Friends of the Bay wants an area near the harbor...

Friends of the Bay wants an area near the harbor that contains streams and the remnants of an old grist mill and Nassau's first electricity generating plant to become a historical and ecological park. (Nov. 18, 2011) Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

If the Oyster Bay environmental group Friends of the Bay has its way, an area near the harbor that contains streams and the remnants of an old grist mill and Nassau's first electricity-generating plant will become a historical and ecological park.

The cleanup and restoration of the area between the harbor and nearby Mill Pond is one of the initiatives outlined in the organization's watershed protection plan for the Oyster Bay-Cold Spring Harbor estuary released last month.

The group hopes to gain ownership or access to the abandoned hydropower plant from the Long Island Power Authority and restore the structure as a museum.

If grant money can be obtained, a trail with informational signs would be constructed beginning at Beekman Beach on the harbor. The trail would run south along the eastern edge of the Mill River -- also known as Mill Pond Outflow -- past the hydropower plant to the ruins of the grist mill at the northern edge of West Main Street. Then it would follow Lake Avenue along the west side of Mill Pond and down to Glen Cove Road, which leads to Mill River Road and the Mill Overlook property owned by the Town of Oyster Bay, which plans to use it as a passive park.

A spur of the trail would connect to the Mill Pond House; the structure, which dates to about 1668, has been purchased by the town and will probably be restored to be used as office space.

"Our water bodies around here have been hidden and disregarded for so long that people have forgotten about them," said Friends of the Bay executive director Patricia Aitken.

The park-trail project would follow an initial phase of work to restore closer to their natural state the mouth of Mill River and Beekman Creek, which flows into it. Friends of the Bay has received a $40,000 grant from the Long Island Sound Futures Fund to plan the initial phase of that work. It would entail uncovering the creek where it runs east-west underneath the parking lot at Beekman Beach so the natural trout population upstream -- which will not swim underground -- can reach Oyster Bay and improve its reproduction.

Friends of the Bay board president Barry Lamb of Bayville believes the entire project is doable because "there's no private land involved."

According to town historian John Hammond, the Oyster Bay Electric Light & Power Company hydropower plant began operation in 1892. It was taken over by Nassau Light and Power Company in 1905. Hammond said it's not clear when the plant ceased operating, but the brick building is now overgrown and missing its roof.

"LIPA would be more than willing to meet with the Friends of the Bay to discuss their proposed use of the site," said spokeswoman Vanessa Baird-Streeter.

The mill ruins are from a wheat-grinding structure built about 1906 and destroyed by fire about 1923 without ever having operated commercially, Hammond said.

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