Haris Wehrmann spent a lifetime enjoying the nature surrounding his Hampton Bays home, nestled in a wooded lot near a brackish pond that bears his surname. A month after he died at the age of 73, his wish to see the property preserved and available for others to enjoy is close to being fulfilled.
In his will, Mr. Wehrmann left a 3-acre portion of the property, including his family home, to the Peconic Baykeeper, a not-for-profit dedicated to protecting East End waterways, for use as its headquarters.
Carolyn Zenk, Mr. Wehrmann’s attorney, said last week that she accepted Southampton Town’s offer to purchase the remaining 10 acres surrounding Wehrmann Pond through the Community Preservation Fund, which is supported through a 2-percent tax on most real estate transfers. The property sits just south of Red Creek Pond, off Upper Red Creek Road.
Before that transaction is finalized, however, the Town Board needs to hold a public hearing and approve the purchase. Officials have declined to share the purchase price, noting that the deal is not yet finalized.
The entire property is zoned Country Residence, which means it will also require a special exception permit from the Southampton Town Planning Board in order for a portion of it to be used as the Peconic Baykeeper’s new headquarters.
Peconic Baykeeper Kevin McAllister said he plans to move his headquarters to the new site once the deal is finalized. His organization is now based off Old Country Road in Quogue, but the office is too small to hold its board meetings, which take place at the Quogue Wildlife Refuge. His boat, “The Kathy,” is currently launched from Pine Neck Marine Preserve in East Quogue.
“All I can say is this is a wonderful gift from Harry, and it will help the organization immensely,” Mr. McAllister said last week.
He explained that he met Mr. Wehrmann, known to most as Harry, about eight years ago, and they became friends. “He was just an exceptional human being,” Mr. McAllister said, adding that Mr. Wehrmann was preservation-minded and took an interest in the Baykeeper’s work.
A short distance up the gravel driveway that winds through the Hampton Bays property, a weathered sign reads “Tranquility,” the name Mr. Wehrmann’s family awarded the property for its peaceful feel. Ms. Zenk said she worked with him for the past three years to bring the project to fruition. The grant of land to the Baykeeper will include conservation covenants, she said, which will ensure that the home remains under the Baykeeper’s care, and that the lot remains vegetated and natural.
“Harry Wehrmann had a beautiful vision for his beloved ‘Tranquility,’” she said.
The 27 acres to the south of his property are also preserved as open space under the town’s ownership, creating an “impressive” expanse of natural land, Ms. Zenk said. She added that Mr. Wehrmann’s wish was for his property to also be open as a park, with passive walking trails and perhaps a dock to enjoy the pond.
Mr. Wehrmann was born in Riga, Latvia, in 1939, and was a war orphan, according to Ms. Zenk. At an orphanage in Germany, he met Edgar, another orphan who lived in a nearby orphanage and would later come to be his brother. The two met again after they were transferred to an orphanage in Staten Island.
Otillie and Wilhelm Wehrmann, who came to adopt two boys, picked Edgar from the bunch and asked who he wanted to be his brother, Ms. Zenk said. Edgar pointed to the red-headed Harry, and the Wehrmanns took both boys to their Queens home, she said.
The family spent their summers at the Red Creek Road home, which was once used as a hunting lodge, and visited frequently on weekends during the remainder of the year. The children spent days swimming in the pond, boating, waterskiing and fishing. When Harry Wehrmann grew older and retired from his job with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation in 1992, he moved full-time into the Hampton Bays home, where he often welcomed neighbors for parties or holidays.
“We miss Harry tremendously,” said Patricia Fulcher, who lived next door to Mr. Wehrmann for years with her husband, Donald Fulcher, and her daughter, Dawn.
Mr. Fulcher first met Mr. Wehrmann around 1949, when the Wehrmann family came to visit the Hampton Bays home. “They played together and grew up together when they were out here for the summer or a weekend,” Ms. Fulcher said, of her husband and Mr. Wehrmann. “He was very friendly. When you met him, you would like him immediately. I don’t think he had an enemy in the world.”
She said Mr. Wehrmann spent much time with her family, including holidays and vacations. “He was great company for us, and for everyone else,” she said. She also recalled the times she and her family spent at Mr. Wehrmann’s home, and how he loved the area.
She, her husband and Ms. Zenk visited Mr. Wehrmann in the hospital on Valentine’s Day with a bottle of champagne to celebrate the Planning Board’s approval of the subdivision of the Baykeeper lot from the larger property, an important step forward.
“He didn’t want it to be developed at all,” she said. “I’m happy that it’s coming to fruition, and I know he knows. If anybody deserves it, it would be Harry.”
Mr. McAllister said he hopes to store “The Kathy” in Red Creek Pond, just across the street from the property. He said he envisioned holding community meetings and educational programs at the home, which offers a deck and backyard space suitable for such events.
“He’s left a legacy here,” he said. “The name Haris Wehrmann will carry on forever.”