The Canaan Lake restoration project began in 2017. Over the past several decades, according to Suffolk County, highly invasive cabomba weed and water milfoil crowded the lake’s native plant species, killing the natural habitat and preventing recreational use of the lake.
At this point and time, Legis. Rob Calarco, who has spearheaded the project, explained that native plantings have been completed and he anticipates the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to fulfill their trout restocking project this fall.
“The DEC expects to stock approximately 256 fall yearling brown trout this fall by the first week of November,” said regional fisheries biologist Heidi O’Riordan. “In the spring, an anticipated 900 rainbow trout will be stocked. The fall stocking is approximately 56 more brown trout than normal.”
The DEC is also currently reviewing a Suffolk County permit request to stock largemouth bass and yellow perch in the lake. Officials said they expect to review the request in the next week. Restocking species requires that the fish be certified disease-free, native species, and are a fish species that have been present in a particular water body in the past.
Also, the county park at the former beach club has been renamed the Rich Monko Park Preserve, in honor of a former lifeguard and proponent of the lake restoration.
“I am proud of the project. It has been a long road, but we ultimately got where we wanted to be,” Calarco said of the completion, with future eyes set on creating another access point to the north.
Due to significant operational issues, dredging of the lake was not a possibility, and the county decided to go in a different direction. That year, a culvert under Traction Boulevard was built, which has allowed the lake to drain by slowly pulling and removing boards.
Calarco announced the official draining of Canaan Lake in May of 2018. Later that summer, Suffolk County executive Steve Bellone signed legislation to fund Phase 2 of the project, and $1.5 million in funding was used to eradicate invasive weeds and remove sediment in an effort to restore the lake to its original recreational use.
By 2019, the lakebed was dry enough to utilize heavy machinery to scrape it and pile sediment along the perimeter to help facilitate further drying. After technical issues and pandemic setbacks, the project neared completion in January of 2021, when the lake was refilled over a process of closing the sluice.
“The place is gorgeous,” said nearby lake resident and Patchogue Historical Society member Steven Lucas of the restoration. “I go past there every day, sometimes three, four times a day. It’s really nice, and on the east side, people have taken little picnics and cups of coffee. There used to be a snack bar there years ago, but now the residents are taking it back.”