Riverhead’s cardboard boat race, an summer annual event since 2010, won’t be taking place this year — and town officials and the organizers of the event are at odds about why it’s not happening.

Officials, who pulled the plug on the event’s original June 26 date over concerns about low tides, water quality and the prospect of another massive bunker kill this year, blamed the organizers’ “hectic schedules” for not being able to reschedule the event this summer.

“It is really sad that the founding volunteers have very hectic schedules and have no other dates that work for them,” Councilman James Wooten said today, echoing what town officials said in June when the cancellation, initially called a postponement, was first announced.

But Supervisor Sean Walter hinted in June that the event might not take place at all.

“I hate to say it, but it is possible we may not be able to have the race this year if the volunteers and the tides and the water quality don’t align,” Walter said in June.

Former councilman George Gabrielsen who along with members of his family and members of the Zaneski family, organized the event since its founding, was angered by officials’ remarks.

“There’s one reason and only one reason why we’re not having the cardboard boat race this year and that’s the town board canceled it without even talking to the committee, the organizers,” said Gabrielsen, who was clearly very upset.

The ex-councilman said he had no contact with the town board since May, and then the the event was discussed and its fate decided at a town board work session without inviting anyone on the committee to join the conversation.

The committee had already decided to start the race an hour later than the traditional 12 noon start time to accommodate the tides,” he said.

“All the effort and work put into organizing it and many of us found out about it online,” Gabrielsen of the board’s decision not to go forward with the June 26 date.

“We had thought about the tide. We were watching the water quality and the fish in the river. Suddenly they’re the experts?” he asked.

“We went down there that Sunday at 1 p.m. and it was perfect conditions. It was a perfect day for the race,” Gabrielsen said.

“Am I busy? Are we all busy? Yes,” he said. “But that’s not why its not happening. It’s not happening because the town board pulled the rug out from under us.”

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.