Dredging starts at Oak Orchard Harbor

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 26 August 2021 at 3:35 pm

Sediment has built up since harbor last dredged in 2014

POINT BREEZE – Dean Marine & Excavating Inc. from Michigan is dredging the Oak Orchard Harbor today. The company started on the work Wednesday and the job is expected to take about three weeks.

The dredging barge is near the breakwall at the end of the Oak Orchard channel. The harbor last was dredged in August 2014, which it was done for the first time in 10 years.

Click here to see a video of the dredging this afternoon.

The state is funding the effort as part of the Lake Ontario Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative.

The scope of the project includes:

  • Approximately 250 by 90 feet of the entrance channel will be dredged to a depth of 8 feet below low water and approximately 700 x 150 feet of the lake approach channel will be dredged to a depth of 7 feet below low water.
  • Anticipated volume of dredging is up to 8,100 cubic yards.
  • Sediment dredged from the channel will be placed in a defined area approximately 1,300 feet to the east of the entrance channel

The dredging is being done with mechanical means and the dredging fleet includes a barge, excavator, and two dump scows. One tugboat and one workboat will be used to support the overall operation. A turbidity curtain is positioned to enclose the dredge area.

Lynne Johnson, Orleans County Legislature chairwoman, said the dredging follows years of effort from the county and is part of regional dredging plan that includes many harbors on the south shore of Lake Ontario.

“As we look for ways to support and promote recreational activities along the shorelines of Lake Ontario, the dredging of Oak Orchard Harbor is vital to providing access to the over 400 boat slips and 6 launch lanes within the harbor,” Johnson said. “This project under taken by the Lake Ontario Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative demonstrates the commitment by the Governor to maintaining access to the navigable waterways that contribute to the success of the local fishing, boating and tourism activities within the Town of Carlton and Orleans County.”

Boating traffic can still use the harbor while the Oak Orchard is dredged the next three weeks.

The state has committed $15 million to have 20 harbors dredged on the southshore of Lake Ontario, including two sites in Orleans County. Besides the Oak Orchard Harbor at Point Breeze, sediment will be scooped out at Johnson Creek in Carlton near Lakeside Beach State Park.

Sunken boat at Marine Park has minor fuel leak in Oak Orchard

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 22 August 2021 at 9:58 am

Provided photo

CARLTON – A boat sunk overnight at the Orleans County Marine Park and leaked some fuel into the Oak Orchard River.

A spill response team from the state Department of Environmental Conservation will be on scene to help with the cleanup of what is described as a minor fuel spill by the Orleans County Emergency Management Office.

The Carlton Fire Department and Orleans County EMO deployed petroleum booms to contain the spill.

The owner of the boat’s insurance company has contacted a water recovery team in Rochester to get the boat out of the water. Once the boat is lifted up and the water pumped out, a cause for the boat’s sinking should be determined, said Dale Banker, EMO director for Orleans County.

Despite some rain the band played on at Marine Park

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 11 August 2021 at 8:51 am

Photos by Tom Rivers

POINT BREEZE – The Brick Band performs on Tuesday evening during a concert at the Orleans County Marine Park.

The band includes, from left: Dale Moor on lead guitar, Don Smith on drums, Ryan Klatt as lead singer and on guitar, and Steve Kennan on bass guitar.

Despite some heavy rains early in the concert around 5:30, about 100 people still attended the event which went until about 8:15 p.m. The Brick Band’s July concert had to be rescheduled due to rain. There was another washout last month and that concert by The Who Dats will be made up on Tuesday, Aug. 17, to close out the summer concert series at the Marine Park.

Ryan Klatt and the Brick Band perform “The Chair” by George Strait. The performed a number of well-known country songs.

The group is happy to be back performing at local festivals and concert series after Covid-19 restrictions wiped out most of last year’s schedule.

Dale Moor, the lead guitarist from Batavia, said the Brick Band was mostly limited to playing at campgrounds in 2020.

“There weren’t any festivals last year,” he said.

Tuesday’s concert crowd, despite smaller than usual, was energetic and danced to many of the songs.

“It’s good when you have a crowd like this,” Moor said.

Frank Panczyszyn of the Oak Orchard Neighborhood Association thanks the crowd for coming out for the concert despite the soggy conditions. The concerts typically draw about 400 people on Tuesday evenings.

Yacht Club welcomes community to open house on Sept. 11

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 8 August 2021 at 12:31 pm

Sailboats also race on Thursday evenings until Aug. 19

Photo by Ginny Kropf: Bob Hodgins, commodore of the Oak Orchard Yacht Club, and his wife Mary Lou stand in front of the sign at the Yacht club’s quarters on Archibald Road, Waterport. Since taking over as the 2021 commodore, Bob is working to promote good relationships with the community. They will host a chicken barbecue and open house for the community on Sept. 11.

WATERPORT – When Bob Hodgins took over as commodore of the Oak Orchard Yacht Club, one of the things he vowed to do was make the facility more welcoming to the community.

The Yacht Club has since invited the Oak Orchard Neighborhood Association to have a meeting there, welcomed a group of high school kids who couldn’t have a prom or graduation ceremony because of Covid and offered the facility for the initial meeting of Leadership Orleans Class of 2021.

His latest endeavor is to host an open house and chicken barbecue for the public on Sept. 11. Featured will be the club’s famous chicken barbecue or the regular menu in the restaurant.

Chicken barbecue can be ordered for takeout or pre-ordered online to be served in the restaurant – with full service on real dishes and real silverware, Hodgins said.

