Five Fire Island National Seashore maintenance projects may just get the help they need under the bipartisan Great American Outdoors Act, which guarantees funding for federal land-use efforts.
President Donald Trump signed the act earlier this month, which allocates $900 million a year to the Land and Water Conservation Fund and provides up to $9.5 billion over five years. The funds will help ease backlogged maintenance projects at national parks.
“I think the funding mechanisms to restore, repair and rehab the projects weren’t there,” said FINS superintendent Alex Romero. “The act is that funding stream that will allow us to address our deferred maintenance systems.”
Romero should know. He’s spent 29 years in various park service roles. “The maintenance backlog in the National Park system is very long,” he added.
FINS projects of highest concern include restoring and preserving historic build- ings and maintaining access to visitor sites at Fire Island. That includes the William Floyd Estate, Fire Island Lighthouse, the Carrington Main House and Cottage, the bulkhead at Watch Hill, and dredging the boat channels to Sailors Haven Marina, Watch Hill, and Talisman.
The base budget for the projects is $5,203,000.
While the act is more than welcome, Romero said FINS has to submit their requests through a process before monies are approved and allocated. But, “This should be noted as a huge accomplishment,” he said of the bill. “I honestly think it’s an incredible opportunity to address structures for the future public to enjoy.”
Romero ticked off specifics.
“At the William Floyd Estate, the structure needs stabilization and rehab,” Romero said of the 300-year-old, 25-room building. The Old Mastic House was the home of William Floyd, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and his family. “We just completed a condition assessment of the bricks and mortar, plumbing, electrical, HVAC, humidity control and fire suppression,” Romero said. “And we need a complete overhaul.”
“With the Fire Island Lighthouse, [built in 1858] we are studying the outer shell, or shotcrete, and there’s analysis to detail the contraction and expansion with different climates and their effects on the inner structure and water seepage,” he continued. “That will tell us what’s needed.”
Watch Hill bulkheading needs replacement, he said; there’s erosion behind the bulkheads. “It’s a safe haven for boaters,” Romero pointed out. And because sediment fills in the boat channels, ferry access is threatened every few years to the three already mentioned sites.
The Carrington Main House was once owned by theater director Frank Carrington. The main house was constructed in 1910 and the cottage consists of two historic lifesaving service buildings that were moved and adjoined in the 1940s.
“The Carrington Tract is a spot of land between Cherry Grove and the Pines,” Romero said. “Frank Carrington allowed people to stay or vacation at his home, and some of them included actors Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn, as well as author Truman Capote, who wrote ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ there. We want to restore the cottage and create an artist residence there, as well as an exhibit on LGBTQ history shared between the Pines and Cherry Grove.”
The William Floyd Estate, Fire Island Lighthouse and the Carrington Main House and Cottage are all listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Romero hosted several visitors via a familiarization tour to view FINS’ specific maintenance issues, including congressman Lee Zeldin’s district director Mark Woolley and Sen. Charles Schumer’s Long Island regional director Garrett W. Armwood, as well as deputy Suffolk County executive Lisa Black and Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s regional representative Theresa Santoro. Their visits, he said, were inquiring and lengthy.