Sag Harbor Community Notes, May 19

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What identifies eastern Long Island,” said baykeeper Kevin McAllister, “is its local waters. If we let these waters sour, if we are indifferent or greedy, it’ll be a sad day.” Kevin has been ringing a wake-up bell for more than a dozen years, now, calling our attention to the beauty of our local waters, and also to the dangers that imperil those waters. What most affects the health of local waters is what happens on land, he says. And given the area’s growing population, increased development and density, Kevin sees increased risks of harmful wastewater runoff, and enormous consumption of our precious groundwater.

On Saturday, May 21, paddleboarders, kayakers and canoeists are invited to “Paddle for the Bays,” a two-hour paddling excursion in support of the Peconic Baykeeper’s clean water programs. Paddlers will launch from Haven’s Beach and explore the east side of Barcelona Neck to Northwest Creek. Along the way, they’ll learn about the delicate balance that allows these estuaries to thrive. The event is cosponsored by Main Beach Surf & Sport, Peconic Baykeeper and Paddlers for Humanity. Kevin will speak about the health of the bays and encourage paddlers to become good stewards of our waterways. But mostly, the outing is designed for fun.

“We want to share some love,” with the bay said Rick, store manager at Main Beach Surf & Sport.

Advance registration for the paddle is $25, or $30 on the day of the event. Bring your own watercraft, or rent one. Kayak rentals are $20 for a single, and $40 for a double. To register, visit Main Beach at 352 Montauk Highway in Wainscott, or call them at 537-2716. Or call the Peconic Baykeeper with credit card information at (631) 653-4804. Sponsorship levels include Brave Heart at $250; Guardian at $100; and Defender at $50. All proceeds will benefit Peconic Baykeeper. A rain date has been set for Sunday, May 22.

Reflecting on his more than 12 years of environmental and educational work, Kevin admitted it’s “not all a Reiki circle … it’s not just about holding hands.” At times, he’s had to “buck up and fight” through advocacy or litigation. Regarding Haven’s Beach, for example, Kevin’s concerns about high nitrogen levels have sometimes made him the bearer of bad news. And when people don’t like that message, they might rail against the messenger.

Still, Kevin says, he hasn’t lost his spirit. He still believes in people and that with accurate knowledge, we can be part of the solution. Kevin feels his greatest contribution has been to “help make people smarter, to raise public awareness,” he said. “If we can eliminate ignorance,” Kevin explained, “if we identify the enemy … then it’s up to the people and their own conscience.” While he’s concerned about the increased prevalence of irrigation systems and increased pressures on the groundwater supply, the good news is that the bays are resilient. “But we must eliminate insults to the systems,” Kevin said. “The bays have the ability to recover and respond, but we must make corrective changes.” If you can’t make the paddle, but would like to be involved, check out the baykeeper’s website at peconicbaykeeper.org.

If you’d rather stay on land this weekend, but still want to enjoy the outdoors, try a leisurely bike exploration to Oyster Pond Historical Society on the North Fork.

The East Hampton Trails Preservation Society is sponsoring the bike tour on Saturday, May 21, from 10 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. Participants will meet at the North Ferry parking lot on Shelter Island. Enjoy safe roadways and rather level terrain. “Flat as a pancake,” as our friend Chris from Maine used to say. Bikes should be in good working order and helmets are a must! Rain or thunder showers cancel the ride. Contact tour leaders Lois Peltz and Jerry Brown at 329-9414, or on the day of hike at (917) 747-0885. Check the trails group website at ehtps.org. Have fun!

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