The former Old Barge restaurant, which has been closed and vacant on Peconic Bay in Southold for a couple of years now, might soon come back to life — this time as a center for all things aquaculture.
Representatives of the approached the Southold Town Board at Tuesday’s work session about using the site as a marine educational center. The existing historic barge restaurant would be converted into a shellfish hatchery and office building. The creation of a public boat ramp was also discussed at the meeting.
The town is considering buying the property, which is still privately owned, in order to assist the group.
“We have an opportunity to preserve the marine heritage of Southold here at this site,” said Chris Smith of the Marine Learning Center. “I think this is a rare and significant opportunity for the Town to support the goals of the master plan and the goals of the waterfront revitalization program."
The property is currently zoned Marine 2, which allows for the proposed bay scallop aquaculture program, classroom activity, office space, dockage for boats and small exhibit museum space — everything that currently exists at the marine center’sfacility in Southold.
“But the water quality at the Old Barge site is superior to the dead-end canals we deal with at Cedar Beach,” Smith said. “It’s right on the open bay — we wouldn’t have to deal with oxygen issues like we do now when the water heats up in July.”
Since 1982, the Town Trustees have partnered with the county and to develop shellfish hatcheries, eel grass restoration and stormwater runoff prevention projects. Supervisor Scott Russell said he thought that the aquaculture center would be a good use for the site, which he didn’t think could re-establish itself as the successful restaurant it once was.
“This a very broad view of what can be done there, and maybe it can’t be done all at once,” he said. “But if we invest in this, we’re investing in aquaculture — we’ve invested quite a bit in agriculture over the years. And a public boat ramp would help all baymen, it would take the pressure off existing locations.”
With support of the board, the issue will go to a committee and will be revisited at the next work session on Dec. 20.