Goldsmith Inlet is a unique and important ecosystem on Long Island Sound in Peconic, New York, part of the Town of Southold. The ecosystem includes Goldsmith Inlet itself, the channel into the Inlet from the Sound, Autumn Pond, the County Park, the Town Beach and the land surrounding these water bodies. Due to a lack of overall protection and management oversight Goldsmith Inlet is rapidly becoming an environmental disaster.
The Group to Save Goldsmith Inlet (GSGI) was established to help create and implement a management plan to restore the health and safety of Goldsmith Inlet.
Historically, Goldsmith Inlet was vibrant and healthy, supporting a wide range of wildlife. There were thriving populations of hard and soft shell clams, oysters, mussels, scallops, eels, blue claw crabs, winter flounder spawning and a wide variety of plant life. Native grasses were abundant and harvested by local farmers. The tidal flow was strong, flushing pollutants and debris from the Inlet. Sand did not accumulate.
The strong tidal flow allowed operation of the Goldsmith Mill for more than 50 years (1843-1898). During this time wooden bulkheads were installed along the channel from the Mill to the Sound to allow boats heavily loaded with grain to use the Mill, in addition to the grain delivered by wagons on Mill Lane.
During Prohibition (1919-1933) the depth of the channel allowed large power boats to deliver bootleg liquor to the Worthwhile Tavern, also located in the channel to the Inlet.
Later in the 1930’s, the Town installed 2 equal length wooden jettys extending approximately 100 feet into the Sound at the entrance to the Inlet channel. These were allowed to degrade and by the mid 1950’s they were non-functional. Then in 1964 the County rebuilt and extended the western jetty, which is in existence today.
Over time, large amounts of sand began to be deposited in the channel and then also in the Inlet itself, severely limiting the tidal flow. With sand filling the channel and Inlet, and pollution levels rising, shell fishing was gradually restricted and then about two decades ago fully prohibited.
In the 1990’s the local community became increasingly concerned. This led to a major County dredging of the channel into the Inlet in 2005. Unfortunately it was ineffective and the dredged sand soon returned.
Since then, even more sand has been deposited in the Inlet and pollution levels continue to rise. The Town now conducts annual “emergency” dredging to keep the entrance to the channel open, which maintains a limited tidal flow into the Inlet. In 2009, the Town decided to take action to address the critical nature of the problem(s). Recognizing that dredging alone was not an appropriate solution, the Town Board approved an overall Goldsmith Inlet Management Plan. The Plan addresses the full range of water quality degradation, storm water remediation, debris removal and invasive species infestation issues.
The Management Plan has provided the framework for a wide range of efforts to save the Inlet and restore its health and safety including: