Two years ago, Riverhead Town highway workers demolished the old Weeping Willow Motel on West Main Street in an effort to let people see the Peconic River as they approached the town’s business district.
Today, the half-acre property — now a grassy field with two benches and a permeable stone parking lot that allows rainwater to enter the ground — will open officially with a ceremonial ribbon cutting scheduled for 1 p.m. But for motorists driving past, the view will be mostly of the grass and the two stately willow trees that stand along the shoreline and gave the motel its name.
They won’t actually see much of the river until the leaves fall.
Getting rid of the half-century-old redbrick eyesore and its leaking septic system was a priority of the town when it purchased the motel property in 2009 for $1.25 million. The state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation gave Riverhead a $500,000 grant to create the open space and improve the river habitat. Cornell Cooperative Extension provided the picnic tables and trash receptacles.
The river is so narrow by the motel that an adult can easily throw a rock to the other side, which would land somewhere in Southampton; at that point, the Peconic River divides the two towns.