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Old Barge Site Returns to Boat Ramp Roots With State Purchase

DEC buys Old Barge restaurant site in Southold to convert back into public access for boating and fishing on Peconic Bay.

When the Denson family bought the Old Barge site in Southold with sweeping views of Peconic Bay in 1938, then dragged an old World War II ammunition barge onto the property, they used it as a fishing station.

Now, under state ownership, the property that was most recently a popular seaside seafood restaurant will once again serve the fishing and boating public.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation announced Tuesday that the state has purchased the 3.2-acre waterfront property off of Old Main Road, located just to the east of A Lure Restaurant, from the Reiter family of Mattituck with the intention of provide public fishing and recreational boating access to the Peconic Bay. The DEC anticipates making improvements to the property over the next several years.

The purchase was funded entirely with non-state sources, including a Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and a generous charitable donation from the Carl D. and Helen Reiter family. The fair market value of the property is $2 million.

“Gov. Cuomo appreciates the extreme generosity of the Reiter and Reiter-Denson families, and their commitment to the environment and maritime heritage of Southold," DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said in a statement. "Without their donation, this acquisition could not have come about. The property will be used to provide enhanced public access to Peconic Bay, an estuary of national significance.”

The site will be DEC’s first and only waterway access site on the Peconic Bay. When completed, the property is planned to include a public boat ramp, wash down station, and canoe and kayak launch. All amenities will be universally accessible and available to the general public.

“The sale to the state aligns well with our parents’ core values,” Carol Denson, manager of the property for the family, said in a statement. “The creation of a site on the Peconic Bay makes our precious natural resources accessible to the public and captures the longstanding marine culture of this community.”

Denson added that her family was inspired by the DEC’s boat ramp to the Mattituck Inlet in their decision to sell to the state. The former Old Barge restaurant, which has been closed and vacant on Peconic Bay in Southold for about three years now, was also considered by the Town of Southold in December of 2011 as an educational center for aquaculture run by the Suffolk County Marine Learning Center, which currently runs a busy facility on Cedar Beach in Southold.

But Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell said in a statement that he is happy with this decision.

“The Town of Southold is very pleased that the DEC had the vision to purchase the Old Barge site from the Reiter family, enabling Southold residents and visitors public fishing and recreational boating access to the Peconic Bay,” he said.

The Department of Environmental Conservation has successfully used Sport Fish Restoration funding to develop and maintain its other Long Island Waterway Access Sites (“WAS”), including Mattituck Inlet WAS, Oyster Ponds WAS (East Marion), Oyster Bay Western Waterfront WAS, and Moriches Bay WAS. However, this is the first time DEC has used Sport Fish Restoration funds to acquire a marine access site.

What do you think? Tell us in the comments.

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Erin Schultz January 16, 2013 at 01:05 PM
Linda Sullivan Auriemma said on Facebook: "I think this will be a good thing & the property is an eyesore doing nothing right now."
Deborah Kusa January 16, 2013 at 03:20 PM
Bittersweet news this is for the property since, in my opinion, the presence of an aquaculture facility at the site would be more in character with what our Town needs to continue a path toward preservation of the the waterways than promoting more out-of-town traffic to overrun Southold roadways in the summer. The aquaculture facility would also have provided more long term jobs, both professional and skilled labor, than a DEC launch site I would imagine. On a more sentimental note, The Old Barge was THE place for special family outings way when I was a kid. With such a big family we couldn't go out often, yet when we did, it was to the Old Barge.
Rick & Linda Kedenburg January 16, 2013 at 04:20 PM
Hi Deb, Linda & I could not agree more about job creation and the downside of more traffic. Sentimentally yes, we will miss seeing the Skimmers, Terns and other birds as we have dinner. Seafood Fra Diavolo is not the same without the creaky floor and water view. I too remember it in my youth and the controversy as to it or Armondo's being the original barge. Rick & Linda
Erin Schultz January 17, 2013 at 06:46 PM
New Suffolk Waterfront said on Facebook: "If you haven't seen the DEC's handiwork on the Mattituck inlet, go take a look. It's quite impressive."
scott russell January 20, 2013 at 03:06 PM
Hi Deborah. Little did we know that when we presented our concept to the Town Board the property was already in contract with the DEC. Either way, I did talk to Peter Scully about the ideas we had for the site and he assured me that his agency would give them some consideration. Scott


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