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A Day in Davis Park, Fire Island
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A Day in Davis Park, Fire Island
They were not dressed up to the nines. A bathing suit that had tongs might have been considered formal wear. Without tongs, it would have been considered informal. But what they were carrying was much more varied, ranging including a bottle of water to a trunk that proved to be too heavy for transport and was thus designated "freight." It required early check-in and the payment of supplemental charges if it was a departure that allowed cargo to be transported in any way. The location was not even all over the world. It was as if I believed that I could extend my arm over the water and feel it. It was, however, remote and secluded in its own right-almost other-worldly. The vessel I, as well as a plethora of others, embarked at the sandspit that was next to Brookhaven Town Recreation Park on Brightwood Street in Patchogue was in no way a luxury liner. It was named the M/V Kiki many years, if not decades ago, and owned under the Davis Park Ferry Company, it stretched 70.7 feet, displaced 46.55 tonnage, had two decks (the upper one was open), and accommodated the maximum number of passengers or four when crew members were also included. Visit:- Bathroom facilities comprised of a 20-minute "hold it" during the journey across the island (Long) to another (Fire). Its passengers continued to flow through the hatch like they fed the boat's ever-growing appetite: children, parents grandparents, college students, dogs. Whether they had two or four legs the purpose was the same - to connect the gap to Fire Island. This was not a pleasure cruise. It was an essential transportation option-and the only scheduled public means of getting there and back. "There" was pleasure, escape, and paradoxically, home, at least for the majority of them during the summer months. What they don't do is leave home to escape. This is a different situation. In the past, the Davis Park Ferry Company offered as many as a dozen trips on weekends during summer to its famous destination. If you are not a Long Islanders, you would be excused for not having been aware of this often-served community. Laterally separating itself away from docks on a clear blue, 80-degree late-August day amid a loud sound from its engine, the M/V Kiki crept down the last less than a few feet of channel. It was a gigantic beast compared to the small vessels huddled to the side. In slipstream, and soaring into the deeper turquoise of Great South Bay with its bow, it proved to be no opposition to the numerous sailing vessels, whose huge sails and tiny wakes suggested something more of an aqua dance rather than an actual relay race. A slender line, like if drawn with an dark green felt tip pen, appeared on the horizon. It was the ferry's Fire Island destination. It was not particularly exotic although it certainly had a strong evocative in the name. "Combining the excitement and drama of fire with the tranquility, isolation, and mystery of an island, the term suggests three of the ancient elements: fire, earth, and water," according to Madeleine C. Johnson in her book " Fire Island: 1650s-1980s"(Shoreland Press 1983, p. 1.). "In two short, memorable words, it evokes the powerful, frequently opposing attractions presented by the barrier beach." The formation of the island is caused by the currents that carry glacial debris that has been degraded. Fire Island itself is anything not static, since wind waves, waves, and the weather continuously mold and reshape this narrow ribbon composed of sand and scrub as if it were a string of clay. Its fragility, however, is evident when seen from the air rather than from the water. "Seen from the air," according to the National Park Service, "Fire Island looks fragile and isolated. Atlantic waves crash against the white beach. The trees are smothered in a sea of visible homes... Centuries of devastating storms off the Atlantic Ocean have battered dunes open inlets and threatened to destroy (it). However, this barrier island is able to withstand the storms. The beaches that are damaged by winter storms get replenished with sand that has returned from the sandbars off-shore. Beach grasses establish footholds on dunes that slowly grow." The trip we took today has been, in its own way, some two centuries to be made. Although it is now primarily a summer destination and domicile with a skeleton-like population that clings to its shores for the rest of the year, the population prior to the 1850s would have hardly been on the first list. Indians or pirates as well as ghosts who made temporary and occasionally more frequent appearances were either terrifying or even dangerous. Tourists, inevitably were not in a rush to reserve rooms at the hotel. Also, there were no rooms available to book at least until David Sammis purchased 120 acres of grassland west at the Fire Island Light Station in 1855. He built the expansive, 1500-room Surf Hotel complex in an effort to establish the barrier island as one of the Atlantic Coast's most lavish popular resorts. Access to it, naturally, was just as important as the sand and sea that surrounded it. This led to the opening of the Great South Bay's first ferry service. It was operated by a steam-powered ship Bonita-or "pretty" in Spanish it was-as well as the trolley line from the Babylon Station to the dock from which it departed. Sammis needed to consider every aspect and, particularly regarding air access, his Wright Brothers were a half a century too late. In the midst of its peak success between the 1860s and 1880s. The era attracted attention and people, who began building small summer communities. Fire Island represents the most fundamental conflict between man and nature or nature against man dependent on which first came into play and which can be considered the most reprehensible perpetrator. It is a conflict. It attracts and repels - in the former , the human and in the second, the sea. It creates a balance between the ocean and sand. It protects and harms, when residents are in the area during violent weather. The balance is contingent on the components. Although the trans-barrier island Ocean Parkway that was proposed by Robert Moses in 1927 would have improved accessibility to it and its surroundings, and facilitated day-trip travel as well as same-day returns to mainland areas, its very protective status would surely resulted in its storm, wind, and hurricane demise. The highway itself, representing the inextricable symbiosis between man and nature, would have affected its aesthetics, eroding the isolated nature that defined it. It is the reason why it is often described as"treasure. "treasure." Motivated by Moses' very attempt to introduce pollution and increase population , thus weakening the already fragile nature of the area in the first place, President Johnson signed a 1964 law to establish the 32-mile Fire Island National Seashore between Robert Moses State and Smith Point County parks located, respectively, to the east and west, and a federally protected zone between them with the aim of conserving its natural beauty and preventing any overt infrastructure expansion. Communities that were then in existence which had their construction guidelines and restrictions had already been established, could continue on a limited basis. Except for the extreme border of causeways for vehicles, ferry travel was, which I made use of until today, was the only scheduled access. It's not exactly a new company, the Davis Park Ferry Company was established in 1947 as a ferry company and has been "ferrying" ever since. Projecting white, avalanche-resembling crests from its sides, the M/V Kiki was able to cut bow-high into the otherwise deep blue of the Great South Bay, at times appearing to break through the crystal-like, sun-glinted wave peaks and now running parallel to, but outpaced by, aerodynamic-hulled speedboats. A faster speed can get you there sooner, however, less of it gives more of a journey to be enjoyed until it is there-that is, you can either be there to prosper or simply sit and contemplate the coast. In any situation, Davis Park, the easternmost among the twenty Fire Island communities and one-and-a-half miles away from its closest neighbor, was approaching or, maybe, I was nearing it. The perspective of the moment was altered perception. On June 8, 1945, as Allied troops arrived on the beaches of Normandy also, so was the first structure of the future community land along the beaches of Davis Park. The transplanted land taken from Blue Point, Long Island, a restaurant was relocated via barge and tugboat, across the Great South Bay, literally making the town appear upon the Fire Island map and the building on its shores. The plant took root near the marina, the grocery store-cum-snack bar became an original concept on this stretch of sand. Civilization, even if one facility is identified as such, will attract civilization, but it does not happen immediately. Despite its status as an outpost and ultimate victory of overcoming its electricity and drinking water shortages, it was initially unprepared to handle the shortage of customers. They were few and far between at times, occasionally leaving the fleet of sailboats moored off the patch of sand. It was not until the town of Brookhaven built an open-pile dock to accommodate motorized boats on the an area donated to it by the Davis Brothers of Patchogue.  

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