The bar and restaurant open at 5 p.m. and reservations must be made by logging on to the club’s website.  More information is available by calling (585) 305-6221.

In the afternoon the Corvair Club of Western New York will meet at the Yacht Club to show off their cars. Any member or guest who would like to drive a car to show it off may bring it along.

Photo by Tom Rivers: This group of boaters, including many with sailboats, were out June 30, 2016 in Lake Ontario near the Oak Orchard Harbor during one of the Thursday evening races.

In the clubhouse, tableside magic will be performed from 6 to 8 p.m., followed by live music by Fred DiCesare starting at 8 p.m.

Oak Orchard Yacht Club is actively seeking to grow its membership of both full and social members. Hodgins urges anyone interested to take this opportunity to come and visit the club, enjoy a great meal and entertainment and meet some of the members. Anyone wishing a personal tour of the club can contact them through their website.

Hodgins also wants the public to know about their regular races every Thursday evening throughout the summer. Their fleet consists of boats with a wide range of sizes, captained by a wide range of sailors. Some are very competitive and others are just out for the pleasure of sailing, Hodgins said.

The races are open to any sailboat which wants to join and have some fun. Their members’ boats are all measured and handicapped using the PHRF system. Anyone who wants to join in is welcome. If they do not have a PHRF rating, they cannot be officially scored against the rest of the fleet, but can still possibly earn some bragging rights by coming in ahead of the other boats.

Hodgins said crew are often needed and there are always opportunities to join a boat. He invites boaters to come out to sail with an experienced sailor and see how it’s done.

Anyone interested can contact the fleet captain Larry Travis by e-mail at or by cell at (561) 846-2366 for racing instructions or help connecting to one of sailors to help with a race. All experience levels are welcome.

Races start at 6:30 p.m. just outside the harbor walls to the west. Races run through Aug. 19.

Governor says Carlton shoreline project shows state committed to ‘build back better’

Photos by Tom Rivers: Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul attended the ground-breaking ceremony on Monday for a $2 million shoreline protection project along Lakeshore Road in Carlton.

Posted 27 July 2021 at 9:13 am

Press Release, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Office

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo on Monday announced construction has begun on a $2 million resiliency project in Orleans County, as part of the Governor’s Lake Ontario Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative.

Lakeshore Road in the town of Carlton is a major thoroughfare with numerous residences and is one of the main routes to Point Breeze. Wave and horizontal ice pressure have eroded the bluff adjacent to Lakeshore Road creating a hazardous situation for the roadway, public utilities, and private property.

If the road were lost to erosion, travelers would be forced to detour approximately 10 miles. This project seeks to address the erosion of the bluff, as well as the existing failed shoreline protection, to ensure continued safe passage of residents and visitors.

The lake has eroded the shoreline, putting Lakeshore Road cover to Lake Ontario. The shoreline protection project will add rocks and vegetation to protect the shoreline from further erosion.

“New York continues to assist communities devastated by the flooding on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River in 2019 and this project is just the latest step in that effort,” Governor Cuomo said. “Through the state’s REDI program, we are working with local governments to harden critical infrastructure, to not only rebuild, but build back better, so that shoreline communities are better positioned to withstand flooding and other natural disasters in the future.”

“Shoreline communities along Lake Ontario have faced tremendous challenges in recent years because of climate change, and New York State continues to invest in making them more resilient for the future,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. “Our top priority is protecting the people who live in these communities, and the shoreline resiliency project on Lakeshore Road in the Town of Carlton will help mitigate flooding, enhance safety and create a sustainable infrastructure.”

Mitigation measures to be implemented in this project include installation of an onshore riprap revetment system with regraded slope. The area between the revetment and the slope will be vegetated to minimize potential erosion loss and protect the toe of the bluff.

Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner and REDI Co-Chair Basil Seggos said, “New York’s REDI program is advancing projects to protect shoreline communities historically susceptible to flooding from high water and extreme weather events, here in Orleans County and all along the shores of Lake Ontario. Fortifying the shoreline along Lakeshore Road is a great example of the strategic projects that were identified by community leaders and will protect residents and visitors to the town of Carlton for years to come.”

State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said, “I commend Governor Cuomo for encouraging state agencies and local communities to work together to prepare for future Lake Ontario flooding. This work by Orleans County and Town of Carlton will make an important transportation link safer and more reliable for residents and visitors.”

Empire State Development Chief Operating Officer and Executive Deputy Commissioner Kevin Younis said, “This important infrastructure project in the Town of Carlton will correct the hazardous effects of roadside erosion, helping to protect the travelers and community residents who rely on this route. Through projects like this one, the multi-agency REDI initiative is working to rebuild flood-damaged communities spanning the Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River shorelines and is another important step in safeguarding the future of our lakefront communities.”

Orleans County Legislative Chair Lynne Johnson said, “In partnering with New York State, Orleans County was able to conceptualize and implement the critical Lakeshore Road project. Through Governor Cuomo’s REDI program the region will be better prepared to withstand future flooding events. We are thankful for the assistance that has been given by Governor Cuomo, the REDI Commission, and all supporting state agencies.”

This rendering from the state shows the fortified shoreline on Lakeshore Road.

Town of Carlton Supervisor Gayle Ashbery said, “On behalf of the Town of Carlton I would like to thank Governor Cuomo and the REDI Commission for assisting the region with important flood mitigation projects like the Lakeshore Road project. Additionally, we are thankful to Orleans County for taking the project on and seeing it through from design to shovel in the ground. We are thrilled to see such an importance project for our residents get underway.”

