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Cupsogue Beach pavilion to be rebuilt, but may take years, Bellone says

Cupsogue Beach County Park in Westhampton on Sunday,

Cupsogue Beach County Park in Westhampton on Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, the morning after a fire engulfed the park pavilion. Credit: Matthew Adams

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone vowed Cupsogue Beach would be ready for use next summer, but it may start with temporary facilities to replace those destroyed by a weekend fire.

Bellone said the county park's 40-year-old pavilion, valued at $1.7 million, would be replaced. But Public Works Commissioner Gil Anderson said a new structure was likely to cost more than that amount and may take two to three years to complete.

The Saturday night fire left only a couple of sections of the pavilion wall standing. It also damaged one-third to one-half of the boardwalk, officials said. How much of the walkway leading to the beach and to the parking lot can be salvaged hasn't been determined.

The 296-acre Cupsogue park, located at the end of Dune Road in West Hampton Dunes, is one of Suffolk's two popular ocean beaches. Cupsogue and Smith Point County Park draw 110,000 beachgoers a year and generate $417,000 in revenues from parking, camping and concessions.

The blaze brought out 250 firefighters from 20 departments. The fire, which started around 8 p.m., was brought under control at 1 a.m., said Justin Meyers, Bellone's spokesman. The Suffolk police department Arson Squad is leading the investigation but has not yet determined a cause for the fire, officials said.

Meyers said there is insurance coverage for the structure loss, but the county, which is largely self-insured, has a $700,000 deductible on the building. The concessionaire, Beach Hut, is not required to carry fire insurance but must have a general liability policy.

Replacing the pavilion will cost more than the old facility's $1.7 million value because code changes require the county to make upgrades in new construction, Anderson said. He also said the county is likely to bring in public water, not available when the building was first constructed.

County officials must first meet with state Department of Environmental Conservation about building on the beach, then draft plans and put the project out to bid, Anderson said. Construction is expected to take about a year.

Fred Marsilio, co-owner of Beach Hut, which started at Cupsogue 16 years ago, pledged to come back with some level of food service next year whether a new pavilion is ready or not.

"People are already crying about what they'll be missing," he said. "We've made a commitment to come back and do what we do and do it even better."

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