Tuesday, Jul 20, 2010
Fire Island National Seashore’s new Patchogue Ferry Terminal got a chance to test its capacity during its ribbon cutting ceremony and open house on Sunday, April 25, 2010. A forecast of showers and periods of heavy precipitation didn’t keep away a crowd who weathered the storm to help celebrate the opening of the new building and the inaugural use of its multipurpose room for the Friends of Fire Island National Seashore’s first annual art show. At least 200 people had gathered inside the new terminal for the ceremony. More than 300 people attended the event throughout the soggy afternoon.
The ceremony included remarks from Congressman Tim Bishop, who had been instrumental in securing federal funding for the project. Other local elected officials taking the stage have long family ties to Fire Island or the Patchogue River, and shared their personal connections. New York State Senator Brian X. Foley, State Assemblywoman Ginny Fields and Assemblyman Dean Murray, Suffolk County Legislator Jack Eddington, Town of Brookhaven Councilman Tim Mazzei, and Village of Patchogue Mayor Paul Pontierri each expressed their appreciation for the project and the value of Fire Island National Seashore’s facilities for their communities and Long Island. Superintendent Chris Soller expressed his gratitude for all those who had supported the project over the years.
After the ceremonial ribbon cutting, the Davis Park Ferry Company offered free boat tours down the Patchogue River. The Sherman family, which owns the company, has been providing ferry service to Fire Island since 1947. A terminal for the concession-operated passenger ferry to Watch Hill, on Fire Island, has been in operation for 30 years. A few years after Fire Island National Seashore was established in 1964, the National Park Service recognized the need for a transportation center and headquarters complex on the Patchogue River. The park’s 1977 general management plan (GMP) recommended that twelve acres of land along the river be procured for this purpose. By 1978, a former industrial site was purchased by the National Park Service, and by 1980, the first ferry service from this point to Fire Island had begun. The first terminal building was little more that a ticket booth. This booth was replaced by a shelter in 1985, and later, a small restroom facility was added. By the mid-1990s, funding had been provided to produce the plans for a ferry terminal and visitor center at this site. Eventually, funding was secured for the transportation facility and a multipurpose room. (The visitor center component was never funded.) The building was designed to be reminiscent of the historic workshop of famed boat builder Gil Smith, whose boatyard stood along the Patchogue River from the late 1800s to the early 1900s.
The new Patchogue Ferry Terminal has an interior waiting area with park orientation exhibits, additional restrooms, and space for watching the park orientation film or attending programs or meetings. The new $4.6 million 4,000 square-foot building is more than twice as large as its predecessor, and is a fitting gateway to Fire Island on the Patchogue River. Many people from the local area are not aware that they have a national park in their own back yard, and a suitable springboard may help introduce them to the wonders of the Seashore.
The variety and quality of the artwork submitted for the Friends of Fire Island National Seashore’s calendar art contest attests to the value of the seashore for so many people who have discovered Fire Island. Thirty-two pieces of art that capture “The Essence of Fire Island” were selected for the show, with winning entries selected for the nonprofit partner’s latest fundraising effort, an 18-month calendar.
Fire Island National Seashore was a recipient of the National Park Foundation's First Bloom grant this year, and the Girl Scout troops who planned and planted a native wildflower garden at the Patchogue Ferry Terminal were on hand to discuss their landscaping project for the site.
The Patchogue Ferry Terminal building was open for the FFINS art show on weekends until ferry service to Watch Hill resumed for the season by mid-May 2010. The multipurpose room has subsequently been used for park training, public meetings, and a boating safety course. Rotating exhibits are planned for the new facility.