Stony Brook Creek Restoration Project is underway


After years of neglect, Stony Brook Creek is heading toward a long-awaited revitalization.

“We’re trying to save an iconic resource,” said Gloria Rocchio, president of the Ward Melville Heritage Organization (WMHO), who is leading the effort to improve the body of water.

According to Rocchio, the North Shore waterway has fallen by the wayside due to a debate over who should maintain the three acres of land that leads into the Stony Brook Harbor.

“The creek is divided between the Town of Brookhaven and Town of Smithtown, as well as owned by private property owners, nonprofits, and Suffolk County,” she explained.

Now, the groups are coming together to help out.

On Monday, the WMHO announced the rollout of the Stony Brook Creek Restoration Project, a $43,000 initiative that will remove 12,000 square feet of phragmites— an invasive seagrass that overgrows and suffocates native vegetation.

Half of the funding for the 21-day project was provided by Suffolk County through its Sales Tax Suffolk County Water Quality Protection & Restoration Program. The rest of the funds were split between WMHO and Stony Brook’s Avalon Park & Preserve.

In addition to the chopping of the seagrass, which began on Monday, the Stony Brook Creek was in need of a clean up with debris polluting the creek and harbor.

Employees from businesses such as Oakdale-based Lessing’s Hospitality Group— which owns Mirabelle at Three Village Inn— and People’s United Bank rolled up their sleeves and volunteered during Monday’s overcast weather.

“We are locally born and grown on the North and South Shore, and we’re really excited to be part of the environmental effort here,” said Michael Lessing, president of Lessing’s Hospitality Group.

The removal of debris was led by the owners of Stony Brook Marine Services, Stony Brook Harbor Kayak & Paddleboard Rental, and Stony Brookside Bed & Bike Inn.

Other than the phragmites removal and creek clean-up, it was publicized that another project is in the works that would help prevent the flooding of the Stony Brook Creek.

Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright was on hand to talk about the proposed Stony Brook Creek Stormwater Mitigation Project, a $250,000 effort funded by the county to upgrade the area’s storm discharge system.

“The new drainage system will be constructed on public land with a goal to minimize the direct discharge of pollutant-laded stormwater into our creek,” said Cartright.

Stony Brook Creek’s continual flooding due to silt build-up has caused damages to nearby infrastructures and properties, including Stony Brook’s historic grist mill, which was built in 1751.

“We can’t lose this beautiful heritage that we have here,” said Rocchio.

Elected officials will be discussing this issue at the Suffolk County Legislature at 725 Veterans Memorial Highway in Happauge on Aug. 26 in at 10:30 a.m.

Check back at GreaterPortJeff to learn more.

Scroll down to see photos from the cleaning of the creek.

Gloria Rocchio, president of the Ward Melville Heritage Organization.

Top: Michael Lessing, president of Lessing’s Hospitality Group, hoisting debris he found lodged in the Stony Brook Creek. (Credit: Nicholas Esposito)