People have worked for years to build a public swimming facility for the Town of Southampton. My continued involvement emanates from the senseless deaths of two of my students who drowned when I was high school principal in Southampton.
As president of the Southampton Town Aquatics & Recreation (STAR), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, I re-invigorated the effort three years ago. The mission of STAR is to enhance the wellness and water safety of our coastal community by providing an indoor pool and fitness center — the STAR AquaCenter. This center will offer high-quality, affordable programs and services that fully engage the community in aquatic and land-based fitness activities.
It will not impact taxes (all funds will be raised privately) nor take property off the tax roll, which did happen two years ago, when it was purchased with Community Preservation Fund revenues for the express use as land for “parks and recreation.”
On July 2, we made a presentation requesting that the property at 344 Magee Street in Tuckahoe be dedicated a site for this community pool facility. This came after much research on the location that would afford optimal usage and access to the facility.
We had professional analysis of the features of the Downs Family Park, Moses Lane Park, Red Creek Park and the property at 344 Magee Street. Each parcel has issues, and all would have traffic considerations. However, the Magee Street property, with 5.8 acres, would allow us to most effectively build and buffer the facility, especially with two sides adjoining commercial properties, and also the parcel being one lot from the highway.
On August 25 and September 8, additional hearings were held to amend the CPF plan for the Magee Street location to include an aquatic facility under a “parks and recreation” designation. The hearing was left open for further input until September 22.
It will probably be two years from the point when we secure the majority of funds to the day when we can open the doors to the public. We intend to use this time to learn more about COVID-19 and how to plan the construction of our facility to serve and safeguard all users.
As of September 8, the town had received 38 letters of support for the AquaCenter at the Tuckahoe location. However, some people in Tuckahoe do not want this community aquatic center in their “backyard.” Ironically, Tuckahoe students and families would have the most to gain from the opportunities for easy access at the Magee Street location.
Traffic will always be with us! The only question is: Do we want traffic and an aquatic facility, or traffic and no facility?
For further information, please go to our website, staraquacenter.org.
Josephine DeVincenzi, Ed.D.
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