Water ski course floated, opposed, for Terry’s Creek

A view of Terry's Creek from Hubbard Avenue. (Credit: Tim Gannon)
A view of Terry’s Creek from Hubbard Avenue. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

The Riverhead Town Board is considering allowing a slalom water skiing course in Terry’s Creek in Aquebogue, proposed by a Jamesport woman who said few such areas exist on the East End.

But the measure already has run into some opposition from Aquebogue residents who have started a petition against it.

Susan Ulrich, who said she’s an avid water skier, urged the Town Board at Thursday’s work session to create a slalom (single ski) water skiing course at the western end of Terry’s Creek, which runs adjacent to Indian Island County Park and has a 5 mph speed limit within 500 feet of shore.

While there are no homes near that part of the creek, the boats carrying the water skiers would have to pass homes toward the eastern part of the creek.

Ms. Ulrich says she just wants a course to be available for water skiers in town, much as there are fields available for softball players or courses available for golfers.

“From the perspective of not impacting any residential parcels, this is the perfect place,” Supervisor Sean Walter said. “The problem is, the skiers are going to have to be cognizant of the houses as they enter the creek.”

Ms. Ulrich says that it’s safest to water ski within 500 feet of the shore, which also happens to be where the town has a 5 mph speed limit.

She said there are no water ski courses in town and she often travels to upstate Monroe or to Sag Harbor for the nearest one.

But at Tuesday’s regular Town Board meeting, Aquebogue resident Peter Troyan Sr. said residents have circulated a petition opposing the water skiing proposal, which they intend to submit to the town shortly. He added there was water skiing in Terry Creek in the early 1990s and the Town Board shut it down due to opposition.

“This is the only creek in the Town of Riverhead that is untouched, Mr. Troyan said. “It is in pristine condition. Birds fly in there, hundreds of kayakers go in there and this course would effectively shut off this creek.”

“Why would anyone want to take an environmentally sensitive area like a tributary and go skiing in it when there’s a whole bay out there?” asked John Troyan, Peter’s son.

Mr. Walter said, “You can’t water ski in the bay, not at the level they are talking about … My whole point of this is that everybody should be allowed to use that resource and if there is a way to open it up so that everybody can enjoy it, we have an obligation to look at it.”

He said town code would have to be amended because of the 5 mph speed limit in the creek, which would require a public hearing.

Mr. Walter suggested that the proposed course be open only Monday through Friday from sunrise to sunset, and that anyone seeking to use it must be a member of the American Water Ski Association. Permits would be issued by the town recreation department.

Councilman John Dunleavy expressed concern that the town often doesn’t enforce its own rules.

“This is a dangerous sport if it’s not regulated correctly,” Mr. Dunleavy said.

Several years ago, a girl he knew was killed by a water skier, he said, adding that water skiers are supposed to have at least two people in the boat, a driver and a lookout person.

The Town Board agreed to put the issue out for public comment and get feedback, although the date of the hearing and the fines for violations have not yet been determined.