Gilgo State Park in Babylon is getting a fix some say is overdue: the remains of the 1920s Coast Guard station are being removed.
The project will make conditions safer for surfers, anglers and off-road drivers and perhaps limit the costs of repeatedly pouring sand on the beach only for it to wash away.
"The debris in the sand is a safety issue," said George Gorman, regional director of Long Island state parks, referring to the stretch of darkened and battered concrete blocks that lies in the surf and on the beach in front of the entrance.
As much as 4,500 cubic yards of foundation remnants are being lifted up and out by park workers using heavy equipment over the next four to six weeks "in case it is causing erosion at that location."
Wayne Horsley, former Long Island regional director of the Office of State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, said he was thrilled that the leftover Coast Guard station was being taken away, saying: "This will go a long way to reducing the scouring of the beach west of the park."
Calling for additional upgrades, including a new inlet at that location, he said: "This should be the first step in the creation of a first-class facility at Gilgo State Park. And while looking at these improvements, they should consider the possibility of opening an inlet to better the flow of the water into the Great South Bay."
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said dredging at the Fire Island Inlet should begin in mid-November as the first nearly $54 million contract that is part of a bigger plan to protect Suffolk's South Shore. Some of that sand is expected to be poured on beaches including Gilgo.
Most recently, Gilgo was closed from Aug. 24 to Sept. 3 until sand could be restored on the beach and the entranceway that was lost with tropical storms Henri and Ida.
Located on a South Shore barrier island, the park's dunes help shield Ocean Parkway, a major thoroughfare for beachgoers and commuters, from nor'easters, although Superstorm Sandy in 2012 sliced the island in two at that location.
Rebuilding those dunes and reopening the road after Sandy cost $33 million and took months. Since then, thousands more cubic yards of sand have been spilled at Gilgo — but the result has been much the same.
To Long Island Beach Buggy Association president Klaus Rondinella, the station's removal is overdue but a longer-term solution would also be welcome, possibly installing a sand bypass or allowing a new inlet to form there.
"It's just a constant, losing the beach," he said. Removing the old Coast Guard bulkhead and foundation, he said, will make it much safer for off-road vehicles, especially at night, as they no longer will risk driving down into the "pit" of what remains of the former station.
And if someone breaks down, there should be room to drive around them, he said; now, that can cause delays that could be a problem in an emergency.