possible,” Mr. Shultz said.
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