The Island Water Park site in August 2020. File photo: Denise Civiletti

Island Water Park, a new sports and recreation facility on Middle Country Road in Calverton, did not open for Memorial Day weekend as the developer had planned.

The new park will open “hopefully middle of July,” said Island Water Park’s Eric Scott said in a phone interview last week.

Scott forecast a Memorial Day opening as recently as February, when the Riverhead Town Board granted final approval of Island Water Park’s revised site plan application filed in 2020.

“It’s just a lot of work and we were shut down for almost two years because of a COVID,” Scott told RiverheadLOCAL. “They wouldn’t do inspections up until like seven months ago,” Scott said. “We got all caught up,” he said, and work is now in full swing.

“They’re doing the parking lot, and drainage …the heating and AC now, so things are moving,” Scott said. “There was a million holdups over the years but right now there’s zero holdups. It’s just getting everything done in time.”

The town issued a stop-work order to Island Water Park in November, alleging the developer was doing construction without a site plan approval or building permits. Building and Planning Administrator Jefferson Murphree said the developer had done grading and drainage work and interior construction pouring concrete for an indoor wave pool without permits.

In February, Scott told RiverheadLOCAL everything had been cleared up.

“A Memorial Day opening is realistic,” he said at the time.

Riverhead Supervisor Yvette Aguiar denied that the town wasn’t doing inspections. “That’s not true. There were many, many inspections,” Aguiar said in a phone interview Friday.

“Riverhead was very proactive, very aggressive” during the pandemic she said, pointing to the town’s outdoor dining initiative during the pandemic. “We were on top of things,” she said.

“The delay was not on the town,” Aguiar said of Island Water Park. “He wasn’t ready to be inspected. This is a private entity that’s opening. The town does not control their progress.”

Aguiar, who has touted the project as a “mini Disneyland” that will produce big economic impacts for the town, said she is “not disappointed” by the delay. “We do not meddle in private building,” she said.

The target opening date is up to the developer as long as he meets all requirements of the town and county codes, the supervisor said. “I would never agree to fast-tracking any project and overcome any regulations imposed,” Aguiar said.

Island Water Park in February obtained approval of an amendment to a previously approved site plan. The amended approval allows a change of use for an already-built warehouse building as an indoor recreational facility. Use of the 20-acre manmade lakes on the site is restricted to a rope-tow cable system and non-motorized water sport use, including canoes, kayaks, rental sail boats and electric watercraft. The park will also feature an inflatable aqua park on the lake.

Island Water Park’s indoor recreational facility will include a surf pool, rock climbing walls, volleyball courts, an obstacle course and other indoor entertainment, as well as a fitness center, spa, pro shop and restaurants, according to documents filed with the town.

The park is expected to attract 900,000 visitors annually, according to an economic impact analysis prepared for the applicant and filed with the Riverhead Industrial Development Agency, which in November granted Island Water Park a 10—year property tax abatement.

Island Water Park purchased the 42-acre site from the Town of Riverhead in 2003 for $714,000. Located within the Enterprise Park at Calverton, it is to date the only sale consummated by the town other than the $17 million sale of the 490-acre “industrial core” to developer Jan Burman.

Island Water Park’s original plan, for which it received a DEC mining permit in 2003, was to excavate some 250,000 cubic yards of sand and soils to create two oval ponds totaling 18.8 acres. The ponds were to be lined with bentonite clay, filled with 30 million gallons of water purchased from the Riverhead Water District and used for water-skiing. The DEC permit allowed an excavation down to 46 feet above sea level, but the excavators struck groundwater at 48 feet above sea level.

After that, the company’s plans had to change, because gas-powered watercraft would no longer be allowed by the DEC due to the excavation’s incursion into the water table.

Island Water Park filed a new permit application with the DEC in 2012, seeking to reclaim the mined site by “creating a groundwater-fed recreational pond with an electric cable tow system for water skiing and wake boarding” and to “construct a restaurant, fitness center, warehouse, offices, maintenance facility and parking area.”

The DEC issued the permit and in 2013, Island Water Park obtained site plan approval from the Town of Riverhead.

That site plan was amended in February to change the use of the 49,200-square-foot building and make other changes to the layout and design of the site.

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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.