Featured Story

This week in Shelter Island history

Old, open book with a damaged cover.


Students staged an orderly demonstration in front of the California State Capitol to protest budget cuts to education and Governor Ronald Reagan’s plan to impose tuition for University of California students for the first time in the school’s history.

The American Basketball Association, which would eventually merge with the National Basketball Association, was formed with four teams — the New York Nets, Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers and San Antonio Spurs.

Jimi Hendrix recorded “Purple Haze.”

Roy Disney outlined his late brother Walt’s plan to create the world’s first futuristic metropolis, EPCOT, in Central Florida.

And on Shelter Island …

Enough water for 34,000

A water study concluded in February 1977 Shelter Island had a sufficient amount of fresh water, based on chloride content, to serve the needs of a population of 34,000.

John Hallman, who would go on to lead the Island’s Water Advisory Committee (WAC), conducted the study between May 19 and October 6, 1976, a period when water use would be at its maximum because of the influx of part-time Islanders and visitors.

Only one test well showed chloride levels above what was considered allowable under federal, state and county guidelines. Mr. Hallman used Dering Harbor Village as a model for his study where there were 125 people on 70 acres of land.

They could pump between 15,000 and 20,000 gallons per day without salt water intrusion, his study said. At the same time, he cautioned that the only water supply to the Island comes from precipitation.

POSTSCRIPT: In recent years before he retired as head of the WAC and during his term on the Island’s Irrigation Committee, Mr. Hallman has been a leader of those calling for more attention to both quantity and quality of the Island’s water supply.

The town has contracted with the United States Geological Survey, which tracks quantity at 13 test well sites, to conduct a three-year study of quality.

Pastor Bill Grimbol named new Presbyterian minister

Can it actually be that the popular Pastor Bill Grimbol came to the Island’s Presbyterian Church 30 years ago? Indeed, in early February 1987, Pastor Grimbol was named interim pastor and would go on to lead the church for more than 25 years.

Under his leadership, the church expanded both its building and services. The sanctuary and fellowship hall were air conditioned and office space was added. A new manse was completed and the church became a community gathering place for Island youth.

Pastor Grimbol opened the church to  programs such as the dinner bell lunches for seniors, Meals on Wheels, a preschool program, the Island’s food pantry, concerts and various other activities.

POSTSCRIPT: When Pastor Grimbol retired and left the Island to return to his hometown of Racine, Wisconsin, interim Minister Anne Stewart Miller assumed leadership until 2014 when the Reverend Stephen Fearing was appointed minister. He had just completed his studies and hadn’t yet been ordained, but asked to delay his ordination until he was in place on Shelter Island so he could share the experience with his new parishioners.

Districts scramble in wake of threat to Special Ed $

In early February 1997, after 20 years of support for special education programs, there was concern that state aid would be shifted away from public high school special education services.

Dr. Lydia Axelrod, who was then the Island’s superintendent, worried the shift would result in a lack of needed services for students who had once been relegated to “the basement,” denied the help that would allow them to develop their abilities to the fullest.

At the time, the Island was getting very little in state aid, but the concern was that block grants that came through Suffolk County could dry up, leaving local taxpayers to bear the burden for special education services.

POSTSCRIPT: Through the years, special education services have continued to be offered, while mainstreaming special education students to the extent their abilities allow.

But current school officials are watching with concern how the new administration moves toward support of more privatization of schools.

That could take money away from the public school on the Island to pay tuition and other costs for students who opt to attend charter schools.

Superintendent Leonard Skuggevik has said he’s watching what happens and hopes he won’t be faced with a loss of funding.

4-poster deployment closer to reality

While State Department of Environmental Conservation officers were still hesitant about use of 4-poster units coated with the tickicide permethrin, the Island was nearing a point of getting a DEC permit for a study of the efficacy of the systems.

It would be 2008 before Cornell University and Cornell Cooperative Extension launched a three-year study that included deploying 60 units on Shelter Island.

The DEC that had once blocked use of permethrin become a proponent of the units after the report of the three-year study was issued.

POSTSCRIPT: The Island continues to deploy 4-posters that have won support in some quarters, but concerns in others. Supporters maintain the units have decreased the incidence of tick bites and resulting tick-borne diseases. Those in opposition question the long-term effectiveness and safety of permethrin.

[email protected]