In response to the extended pattern of flooding along the shores of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, Governor Cuomo created REDI to increase the resilience of shoreline communities and bolster economic development in the region. Five REDI Regional Planning Committees, comprised of representatives from eight counties—Niagara and Orleans, Monroe, Wayne, Cayuga and Oswego, and Jefferson and St. Lawrence—were established to identify local priorities, at-risk infrastructure and other assets, and public safety concerns.

The REDI Commission allocated $20 million for homeowner assistance, $30 million to improve the resiliency of businesses, and $15 million toward a regional dredging effort that will benefit each of the eight counties in the REDI regions. The remaining $235 million has been allocated towards local and regional projects that advance and exemplify the REDI mission.

At Governor Cuomo’s direction, the REDI commission toured areas hard hit by flooding on Lake Ontario and worked with local communities to come up with a new vision for the shoreline from both a resiliency and economic development point of view in order to build back better and stronger for the future.

Since the creation of the Governor’s REDI program in the Spring of 2019, 133 REDI funded local and regional projects are underway, including 93 projects in the design phase, 20 projects in the construction phase, and 20 projects completed.

Construction starts on $2 million Lakeshore Road shoreline protection project in Carlton

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 26 July 2021 at 5:05 pm

State paying 95 percent, part of REDI erosion and flood protection projects

Photos by Tom Rivers: Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul said the project will protect an important road in the community, ensuring access for residents and visitors. It’s part of $300 million in projects along the south shore of Lake Ontario to make the shoreline more resilient to flooding and erosion in the future.

CARLTON – The shoreline along Lakeshore Road in Carlton was chewed away in 2017 and 2019 when there was flooding and erosion from very high lake levels.

The loss of land and soil has put the lake closer to the road, within about 15 feet in some spots. About 1,500 feet of the shoreline, going east from Route 98 in Point Breeze, will soon be fortified with massive rocks. The shoreline will also be regraded and will have a new vegetative cover to help stave off some erosion and damage from the waves. (The threat of flooding isn’t an issue right now with the water levels down about 3 feet from the highs in 2019.)

The $2 million project is 95 percent funded by the state. It is part of $300 million the state is spending through the Lake Ontario Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative (REDI).

A contingent of local and state officials, including Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, celebrated the start of the project’s construction today.

Hochul recalled the damaging flooding in 2017 and 2019, that ate away at backyards, roads and the shoreline. She was at Kendall on May 11, 2017, helping stack sandbags with the National Guard.

“This is a real hazardous situation with the road and infrastructure,” Hochul said about an encroaching lake during a time of high water levels. “When this project is done the residents won’t have to worry.”

Keeler Construction in Barre submitted the low bid of $1,321,858 to install the new breakwall. There are other costs for engineering and construction services.

Tim Walsh, DEC regional director, said that wall of rock will harden the shoreline. The new vegetation also is part of a softer and “greener solution” to protecting the shoreline, Walsh said.

Lynne Johnson, Orleans County Legislature chairwoman, speaks during a ground-breaking today for a $2 million breakwall project along Lakeshore Road in Carlton.

Lynne Johnson, County Legislature chairwoman, thanked Gov. Andrew Cuomo for pushing for the funding for the shoreline communities, and for the REDI Commission for pushing through the projects during the Covid pandemic.

Johnson said the local and regional government officials spent many hours evaluating the damage, and developing projects to be considered by the REDI Commission.

“This is an example of what a true partnership looks like,” Johnson said. “And it is an example of what can be achieved when everyone comes together for the common good.”

Local officials join for a ceremonial ground-breaking this afternoon along Lakeshore Road. Pictured from left include Tim Walsh, DEC regional administrator; Jayleen Carney, representing Assemblyman Steve Hawley; County Legislator Fred Miller; Gayle Ashbery, Carlton town supervisor; Lynne Johnson, County Legislature chairwoman; County Legislator Bill Eick (barely visible in back); Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul; County Legislator Ken DeRoller; John Papponetti, Orleans County DPW superintendent; and County Legislator John DeFillipps.

The REDI projects total $17 million in Orleans County. The projects will improve public land and infrastructure, including roads, a new sewer system in Kendall and Hamlin, and an improved Yates Town Park.

The local projects include:

