The Southampton Town Trustees will hike the cost of permits for the parking lot at the south end of Lake Agawam in Southampton Village this summer to help pay for extensive environmental and aesthetic renovations to the lakefront that will begin this fall.
The cost of the permits, which are sold by the private Southampton Bathing Corporation beach club to its members, will be increased from $75 to $100 to help pay for the estimated $300,000 project. The Trustees, who collect all of the revenue, said the beach club sells about 700 of the parking permits each summer. There are 125 parking spaces in the Trustees-owned lot.
All of the money from the sale of the permits will go into a dedicated account that will be used to pay for rebuilding the bulkhead, planting a buffer of native plant species between the parking lot and lake, the construction of two small piers and repaving the parking lot, Trustee Fred Havemeyer said at Monday’s Trustees meeting. The work is expected to begin in October.
In order to complete the entire project during the off-season, the Trustees plan to borrow against the anticipated income of selling the permits over the next few years. Mr. Havemeyer said there is already approximately $100,000 in the account from the sale of permits over the last two summers and the board expects it to be up to $175,000 by next fall.
In 2007, the Trustees took back control of the parking lot from Southampton Village, which had managed it for 45 years. The prior agreement had required that the village maintain the parking lot and split the revenues raised from selling the permits with the Trustees. But they said the village did not adequately maintain the parking lot and allowed the bulkhead that rims the lake to crumble.
“There are big holes in the bulkhead that ... allow the storm runoff to flow right into the lake,” Mr. Havemeyer said.
Lake Agawam has suffered from poor water quality for decades, resulting in numerous fish kills. In the summer the lake water turns a milky green from prolific blooms of algae. In 2007, marine biologists identified a toxic strain of algae in the water.
The parking lot is built on fill—primarily debris from the 1938 hurricane—that was dumped into the south end of the lake to widen Gin Lane. Because the parking lot falls within the former boundary of the lake, it is owned by the Trustees, who control all freshwater bodies in the town.
Scientists have blamed the poor water quality in Lake Agawam on polluted stormwater runoff that feeds into the lake from the village’s business district, as well as fertilizers from the lawns of large estates bordering the lake.
In 2008, the village and Southampton Town commissioned a management plan for protecting the lake and improving its water quality. Foremost among the recommendations was stanching the flow of runoff from village roads into the lake with the help of dry wells and vegetated buffers between roads and fertilized lawns. The natural buffer that the Trustees plan to plant along the south end of the lake would help absorb oils and other pollutants, preventing them from running off the large parking area and road.
A citizens group, the Lake Agawam Conservation Association, has also set up a website that offers tips for lakefront homeowners to minimize the impact of their properties on the lake.
Mr. Havemeyer said he has spoken with some wealthy residents of the village, including television news anchor Chuck Scarborough, who said they are looking for an issue “to get behind” and that he is hopeful that resurrecting the village’s centerpiece lake could be it.
The parking permits are required to access the lot between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. during the summer. Mr. Havemeyer said he hopes the future aesthetic improvements along the waterfront will make it a more inviting place for village residents to visit throughout the year.