Lake Agawam Park Plan Sparks Debate in Southampton
A plan to revitalize Lake Agawam made waves at a recent Village of Southampton public hearing, as proponents touted environmental benefits and critics decried the proposed closure of Pond Lane.
The plan would convert Pond Lane into a 25-foot vegetative buffer along the lake with new walking and bike paths and a buffer that eliminates toxic runoff. Other project goals include deploying a new algae harvester in Doscher Park that cleans 3 million gallons of water annually in the lake, which has seen dangerous levels of toxic blue-green algae.
“It’s sort of an embarrassment that one of the wealthiest communities in the United States has one of the sickest lakes,” Lake Agawam Conservancy President Bob Giuffra said in outlining the plan. “This algae harvester is a huge game changer which is going to take a lake that people don’t use and make it one they will want to use.”
The hearing yielded mixed comments from Southampton residents. Lori Carson called the proposal, “one of the most polarizing and divisive plans to come before the village in my lifetime.” Sheila Pifer spoke in favor of the access the plan provides, stating, “what it will become is the entire village’s backyard.”
Erin Hatrick Meaney, who suggested that the description of Pond Lane as dangerous was a “wild overstatement,” presented a petition signed by 1,500 people opposing the plan.
Experts maintain that the plan would improve the community.
“This project is being designed in such a way to protect public health, and to improve the quality of water and the ecosystem within Lake Agawam,” Dr. Chris Gobler, a Stony Brook University professor and director of the New York State Center for Clean Water Technology. “That’s been something that’s been a lifelong effort for me.”
Giuffra added, “We want to get as much community input as we possibly can to get this right.”