  • Wastewater Infrastructure for Kendall and Hamlin, $9,053,000 – This project will disconnect homes from the septic systems and connect them to a wastewater system. A privately owned facility (located at Troutburg in the Town of Kendall) will be turned over to the Town of Kendall, and approximately 125 residences in the towns of Hamlin and Kendall will be connected to the facility. The project will solve the problems for lakeside residences with septic issues west of West Kendall Drive, including along Lomond Shore West, Edrose Shore, Knapp Shore, Thompson Drive, and near Lakeland Beach Road and Bald Eagle Drive in the Town of Kendall, plus residences near Beachwood Park Road in the Town of Hamlin. This project will connect these areas to a sanitary sewer and convey wastewater to a treatment facility.
  • Yates Town Park, $2,531,000 – The Town of Yates plans to expand the town park with enhanced recreational and water access opportunities. This project seeks to further enhance the park’s environmental resiliency, protect and expand its natural and nature-based features, and increase public access to the area’s recreational resources.
  • Public Town Road Ends/Culverts in Kendall, $1,500,000 – Culverts adjacent to Ed Rose Shore, Knapp Shore, and Thompson Drive are impacted by high water levels resulting in culvert ends being clogged with debris. This project adds a more resilient box culvert concept. A culvert located at Lakeland Beach Road needs fortification, and riprap will be placed at the outlet of the culvert to provide protection.
  • Point Breeze Boat Launch in Carlton, $751,000 – The project will start after Labor Day. It will replace fixed elevation docks with floating docks and slips, inclusive of anchorage and posts to permit only vertical dock movement.
  • Lakeside Park Road East in Carlton, $385,000 – The bluff on which the eastern portion of Lakeside Park Road sits has been experiencing erosional impacts, creating a 30 to 40 foot drop that has become a hazardous condition for the road and public water line in the area. The project will protect the toe of the bluff with shoreline stabilization.
  • Lakeside Park Road West in Carlton, $235,000 – The shoreline on which Lakeside Park Road sits has been experiencing flooding impacts from both Johnson Creek and Lake Ontario, including the loss of an access road/lane, land protecting homes, and public water lines. West of the intersection with Lakeside Road there is approximately 300 feet of public water line at risk of being exposed and compromised. The project will construct an access road to place protective materials along the shoreline, and add riprap stone to protect the public water line during future high water level.
  • Thompson Drive turnaround changed to beach access in Kendall, $131,000 – The former Thompson Drive turnaround provides beach access to the Lake Ontario shoreline. There is an opportunity to turn the former turnaround into beach access, coupled with nature-based shoreline protection. The project will reduce shoreline erosion, protecting local infrastructure and maintaining access along the route.
  • Route 237 right-of-way in Kendall, $40,000 – The shoreline/waterfront area along the Route 237 right-of-way is experiencing significant erosion as a result of high water levels, flooding, and wave intensity. A project is currently ongoing to install riprap along the waterfront to protect the eroding shoreline associated with the right-of-way, abutting the riprap of two neighboring private properties. This project adds a berm to further stabilize the shoreline and protect the area from future flooding. It also fills the gap between existing shoreline protection features with additional shoreline protection.
  • Installing markers on submerged structures in Orleans and Niagara, $50,000 – In-lake structures throughout Niagara and Orleans counties, when underwater, may result in hazardous boating conditions. Installing temporary safety markers is a proactive approach to protect public safety. This project will install safety markers on submerged structures (piers). The structures will be clearly marked by installing temporary warning buoys.

Orleans County Legislator Ken DeRoller holds a shovel signed by Kathy Hochul after today’s groundbreaking. “We are REDI,” Hochul wrote.

Nearly 500 attend first concert in 2 years at Marine Park

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 30 June 2021 at 8:23 am

Photos by Tom Rivers

CARLTON – The Dave Viterna Group performs Tuesday evening at the Orleans County Marine Park to kick off the summer concert series. This was the first concert in nearly two years at the Marine Park after last year’s slate of performances was cancelled due to Covid-19 concerns.

Dave Viterna is the lead singer and guitar player for the band, which includes “Scooter” Scott Felice on drums and Marty Hobbs on guitar.

The band plays blues and rock music. In this photo they are playing a song by Stevie Ray Vaughan.

The crowd was spread out on the rolling hills in front of the pavilion.

This is the 11thseason of concerts organized by the Oak Orchard Neighborhood Association in partnership with the Orleans County Tourism Department. There is a $2 admission charge per person or $5 per family.

The Clarendon Lions Club served hot dogs and hamburgers from the grill. Kevin Johnson, right, tended to the grill and Brian Collins was the “runner” taking the hot dogs and hamburgers to people in line. Johnson said it was a busy opening night for the Lions Club, which had many of its fundraisers sidelined in the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dave Viterna and Marty Hobbs had the crowd rocking on Tuesday evening at the Marine Park.

The lineup for the rest of the series at the Marine Park includes: Highway 31 (July 6), The Who Dats (July 13), the Brick Band (July 20), Trellis Cooper Band (July 27) and Jonesie & the Cruisers (Aug 3). Rain dates are scheduled for August 10 and 17.

Yacht Club kicks off summer boating season

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 10 June 2021 at 4:52 pm

Club with 100 members aims to make organization more community friendly

Photos by Ginny Kropf: Oak Orchard Yacht Club members Paul Gray and Bob Frost, both past commodores, wait to raise the American and Canadian flags during ceremonies Saturday to celebrate opening of the summer boating season.

WATERPORT – Like all social organizations, the Oak Orchard Yacht Club has gone through changes.

If the new commodore, Bob Hodgins of Batavia, has his way, he’d like to see a lot more changes taking place this year – most of all, making it a more community-friendly club.

“One of the things we recognize is there is a perception of the Yacht Club as being stand-offish,” Hodgins said. “We want to change that. We have a board of 11 and they are a great group. They are like-minded and work together.”

Hodgins pointed out the sign in the front yard of the Yacht Club which reads “Members and guests only.” He has changed that by adding signs saying, “Memberships available. Docks available,” hoping to send a more welcoming message.

“We’ve got a wonderful facility here, and we’re trying to make better use of it,” Hodgins said. “Chap’s Diner in Elba runs the restaurant and bar, which is open on Friday and Saturdays from May through September.”

The Yacht Club recently invited the Oak Orchard Neighborhood Association to have their annual meeting there.

“This was a good experience,” Hodgins said. “They are our neighbors, and many had never been here before.”

