Thursday, March 31, 2011

Orchard Beach Sand Reclamation

There has been a lot of work taking place this winter at Orchard Beach in the Bronx. The NYC Parks Department has partnered with the U.S. Corps of Engineers to replace lost sand and combat further beach erosion along this 1.1 mile city beach. Officially known as the Orchard Beach Shoreline Protection Project, it is the first time sand has been replenished here since 1964.
Like many of Long Island Sound's larger parks, the beach here is not natural. Built in the 1930's, sand was brought in from Sandy Hook, N.J. and Rockaway Beach, N.Y. to create this crescent shaped city beach. Over time, the sand has eroded, exposing the more natural, rocky shoreline below.
Earlier this month, the City Of New York released a comprehensive waterfront plan entitled Vision 2020. According to the report, the goal establishes a set of actions for
"realizing our waterfront and waterways as a world-class destination, a globally competitive port, and a rich and vital natural resource that draws all New Yorkers to its edge and onto the water.
The Action Agenda includes 130 specific, high-priority projects that demonstrate the City’s commitment to investing in the transformation of the waterfront."

This sand reclamation project at Orchard Beach is one of the projects listed in the report.
So far, so good!

Waterfront Action Agenda: Vision 2020
Soundbounder: Extremes IV
Soundbounder: Pelham Bay Park
Soundbounder: Orchard Beach Lagoon

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Wolf Larsen

Sometimes when snowflakes are falling and the winds are howling, I find myself thinking about Wolf Larsen. No, not the antagonistic character from the Jack London novel Sea Wolf, but instead a former fishing rig of the same name, anchored in the Price's Bend section of Northport Harbor. Brutal and cynical, yet also highly intelligent, she is appropriately named.
I first saw Wolf Larsen several summers ago while anchored here waiting for an August storm to pass. Her outriggers and design stood apart from the cabin cruisers and sailboats surrounding her. There was no activity aboard, and it appeared that there hadn't been any in a long time. Cormorants and herons had assumed ownership with two large nests atop the pilot house. 
Returning here again (by land) in early December, the other boats were long gone, but not Wolf Larsen. There she was, still moored, with her bow pointing into the northwest winds as some early season snowflakes blew around. Was she spending her entire winter at Prices Bend? I don't know.
I do know that when I arrived at Hobart Beach on a blustery March day, I saw her again. Still standing proud, attached to her mooring, a little bit tired, but not for show.
Sometimes it seems as if every harbor has a few of these: an owner with a dream, and not much else. There may  be grandiose plans of Caribbean travel and carefree days afloat, but in the end, divorce, layoffs, and all the other complications of life get in the way.
Old boats require money and time. We often can provide one: rarely can we offer both.
 When times are good, we have the money but wish we had the time. Then times turn bad and we have the time, but the money and the dream are all gone.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Al Bennett Pier

Al Bennett Pier, Bridgeport; March 2010

CT Coastal Access Guide: Seaside Park

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Norwottuck Rail Trail

When I look at the Connecticut River north of Hartford, I have to sometimes remind myself this is the same river where Carina spends her winter months. While I am well acquainted with the river's path from the Quebec border to Saybrook Point, I don't instinctively connect-the-dots for these agricultural and mill towns  scattered along its bank in western Massachusetts.
Northampton is approximately 75 miles north of the Sound, as the crow flies. The river however, follows a more twisted and indirect path, adding perhaps 40 miles to its flow towards Long Island Sound. If one were to paddle this portion of the river, you would spend a significant amount of time heading east and west, in order to travel south.
Thankfully, I hadn't arrived here by river-raft or canoe; I was staying at my sister's house just a few minutes away. One day last month, while she was still asleep, I took an early morning walk along the Norwottuck Rail Trail, which includes this 1879 bridge.  The ten mile, former railroad line connects the city of Northampton with Amherst, MA. According to the website, it is one of the "most popular facilities in the Pioneer Valley".

Old bridges make old noises! The frozen wood planks atop the cold steel made a sort of cracking bang with each step that echoed off the ice flow. Several times I had stopped for a moment to take in the silence, before quickly moving on. Silence may be golden, but it was cold out, and I don't like standing still.  
When I reached the east side of the bridge, I could see farm fields and the encroaching sprawl on the whitewashed horizon. It was then that I realized I had passed through here before.
Returning from Vermont last summer, I had taken a slower, more indirect route through this obscure stretch of river valley. Steering clear of the interstate, I meandered southward on county roads through tobacco farms  and vegetable fields. With the windows wide open and my bare foot on the dash, I had stopped at a small store for a seltzer and a phone call.
 It was now clear to me that the same store was directly in front of me.

It's strange how people and places of little significance can reappear later in life, under completely different circumstances. A negative streak intersects with a previous, unrelated positive path. The good times and the bad get all tangled together - interwoven is too orderly a word.
This trip to Northampton didn't have the carefree feel of that late summer drive. I was passing through town on a much more serious matter. This time, the glass was half-empty and there was no way to make it half-full. The farmhouses and colonials no longer boasted an aura of riverside, orderly bliss.  Instead, I looked out at the clapboard, and wondered about the modern day turmoils taking place inside the facade. 

Norwottuck Rail Trail: website
Northampton MA: Map

Bruce Springsteen: The River