A construction project to fortify the shoreline near Baldwin Harbor Town Park is expected to move forward in the coming months.
Town of Hempstead Engineering Commissioner Doug Tuman said at a Baldwin Chamber of Commerce meeting this month that changes were made to the original plans based on feedback from local residents. Public comments were accepted until recently.
At a public meeting in January, engineering officials and residents discussed the original design elements of the Baldwin Harbor Park Shoreline Stabilization Project, a $4.5 million effort to enhance storm protection along the shore that would also create a nature walk in the area that many residents know as the former BOCES site.
The project, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and administered by the New York State Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery, aims to protect the waterfront community from storms like Hurricane Sandy, which ravaged the South Shore, including Baldwin, in 2012.
The property in question was described as abandoned, barren land, with soil erosion and a crumbling bulkhead along Oakwood Canal and Middle Bay.
The project calls for a new timber and vinyl bulkhead to replace the existing one, as well as the creation of a “living shoreline,” a stabilized coastal edge made of plants and rock. The bulkhead is designed to withstand wave energy and high winds, while the shoreline will promote stabilization and calmer water.
Additionally, thousands of plantings — including marsh grass, shrubs and trees — are planned for the area.
“We’re going to be building, essentially, a nature walk around the peninsula and fortifying the shoreline,” Tuman explained, with “the living shoreline kind of being a wetlands area, so it’s less intrusive to the environment. People that live in Baldwin can go down to the park, walk along this nice promenade and view the shoreline, and it’s turning this old BOCES site into something which I think is going to be a great asset to the community.”
In response to residents’ feedback, a gravel path, to be created for public pedestrian access, was moved to the western side of the property “so that it’d be less intrusive to the people that live on the other side of the canal, so they don’t feel like [park-goers are] right in their backyard,” Tuman said.
A kayak launch was relocated to the southern end of the site to provide access to the canal, and a gravel parking lot that was intended to fit about 20 spaces was removed from the plans.
“Making South Shore communities like Baldwin more resilient and protected from future hurricanes and major storms is critical to the future of America’s largest township,” Hempstead Town Supervisor Don Clavin said in a statement. “Through the $4.5 million grant secured through the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery, we’ve been successful in working with neighbors on a project that best fits the needs and the characteristics of this shoreline community.”
“This is a fine example of collaboration between the community and local government — the neighbors of Baldwin spoke up and we listened,” Town Councilman Chris Carini said in a statement. “It is our duty to work together to ensure that these funds are spent wisely and in the most effective manner to safeguard this coastal community and protect residents from future storms.”
Tuman said a great deal of positive feedback came in when public comments were being accepted through the town’s website. But at the January meeting, prior to the changes to the plans, a number of residents shared concerns about privacy and disturbing the existing animals living there. And some residents are still concerned.
Hareesha Boyagodage, a Baldwin business owner who lives on the canal, said he and some of his neighbors do not like the idea of a kayak launch that is accessible to the public.
“If the town wants to do a kayak launch, there are plenty of places in Baldwin park that have natural beaches,” he said, suggesting the beach to the side of the baseball fields in the park.
Residents would also rather see a bulkhead stretch across the length of the project, Boyagodage added, rather than a living shoreline.
Tuman said the town would enter the construction phase potentially within the next three months.