He said they also recently had a pseudo-senior prom for kids who missed out on their senior prom last year due to Covid. He said it was a wonderful event, with kids coming from all over, including New Jersey and Delaware.

They have invited Leadership Orleans 2021 to have a meeting at the Yacht Club on July 8.

“This is a great opportunity to bring young community leaders into our club,” Hodgins said.

Hodgins is also working on having an open house at the Yacht Club for different segments of the population, possibly with a chicken barbecue and music, which would be open to the public.

Officers of the Oak Orchard Yacht Club stand for the Pledge of Allegiance during open ceremonies signifying opening of the boating season. Commodore Bob Hodgins is second from left.

“This is a club developed and kept up by its members,” said Hodgins wife, Mary Lu.

OOYC welcomes both social and full members. Social members have the privilege of visiting the club and enjoying the amenities of the dining room and bar. Full membership is for boaters and includes a dock. Anyone wishing more information on becoming a member on either level may contact Hodgins at (585) 409-9869.

OOYC, which currently has 100 members, was founded in 1938 and began operation at the current site of the public boat launch on the east side of Oak Orchard River, near the harbor mouth at Point Breeze. Club activities centered on cruising, both sail and power, and an active one-design racing program.

In the early 1970s, New York state cast a covetous eye on the old site and began the push to the club’s current location on the west side of the river, about a mile upstream. During this time, members faced the herculean task of arranging funding, getting permits and the construction of the current yacht club. It was then that the tradition of being a “working” club was really cemented. Capital was secured not only by mortgage, but also by members contracting for their docks for 10 years in the future. With funds in hand, the membership spent the winter of 1972 on the ice constructing the docks. The clubhouse was also built entirely by volunteer labor. Only the main structural parts were contracted out.

The years since have seen gradual improvement to the facilities and expansion of services to members. In the early 1980s, additional land was purchased on the west side of the road to provide a buffer between the club and increasing residential surroundings.

According to their website, the club is now in the fortunate position of enjoying a debt-free facility in a beautiful location. Their vision for the future is to continue to maintain and improve on the physical structure and to stay true to the yachting traditions of all who gave so much personal effort to create what they enjoy today.

Jeff Plummer of Waterport steps away from the miniature cannon, which he fired three times to signify opening of the boating season at Oak Orchard Yacht Club on Saturday night.

Yacht Club youth program will teach new generation to love to sail

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 7 June 2021 at 11:00 am

Photos by Ginny Kropf: Bob and Mary Lu Hodgins, who started the first sailing classes 32 years ago, stand in front of the Oak Orchard Yacht Club, where he is commodore.

WATERPORT – The couple who started the first sailing classes at the Oak Orchard Yacht Club say they have literally raised their kids here. It would be safe to say boating is in Bob and Mary Lu Hodgins blood.

The Batavia couple first joined the Yacht Club 35 years ago, and 32 years ago they started the youth sailing classes.

This year, Bob is commodore, and he and Mary Lu are thrilled to see the classes still an important part of the yacht club’s sailing program. The two oldest of their three children were in the first class and then went on to become instructors. This year, Bob and Mary Lu’s grandchildren will be in the class, which starts July 2.

Oak Orchard Yacht Club commodore Bob Hodgins and his wife Mary Lu sit in the fly bridge he constructed in the playground for children to enjoy.

“These are the first second-generation students in the program,” Bob said. “We are thrilled.”

The Hodgins’ son Ken and his wife have two boys and live in St. Thomas, United States Virgin Islands, where he is a boat captain.

“I was introduced to sailing as a child, first in a rented Sunfish on a family vacation, and then my dad bought an old wooden Lightning sailboat which provided years of fun for my parents and all six of us kids,” Bob said. “I bought my first sailboard, a homemade plywood boat, when I was single and 20 years old. I had visions of sailing to faraway places, and over the past 45 years, I have been fortunate to be able to do that.”

The Hodgins started the sailing program so many years ago because they recognized the need to involve children and families in the yacht club, Bob said.

“Children need their own activities and the ability to form their own group of friends, in an environment that is safe and positive,” he said. “For the yacht club to have a playground and activities for children is essential to the future of the organization.”

Bob said the sailing program starting from nothing and took a few years to build.

“We had to raise funds, buy fleets of boats, hire and train instructors and get the club members to agree to support the program,” Bob said. “After 32 years of the program, we have had hundreds of kids learn to sail, but more importantly, they have formed their own lifelong friendships and been introduced to a sport that is an active, healthy lifestyle.”

Young people from age 9 through high school are eligible to enroll in the sailing classes. The program this year is run by John Zimmerman of Medina. Information can be found on the Oak Orchard Yacht Club website, where enrollment can also be completed.

Students in the class learn how to rig a sailboat, how to solo in a small sailboat with both a mainsail and a jib, rules of the “road” while boating, basic race skills and safety rules for sailboats.

For the Hodgins family, sailing has been a way of life. They had a boat at OOYC for 26 years before leaving in 2008 to sail the Caribbean. They sold that boat and bought another ocean boat to sail across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. They once spent an entire year sailing, home schooling their children on the boat, Mary Lu said.

Last year, they sold their ocean-going sailboat in New Zealand. They had bought another sailboat for Oak Orchard River three years ago, and in January this year bought a power boat in January, which they took to South Florida for the winter.

Little library in style of lighthouse added to Point Breeze

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 7 June 2021 at 8:24 am

Photos by Tom Rivers

POINT BREEEZE – The Oak Orchard Neighborhood Association last month installed a Little Free Library at Point Breeze. These are spots where people are welcome to give and take books.

