State parks officials on Friday publicly unveiled plans for the Hallock State Park and Preserve, 225 acres of parkland fronting the Long Island Sound just west of the Riverhead-Southold town line.
The park will provide both hiking and equestrian trails as well as public access to a one-mile stretch of state-owned beach, Wayne Horsley, Long Island regional director for the State Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, told a group of local stakeholders at a meeting Friday afternoon at Riverhead Free Library.
Hallock State Park is scheduled to open in late May or June, Horsley said. It will be open seven days a week from Memorial Day to Labor Day and five days a week (closed Monday and Tuesday) between Labor Day and Memorial Day.
The southern portion of the park, fronting Sound Avenue, is being developed with a visitors center that features geo-thermal energy and an advanced on-site septic system and will include bathrooms, educational displays, a community meeting room and a “Taste NY” retail concession. The 600-square-foot shop will sell prepackaged food and beverages as well as locally sourced products, Horsley said. It will not sell produce and it will not compete with local farm stands or wineries, he said.
Access to the northern portion of the parcel, which will have a parking area for 20 cars and four horse trailers, will be via a 2,400-foot roadway and will require the payment of the NYS parks $8 admission fee, Horsley said. Swimming will not be authorized at the beach, which will not have a lifeguard. However swimming will not be prohibited either, Horsley said. Visitors will be able to bring canoes and kayaks to the beach, but no motorized watercraft.
There will be no charge to access the visitors center on Sound Avenue and its adjacent parking lot for 27 vehicles and 2 buses, Horsley said.
The visitors center will offer educational displays presenting information about the history and environment of the surrounding area. It will also offer a digital informational kiosk where visitors can access information about local businesses and points of interest.
“I want to emphasize that Hallock State Park will be a preserve,” Horsley said. “It is a preserve, so we are going to be very conscious about the activities we have at Hallock, that they make sense and that they are not harmful to the environment and you will see that parks is a wonderful steward.”
Representatives of Cashin Associates, the engineering and planning consulting firm that developed the master plan for the park discussed the layout of the trails, parking areas and visitors center.
Molly Lenore of the Brooklyn-based design and fabrication firm Moey Inc. presented a conceptual plan for the educational exhibit area. Lenore said her firm specializes in interactive displays.
“We went there to look for things that will drive this – the geology, the culture, the history,” Lenore said. “It’s an extremely intimate park. I spent the last couple of days just trying to find out about the community. Our goal is to inspire, create a sense of exploration and to educate the public.”
The visitors center exhibit area will include a community directory kiosk, collections and artifacts, interpretive signage, hanging sculpture, wall-mounted collection and an entrance sculpture, Lenore said.
The entrance sculpture Lenore proposed is a takeoff on an old photo of a truck shaped like a potato lettered with the words “Eat LI Potatoes.
“We’d love to recreate this and have it by the sign so that it becomes a landmark and it means something — its not just a potato mobile. There’s history here, there’s meaning.”
That got a mixed reception from the audience. One person, concerned that the North Fork’s attractions were becoming “sort of a carnival atmosphere,” said it “might be a little too kitschy.” Louise Harrison of Save the Sound expressed concern that a roadside icon like the potato would be something people would want to stop to take pictures at and it could cause traffic congestion.
“Nothing is finalized,” Horsley said. “We are looking for ideas from you as community experts. If you don’t like the potato, we’ll go elsewhere.”
Juan Miceli-Martinez of Martha Clara Vineyards, located across the road from the park, expressed concern that visitors will park at the vineyard to access the park on days when it’s closed.
Traffic concerns were expressed by several members of the audience, including Southold Supervisor Scott Russell and Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter.
Russell asked if the state conducted a traffic analysis on issues of ingress and egress on Sound Avenue. An engineer said the analysis was done and resulted in the reconfiguration of the entrance. “We believe it should work,” he told the supervisor.
Russell also asked if the state could impose “blackout dates” for events at the conference center so that events there would not add to traffic congestion at peak days and times of year such as weekends during “pumpkin season.”
Walter, who had previously expressed concern that the state was building what he called a “rest stop” on the North Fork, said his worries persist about traffic congestion in the area of the park entrance.
“I think it’s a beautiful park and it is going to be an asset for the local residents,” Walter said after the meeting. “That being said, I think there’s going to be traffic problems associated with the bathrooms during the pumpkin hunting season. Hopefully the State of New York will work to rectify any problems that may come up,” he said.