This kind of e-mail was the reason why Lee Oldak founded Sag Harbor Community Rowing in the first place.
Billy Boyce, the assistant heavyweight crew coach at Yale University, reached out to Oldak this week after learning that Pierson sophomore Bo Dermont had taken first place in the heavyweight novice group of the 2,000-meter indoor Erg rowing event in Riverhead in January.
Boyce said Dermont’s time of 7 minutes and 8 seconds was “not bad” for a novice sophomore and asked Oldak to keep him updated on Dermont’s progress since he is now a student Yale would like to keep an eye on.
“We had a letter similar to that from the Columbia University lightweight crew coach last year,” said Oldak at Tuesday’s Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees meeting, where he approached the board to renew the public club’s licensing agreement to use Cove Park on Redwood Road in Sag Harbor. Oldak also hopes the village will allow him to construct a modular dock at the site.
Founded in 2008, Sag Harbor Community Rowing this summer will mark its third year at Cove Park. On Tuesday night, Oldak admitted that growth has been slow, but steady and the club’s public programming and work with local schools was at the top of its priorities as a not-for-profit.
“It’s new here,” Oldak said of competitive rowing. “Quite honestly, it has been tough getting kids down there to experience it.”
On Tuesday night, the board of trustees expressed concerns about the public aspect of the club, needing to ensure they are not granting Sag Harbor Community Rowing the use of public land for a private purpose.
Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride said a dock would go against the village’s original agreement with Oldak, which prohibited any permanent structures at Cove Park. The proposed 75-foot long dock is modular, but would have a fixed 35-foot walkway attached. If the board decided to join Oldak in a petition for the dock with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), it would need to change its licensing agreement with the rowing club, said village attorney Fred W. Thiele, Jr.
“I think in general, the board has questions about where the organization is and what has happened,” said board member Tim Culver. “As a community rowing thing, I don’t think you will find anyone against that.”
Oldak said the program was set up for local students for the most part, similar to what the Breakwater Yacht Club began for students interested in sailing. In addition to high school and middle school classes in the Sag Harbor School District, as well as The Ross School and the East Hampton School District, Oldak said the club also provides free rowing to the community at large on Tuesdays and Saturdays in season.
What pays for the equipment and training, he added, is the 50-person membership base that pays $250 per year for total access to the club’s equipment and lessons. Through those donations, Oldak said area schools have only needed to provide the club with $1,000 annually for their students to learn the waterfront pastime.
Oldak said the dock would help facilitate launching of the boats, providing greater safety for rowers, their boats and for the surrounding environment. The village’s Harbor Committee, citing the Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan (LWRP), has recommended the trustees move forward with the dock application.
“Although everything you answered tonight has been very good, I don’t know how much the public really sees,” said Gilbride, encouraging Oldak to return to the board next month with details about local students and residents who benefit from Sag Harbor Community Rowing.