The group considered putting the little library at the Orleans County Marine Park, but decided to have it at Point Breeze which has more visitors.

The little library was painted by OONA President Chris Manaseri in a similar style as the Oak Orchard Lighthouse. JoAnne Camann pushed to have a Little Free Library at Point Breeze. OONA used an existing post for a sign that had weathered and been removed.

Manaseri, a retired English teacher and school superintendent, also volunteers as a docent at the Oak Orchard Lighthouse Museum. On Sunday, when he wasn’t chatting with people checking out the lighthouse, he worked on an oil painting of the site, including a birdhouse to the left of the lighthouse.

The Museum has docents at the lighthouse on Friday evenings, Saturdays and Sundays.

The lighthouse was constructed in 2010, after $200,000 was raised from the community. The state also provided assistance with the project.

The 35-foot lighthouse is a replica to one that toppled in 1916 after a storm. The Oak Orchard Lighthouse has become an iconic symbol for Orleans County and the Point. It is often featured on the cover of the county’s tourism guide.

Manaseri painted in the plein air style, where artists paint outdoors.

Manaseri said he enjoys getting to know people at the Point. But when there is a lull, he likes to grab his paintbrush and work on a painting.

“I don’t like to sit still,” he said.

NBC Sports highlights Oak Orchard, pilot fishing program with canal water

This screenshot from “On the Water” shows program publisher and host Chris Megan and Bill Sweitzer, marketing director for the Canal Corp., fishing in the Oak Orchard River. Megan caught a mammoth brown trout that day. The Oak Orchard benefited from a pilot program with canal water released into the tributary in November and December. That improved the water flows in the Oak Orchard and extended the fishing season.

Posted 8 May 2021 at 8:26 am

Press Release, NYS Canal Corp.

CARLTON – The New York State Canal Corporation on Friday announced the Reimagine the Canals initiative was recently featured on the NBC Sports program “On the Water: Angling Adventures.”

The television show highlighted the successful launch of a pilot program that strategically used water from the Erie Canal to enhance already renowned fishing opportunities in Western New York during the fall of 2020. The full episode can be seen by clicking here.

“The Reimagine the Canals initiative is making an outstanding positive impact on Western New York’s fishing communities and canalside businesses and we are thrilled that NBC Sports chose to showcase our recent pilot program that enhanced the angling experience along tributaries supplied by water from the Erie Canal,” said New York State Canal Corporation Director Brian U. Stratton.

Chris Megan holds a big brown trout he caught in the Oak Orchard River. He praised the fishing opportunities in the Oak.

“The Reimagine the Canals initiative, first announced by Governor Cuomo in his 2020 State of the State address, is committed to supporting many recreational opportunities along the Canal system to ensure it remains a driver of economic development and tourism across Upstate New York,” Stratton said.

Filmed last fall, the episode features the fishing experience on Oak Orchard Creek and Sandy Creek in Orleans and Monroe counties. Through the Reimagine the Canals program, the Canal Corporation increased regulated water releases into the two streams from September to early December last year.

As seen during the episode, the higher flows successfully enticed more brown trout, steelhead, and Atlantic and Pacific salmon populations to run up these streams, improving conditions for the fish and expanding opportunities for local and visiting anglers.

“The New York Canal system presents anglers with world class angling opportunities steeped in American history,” said Chris Megan, publisher and host of “On the Water.” “An engineering marvel, the Erie Canal has been in operation since 1825, opening the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean via the Hudson River. Hand dug by immigrants and farmers and enlarged twice, its effect on commerce was dramatic. As an avid angler and history buff, I jumped at the opportunity to spend two days fishing Upstate New York.”

The episode also includes a look at the history of the waterway with canal historian Art Cohn, a boat trip through the Cayuga-Seneca Canal onto Seneca Lake to troll late season lake trout, and a visit to one of New York’s hidden fishing gems where anglers come from all over the world to target the common carp that swim in the Erie Canal’s lakes and locks.

County accepts $439K construction bid to rebuild Point Breeze boat launch

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 4 May 2021 at 8:57 am

Bid also accepted to replace bridge in Murray on Transit Road

Photo by Tom Rivers: The Point Breeze boat launch will be rebuilt after Labor Day and will function better during times of high waters on Lake Ontario.

POINT BREEZE – The boat launch at Point Breeze will be rebuilt this fall with a new ramp, two boat launches and floating docks.

The Orleans County Legislature last week accepted the construction bid of $439,850 from CP Ward Inc. of Scottsville, the low bidder on the project. Mark Cerrone Inc. of Niagara Falls also bid on the project at a price of $553,125.

The project is part of $300 million funded through the state through the Lake Ontario Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative (REDI). Those projects are 95 percent funded through REDI with the local municipality paying 5 percent.

They are designed to be more resilient in times of high Lake Ontario water levels and other extreme weather. Currently, when the lake levels are high, the boat launch is useless for boaters because their vehicles flood out trying to launch a boat.

The boat launch will remain open until the day after Labor Day to lessen the impact on boaters during the busier summer season, said John Papponetti, the county’s Department of Public Works superintendent. The construction should be done in November.

Rendering courtesy of Lake Ontario Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative: The rebuilt boat launch will have floating walkways that tie into the concrete ramp.

CP Ward will likely need to set up a coffer dam and pump out water during construction to work on the project. The launch will be regraded and concrete poured for the new ramps and docks.

