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Replacement of dining hall at Peconic Dunes County Park considered

The dining hall at Peconic Dunes 4-H Camp

The dining hall at Peconic Dunes 4-H Camp in Southold is seen on Friday. Credit: Randee Daddona

A popular park in Southold whose dining hall building has fallen into disrepair could potentially receive nearly $1 million in Suffolk County bond funding to build a multipurpose building to replace it.

The Suffolk County Legislature is scheduled to vote Tuesday on whether to authorize $950,000 in county serial bonds for improvements at the 36-acre Peconic Dunes County Park on Soundview Avenue in Peconic which Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County has operated since 2003. The money would primarily pay for the new building and a kitchen, where children who camp at the park through Cornell-sponsored programs could eat meals.

Arthur Leudesdorf, chairman of Southold’s Parks, Beaches and Recreation Committee, said in an interview on Thursday that improving the park was crucial, especially for providing local children and youths with more recreational options.

“Young people are getting less places to stay in since churches have cut back as far as having involvement with scouting,” Leudesdorf said. “We need a place for the young people to exercise and play under the guidance of adults.”

Over time, the dining hall at the park’s building fell into disrepair, and Suffolk County Department of Parks officials eventually deemed it unusable. Since that time, there have been plans to rebuild or repair that building but those fell through in part due to high project cost estimates attached to such proposals.

Legis. Al. Krupski (D-Cutchogue) said in an interview on Wednesday he felt the current proposal was more economically feasible and appropriate.

The park has had a history of serving as a destination for children and youths. In 1923, Dr. Ludvia Margaret Willard built a camp for girls there known as Camp Dunes. Female campers there were able to swim, playact, and go boating, along with other activities. Then in 1931, Willard sold her camp to Thomas and Lois Ward, who would operate the camp for the next 40 years and include boys, as well as devoting a week for children with special needs.

The parks department took over camp operations in 1971 and reopened it as Peconic Dunes Camp. The county partnered with 4-H, a program under Cornell Cooperative Extension where youths can participate in recreational activities through school and community clubs, after-school programs and camps.

Krupski said if funding is approved, construction would probably start in the fall at the earliest. Once finished, Krupski, who grew up roughly a mile from the park, said he hoped the improvements would enhance the seasonal use of the park.

“The geography of the place is really wonderful. It’s in the middle of a lot of preserved land that the county and town have spent a lot of money preserving. It’s a beautiful spot,” Krupski said of the park.

Representatives from Cornell Cooperative Extension did not immediately return requests for comment.

Southold Supervisor Scott Russell said he felt fixing the park would be a “very worthwhile” project.

“It’s a very important facility, particularly for younger people and families, and I think it’s money well spent,” Russell said.

Peconic Dunes 4-H Camp

  • Operated by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk, the park is home to its Peconic Dunes 4-H Camp and offers hiking and fishing for visitors.
  • The Suffolk County Department of Parks, Recreation, and Conservation took over operations of the camp and park in 1971.
  • The goals of the camp include teaching children about such things as environmental science and outdoor skills, giving campers a balance of activity, nutrition and rest, and giving them a chance to make friends and have fun, according to the camp’s website.
  • Camp-related programs — including day time and overnight camp programs, sailing and counselors-in-training — normally start in late June and end in late August.

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