Three years after the shuttered Bavarian Inn was torn down, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone on Wednesday announced plans to clean up the abandoned site overlooking Lake Ronkonkoma.
Surrounded by local officials and residents during a news conference, Bellone said the Smithtown Boulevard property’s crumbling asphalt parking lot will be removed, and cesspools will be filled to improve safety. County officials plan to work with community leaders to develop a master plan that will determine future uses of the site, Bellone said.
Many local officials and residents have said they would like to see a park developed there.
“This is a spectacular site,” Bellone said in an interview, adding that the lake decades ago had been a resort area lined by hotels and restaurants.
The Bavarian Inn, once a popular dining hall that hosted wedding receptions and school dances, was demolished in 2013, after it had been shut down six years earlier due to flooding and other problems. Suffolk seized the property, which straddles the border of Smithtown and Brookhaven towns, because its owner owed back taxes.
Since then, efforts to address environmental problems at the site have been underway, but other plans to redevelop the property — such as building a park and adding a boat launch — have languished.
Dozens of local residents expressed their frustration to Bellone and other officials during a community meeting in July, said Evelyn Vollgraff, 67, a Holbrook resident who grew up near the lake. She and others spearheaded volunteer efforts to clean up the site this summer. Another cleanup is scheduled for 9 a.m. Saturday.
“I’d like to see it become a county park with some kind of a water filtration system, then eventually people can come play,” Vollgraff said.
Bellone could not cite estimated costs for the clean up, but he said the work would begin soon. He said the county is seeking federal grants to upgrade sewage treatment systems.
Stormwater runoff and wastewater from the site have contributed to pollution and elevated nitrogen levels that have seriously harmed the lake, officials have said. Another source of pollution is waste produced by geese who congregate on the property.
Bellone said Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County officials have agreed to consider reducing the goose population by applying an oil that inhibits development of their eggs.
Officials lauded volunteers for cleaning up the site.
“It is community that made this happen,” Legis. Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset). “Now we’re moving forward.”