The project includes floatable walkways which will tie into a concrete ramp. The current concrete ramp will be removed and a new one put in that will be pulled farther back on land. The project also includes milling and paving the driveway and parking lot.

The Legislature last week also accepted a bid for $839,739 to replace the bridge on Transit Road in Murray over the west branch of Sandy Creek.

Union Concrete and Construction Corp. of West Seneca is the low bidder on the project, which is 95 percent funded by the state through the Bridge NY program. The county cost will be $41,986.

The county also expects to soon seek bids on another REDI project – installing about 1,500 feet of rocks along Lakeshore Road in Carlton to protect the road from further erosion. The Lakeshore Road project will cost an estimated $2 million. The county will hire a contractor to re-establish the shoreline, which was eroded from the high water levels in 2017 and 2019.

Big rocks will be brought in for about 1,500 feet of the shoreline by the road, east of Route 98. The project also includes drainage improvements along the road.

Sun came out for first day of spring

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 21 March 2021 at 9:24 am

Photos by Tom Rivers

POINT BREEZE – This woman fishes off the end of the western pier at Point Breeze on Saturday evening. Although it warmed up to the 50s on Saturday, there were still icicles hanging on some of the rocks.

The Point was popular on Saturday evening, with people enjoying the sunset and the fresh air and several trying to catch a big fish.

It’s going to be a nice stretch of weather to start spring. The high temperatures for the next few days include sunny and 60 today, mostly sunny and 63 on Monday, mostly sunny and 64 on Tuesday, partly sunny with a high near 67 on Wednesday, and mostly cloudy with a high near 64 on Thursday.

This angler carries his fishing gear and looks for a spot to fish on the western pier at Point Breeze.

County bed tax held steady in 2020 despite Covid

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 12 March 2021 at 11:01 am

Tax revenue from Airbnb locations doubled in third and fourth quarters

Photos by Tom Rivers: The Woolston family has operated Cedar Valley Lodging on Park Avenue in Waterport since 1986. Pictured from left include Irene Woolston, Dana and Lynda. They are joined by their dog, Sunny.

Orleans County lodging operators saw business take a dramatic drop a year ago in March when Gov. Andrew Cuomo put New York on “Pause.” That order closed many businesses temporarily, and urged people to stay home for nonessential travel.

The local lodging operators saw many cancellations and few bookings from March through June. But then business really started to pick up, especially for smaller operators with only a few rooms. That appealed to families looking to get away but not wanting to be around too many people during a pandemic.

File photo by Tom Rivers: Andrew Meier is shown at the check-in desk for the Hart Hotel in Medina. Corporate clients were down last year, but the site attracted new customers from Western New York who went on “stay-cations.”

The numbers show that overall the county didn’t see a drop in the bed tax, the 4 percent tax charged for people who stay in hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, lodges and 68 rentals in the county through Airbnb.

The total bed tax collected for 2020 was $58,438.45. That is about 100 dollars more than the $58,424.31 in 2019, according to data from Kim DeFrank, the county treasurer.

“Initially we had many cancellations and refunds and that was painful,” said Andrew Meier, owner of the Hart House Hotel in downtown Medina, which has eight rooms available.

“But then business picked up and we saw a shift in guests. There was less corporate and faraway visitors to more stay-cationers.”

Meier said the Hart House saw more customers the second half of the year who were from Western New York. People looking for a change of scenario and short getaway after being confined to their residences, especially with schools shifting to on-line learning and more parents working from home.

Laura and John Olinger opened a cottage and guest house at the Bridges last year, next to Narby’s on the Oak Orchard River. The Olingers worked about a year getting the places ready, and thought the timing was bad when they opened the cottage in May. They book customers through Airbnb.

“After Covid hit we didn’t think we would get much business but we were booked solid,” Mrs. Olinger said.

Nearly all of the guests we within driving distance. Many spent the weekend in the area and went to Niagara Falls or they visited wineries. Many just wanted a break from their daily routine.

File photo by Tom Rivers: Joan Page opened the Bell Tower Lodge in 2015 at the former Kenyonville United Methodist Church. The site on Oak Orchard River Road has five rooms for rent.

“It’s been people from Rochester and Buffalo, and some from New York City,” Olinger said. “We had people close by from Middleport and Holley. They just wanted to get away for the night because of Covid.”

The Olingers are adding a house boat that can be rented and they are putting in new floating docks.

The bed tax had its biggest gains in Airbnb rentals, with the second half of 2020 doubling the bed tax revenue from the same time in 2019, said DeFrank, the county treasurer.

Joan Page owns the five-unit Bell Tower Lodge, the former Kenyonville United Methodist Church. She opened it in 2015 following three years of renovations.

She does most of her bookings through Airbnb. Her bookings “tanked” in the spring due to Covid, with the restrictions and health concerns. She said she lost $8,400 in cancelations. She was worried but tin the summer and fall she was busy.

“I had a lot of families who were basically losing their minds and needed a getaway,” Page said.

The site appealed to customers too because there are only five rooms and only a few other customers. That eased their concerns about being around lots of other people during a pandemic.

“We were appealing because we’re not 40 rooms,” she said. “Having fewer rooms proved advantageous.”

Page and other operators all said they intensified their cleaning in between customers.

Page said her revenue which recovered later in the year was still down from 2019. She said she already has several bookings this spring and summer. She is pleased to see more people in the region looking for a vacation in the rural areas, and not necessarily going to resorts or the glamour of a city for a getaway.

