A flock of seagulls gathered on the shoreline of Beekman Beach, some bathing in the waters of the Long Island Sound, while others scavenged for food. Nearby, the swings at the public beach were empty, as were a couple of old benches on the cracked cement of the waterfront viewing overlook.
Oyster Bay’s Beekman Beach, about a half mile away from the Town of Oyster Bay’s Theodore Roosevelt Park, is looking kind of tired. Close to the WaterFront Center on West End Avenue, it was once a popular area for children to play, families to enjoy a picnic and visitors to experience the tranquility of the Sound. But now some benches are missing from the over- look, and the area in general, looks shabby.
The members of the Oyster Bay Lion’s Club are coming to the public beach’s rescue. Around six months ago the club, in cooperation with the Town of Oyster Bay Parks Department, received town approval to renovate and restore the walk- way leading to the overlook and the viewing area itself. The Lions have been working to secure the necessary donations ever since.
They hope not only to return Beekman to its former glory, but to make it even better. The renovations will begin on May 1.
“Everyone is so happy that the Lions have stepped up to do this,” said Ron Paradiso, a Lion, who has spearheaded the project. Having lived in Oyster Bay for the past 20 years, he has many memories of leisure time spent there. “It will be really beautiful when the work is complete."
There will be six new benches on the waterfront overlook, two facing the water, and four, each other. “We have donations for five of the six benches,” Paradiso said, adding that he hopes that someone will come forward soon to claim the last bench.
The cracked cement slab will be covered with bricks, as will the walkway that leads to it from the parking lot. Many of the bricks will be engraved with messages from the community. “It’s the last chance to buy a brick,” Paradiso said. “We will be getting them en- graved in the next two weeks. Of course, we won’t turn people away, but it is so much cheaper to brick them in now.” Then he paused, looking out at the water, “It would be so nice if every brick had a name on it.”
A flagpole will be installed at the center of the overview “to showcase the U.S., town and Lion flags,” he said. “And we will have a blue stone border around the flagpole that looks like slate but is much nicer.” Additionally, there will be some landscaping, perhaps sea grass, he added.
The exterior of the over- look — the area that people see when they are on the beach — will be re-stuccoed.
The timing couldn’t be more meaningful for the Lions. “We are celebrating our 70th year,” said Lindsey Brekne, the club’s secretary. “This is an exciting project for us.”
She has only lived in Oyster Bay for two years, moving to the hamlet from Suffolk County, to be closer to the business she runs with her sister, Kristen Ducharme — Brooks, Robb, Callahan Insurance. But her commitment to the hamlet is strong, like someone who has lived there all their life.
“I wanted to get enmeshed in the community when I moved here and researched the different organizations,” she said. “What the Lions do touched my heart.”
The Lions, an international organization, is the world’s largest service club.
Oyster Bay’s club is committed to helping the blind, particularly veterans. They sponsor a guide dog for training for a veteran, which Paradiso says is expensive and worthwhile.
This work with the blind is what drew Brekne to join. “I got involved with guide dogs when I was in elementary school becoming a puppy walker and played with them too,” she said. “I learned how important guide dogs are.”
Brekne is on the Lion’s Beekman Beach commit- tee along with seven other members, including Mario Gallo, who owns Forest Ironworks in Locust Valley. Originally from Locust Valley, he has lived in Oyster Bay for the past 15 years. His three daughters, that are 13, 11, and 9, love to sail, kayak, and fish, which they have done at Beekman.
“It’s a shame Beekman has come to look like it does,” he said. “Nothing matches.”
He has crafted a plaque out of solid bronze that will be included in the renovation. “It is top of the line,” he said, “and it’s pretty.”
His parents, Joseph, who is a veteran, and Maria, owned Iron Works before Mario took over the business 20 years ago.
“I joined the Lions five years ago to give back,” he said. “My aunt has poor vision and I like that the Lions help veterans.”
He, Brekne and Paradiso are looking forward to seeing Beekman Beach revitalized. “I think we will be done with the project in a month or two,” Paradiso said. “We’ve sold over 70 bricks so far and 30 percent are in memory of people. Others will say how nice a place Oyster Bay is to live.”