Bellport Village may relax its residency restrictions in order to allow educational groups to ride the village ferry back and forth to Fire Island during off-peak months.
Interest in Fire Island near the village-owned Ho-Hum Beach has built among biologists and environmentalists looking to better explore the breach Superstorm Sandy tore open in 2012.
“We’re looking at ways to utilize the ferry during the weekdays in the months of May and June, when the kids are in school and the ferry just sits there during the week,” said Bellport Village mayor Ray Fell. “And then again in September.”
Village Board members discussed the idea Monday night, just a few days after an educational outing to Fire Island via the village’s ferry Thursday.
Powers, a village resident who also teaches school children and visitors to Long Island about its environment through his Your Connection to Nature company, said he much preferred approaching the inlet from Ho-Hum Beach.
“I honestly just don’t like that way [from Smith Point]. The parking lot is just enormous,” he said. “There’s a huge amount of people and beach traffic. Then I’m trying to teach a class and I have beach-goers joining in and giving their opinions. We’re supposed to be on a wilderness trip and we pull up to the lot and it’s like, ‘This is wilderness?'”
The trip to the isolated Ho-Hum, and then the 40-minute walk east, is just the opposite.
“To take people to a place on Long Island, which is otherwise so dense with people, to a place where you can feel so isolated, it’s a gift to be able to give that to people,” Powers said.
He also said the western side of the inlet, closer to Bellport, is safer for exploring.
“The other side you’re literally on the cutting edge, and the current can sweep you away,” he said. “This side there’s a back eddy and sandbars and shallowness, so from a safety standpoint I really appreciated that.”
Fell said the village would need to figure out whether to arrange for the trips through a charter program, or just charge each of the ferry passengers non-resident ticket prices, which is how Powers made his arrangement.
Fell and the other Village Board members said Monday night they probably wouldn’t start any new program until next year.
The 42-person ferry to Ho-Hum Beach, called the Whalehouse Point is reserved for residents and their guests.
Click here for more information, including the ferry schedules, or call Bellport Village Hall at 286-0327.
Photo 1: Bellport Village’s Whaelhouse Point docked at the village marina Tuesday morning. (Credit: Michael White)