“I always thought that our little area is an undiscovered heaven,” Page said.

Dana Woolston said Cedar Valley, which overlooks Oak Orchard River, is a popular getaway for fishermen and people who want a break from the hustle and bustle.

Dana Woolston operates Cedar Valley Lodging on Park Avenue in Waterport. The five lodges overlook the Oak Orchard River and has repeat customers going back 30 years. Many are fishermen.

Cedar Valley took a hit last spring and summer. New York’s travel restrictions, requiring many out-of-state visitors to quarantine for 2 weeks once in New York, kept many of the Woolston’s long-time customers away.

Dana Woolston put in new hardwood floors, fans, lights and made other improvements during some downtime at the lodging business last year.

“We had some cancellations because people were afraid once they got here they would get fined,” Woolston said.

With weddings capped at 50 people by the state for much of 2020, Woolston said there were a couple cancelations at Cedar Valley for wedding parties.

He said the overall revenue was down about a third in 2020, but did pick up in the second half of the year.

Cedar Valley saw some new faces last year, with families looking for an escape. Woolston also sees a growing clientele in drivers for local Amish. Some of those drivers are helping Amish relocate from Pennsylvania or Ohio to Orleans County where real estate is less costly.

Woolston’s parents, Glenn and Irene, started Cedar Valley in 1986. Dana has remodeled the five sites, putting in new hardwoods floors that he said are easier to clean. There are new fans, lights and other upgrades.

“Most of our customers come from word of mouth,” he said. They come for the secluded lodging along the Oak Orchard River. When you come down here you are in a different world.”

The motel tax has been on the rise in Orleans County in recent years. Prior to the $58,438 in 2020 and $58,424 in 2019, the motel tax generated $51,002 in 2018. In 2017, the bed tax generated $45,374. The county uses the funds for tourism promotion.

Oak Orchard Harbor, Johnson Creek on the state list for dredging

Photo by Tom Rivers: The Oak Orchard Harbor needs to have sediment removed to make the channel more navigable for boaters. The harbor is pictured on Aug. 29, 2019. Local officials want to ensure the harbor is regularly dredged of sediment.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 15 January 2021 at 8:26 am

The Oak Orchard Harbor and Johnson Creek in Carlton, near Lakeside Beach State Park, are both on a state list to be dredged.

The state has a $15 million regional dredging initiative the Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative (REDI).

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo on Thursday said dredging harbors along Lake Ontario remains a priority. Dredging started at Little Sodus Bay, a navigation channel in Cayuga County used by boaters to access Lake Ontario from Little Sodus Bay.

File photo: The dredging barge is near the breakwall at the end of the Oak Orchard channel when the harbor was dredged in August 2014 for the first time in 10 years.

The dredging project will remove built-up sediment from the bottom of the waterway to allow for continued safe passage of watercrafts to support the tourism economy and preserve wildlife in the region.

The Oak Orchard Harbor dredging is scheduled to start in June 2021 and the Johnson Creek Harbor will get attention in July 2021, the state has previously said.

“We’re building the resilience of communities along Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River to prevent flooding and ease maintenance of vital navigation channels for years to come,” Cuomo said. “This dredging project is essential to protecting not only New Yorkers who live and work in shoreline communities but also the wildlife in the coastal habitats of the region, while also boosting tourism by ensuring safe recreational access for boaters.”

To date, the State has completed four REDI dredging projects, and removed approximately 15,000 cubic yards of sediment, to provide recreational boaters with safe access to Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River.

The completed dredging projects include Port Bay, Blind Sodus Bay and East Bay in Wayne County, and Sandy Pond Inlet in Oswego County. Through Phase I and II, the dredging initiative is tackling the necessary dredging of 20 harbor navigation channels. Upon completion of the project, over 100,000 cubic yards of sediment is anticipated to be dredged, Cuomo’s Office said.

Future regional dredging initiative sites include:

  • Oswego County: Salmon River/Port Ontario
  • Niagara County: Olcott Harbor, Golden Hill State Park
  • Orleans County: Oak Orchard Harbor, Johnson Creek
  • Monroe County: Sandy Creek, Braddock Bay, Long Pond Outlet, Irondequoit Bay
  • Wayne County: Bear Creek Harbor, Pultneyville
  • Jefferson County: Clayton French Creek Marina, Henderson “The Cut”
  • St. Lawrence County: Ogdensburg “City Front Channel,” Morristown Navigation Channel

During Phase III, the State will provide counties with the information they need to update, expand, and implement an existing Regional Dredging Management Plan to keep the channels operational over time.

In response to the extended pattern of flooding along the shores of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, Cuomo created REDI to increase the resilience of shoreline communities and bolster economic development in the region.

Five REDI Regional Planning Committees, comprised of representatives from eight counties (Niagara and Orleans, Monroe, Wayne, Cayuga and Oswego, and Jefferson and St. Lawrence) were established to identify local priorities, at-risk infrastructure and other assets, and public safety concerns.

The REDI Commission allocated $20 million for homeowner assistance, $30 million to improve the resiliency of businesses, and $15 million toward a regional dredging effort that will benefit each of the eight counties in the REDI regions. The remaining $235 million has been allocated towards local and regional projects that advance and exemplify the REDI mission, Cuomo’s Office stated.

“Addressing the damage and erosion from high water events and wave impacts are essential elements of Governor Cuomo’s REDI initiative that is creating stronger communities along Lake Ontario’s shoreline,” said Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos.