By Mike Busch
For as long as almost anyone alive today can remember, Bellport residents were able to “Hoop the Dock” and look across the bay and see the Pattersquash Gun Club perched on a small island between Fire Island and the mainland.
The Gun Club, established in 1922, is considered one of the oldest on the East Coast. Unfortunately what was known as the “shack” by members was put at risk after Hurricane Sandy created the new wilderness breach at Old Inlet right outside the front door.
The video below was taken as the inlet was still being carved out by massive waves.
Surprisingly enough, the structure took very little damage during the actual storm as you can see in the photo below, taken two days after the inlet opened.
For the next four months the house stood defiantly as the new inlet brought swift ocean currents by Pelican Island, the place where one version or another of the shack had stood except for brief periods for rebuilding after the Hurricane of 1938 and a fire in the 80’s.
After a series of nor’easter’s with extraordinary tides finally knocked the building off its foundation, plans had to be made to #1 remove the house and #2 make arrangements for a replacement if possible.
At this point one thing was certain, every effort would be made to rebuild the shack once again.
Club President Frank Miller tells me that nearly everyday since the shack went down someone would ask “Frank, when are you going to rebuild?”
While the club only has 60 members, hundreds of people showed up at Bellport Country Club to raise the money to rebuild. You don’t have to hunt to appreciate the way of life the shack represents.
Gun club members, with the community behind them, got right to work on submitting proposals to all interested jurisdictions that included the Town of Brookhaven, New York State DEC, Fire Island National Seashore and Bellport Village.
After $50,000 of donations were raised, plans were drawn up and an environmentally conscious proposal was finally approved by the town of Brookhaven Last Thursday.
Both the club and all of the agencies involved agreed that protection of the natural environment would be paramount before any approval would be granted. To that end, the new location, East of Bellport Beach on Quanch Island, is on relatively barren land where no piping plovers or other wildlife will be effected.
Other features of the new house include a custom designed composting toilet. According to Frank “The toilet is eco friendly, no nitrogen will be released in the bay”.
Another requirement was special fiberglass decking that allows light to filter through to the plant life below.
No dredging will be allowed at the site and the house will have to be available for use by stranded boaters and hunters.
Frank tells me they also plan on restoring the Osprey Pole and nest that finally fell down as Pelican Island disappeared last Fall.
There are still a few final permits to be granted but if all goes well construction will start in the Fall with the members building the structure themselves with no heavy equipment.
As someone that grew up in Bellport, Old Inlet was a huge part of my life. When the breach destroyed our dock and beach it was a huge loss. To see the shack finally carted away on a barge was extra salt in the wound.
Of course I am happy with the improved water quality in the bay due to the inlet but I would be lying if I said it didn’t hurt to lose our beach and the Gun Club.
Personally I am thrilled that the shack will rise once again.
Below are images and videos that I have taken going back to 2005 that show the Gun Club before and after Sandy. Check out all three pages if you have the time.
Check out page 2 for images and video after the storm.