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The Peconic Baykeeper Grassroots Fundraiser At The Lobster Inn

Originally Posted: October 22, 2009

Douglas MacKaye Harrington

Peconic Baykeeper Kevin McAllister (standing, right) stops by a table of supporters. Photos by Douglas Harrington

Southampton - Not all important non-profit fundraising events in the Hamptons create celebrity fodder for the New York Post's "Page Six" gossip column. Yes, occasionally it can be a grassroots event that celebrates good local people in support of an essential local organization that impacts the lives of Hamptonians, both rich weekenders and blue-collar, year-round Islanders alike, in very real, personal and immediate ways on a daily basis. Such was the case at the 2009 Peconic Baykeeper Lobster Party at the Lobster Inn on Friday, October 17.

Very few sport coats, no tuxes, gowns or minks, this was a event that was packed with people that came to have a great dinner with no pomp or circumstance and listen to the local news regarding the state of the Hamptons' most essential natural resource, the waters that surround the East End of this precious island.

Southampton Town Trustee and fifth-generation Bayman Ed Warner, Jr.

Whether you are the world renowned fashion designer Calvin Klein in a mansion on the Atlantic in Southampton or Marie Jankowski, widow of plumber and volunteer fireman Leonard and mother of the beloved yellow-tricycle riding Preston who lives across from the Quogue school, the water that touches the earth we call our land determines the quality of all our lives and both the economic and ambient sustainability of our community. Essentially, who really wants to live surrounded by polluted waters that produce no catch or look at over-developed shorelines, whether rich or middle-class, liberal or conservative?

There was indeed music as Friday and Saturday night Tuscan House guitarist Dennis O'Connor took the night off and volunteered his services once again to the event. After a lively local Blue Point Beer sponsored cocktail hour that offered the best of our local bounty in hors d'oeuvres of shrimp, crab, tuna and lobster, attendees settled into their seats to attentively listen as Kevin McAllister, the Peconic Baykeeeper himself, describe his work and the state of our waters.

Challenges do indeed abound, but McAllister explained at the end of the remarks recapping the work of the Baykeeper that some victories had indeed been won, "The end of human waste discharged from boats in the waters and commercial discharge in the water, an end of Suffolk County trenching of marshlands and the indiscriminate mosquito spraying of the marshlands." These issues were only addressed because McAllister, in his role as Baykeeper, made them an issue.

Commercial Baymen Jamie Hummel, Jonathan Rewinski and Jonathan Harvey.

At the event was Southampton Trustee and fifth-generation Hampton Bayman Ed Warner, Jr., "It is paramount to me as a commercial Bayman. I am a fifth generation East Ender working the bay. My son is 22 years old, he has got all of my father's permits and Kevin has the responsibly of protecting the bay for the next generation. I think that Kevin really understands what Baymen do."

I spoke with three other Baymen that were outside the restaurant catching a smoke, Jamie Hummel, Jonathan Rewinski and Jonathan Harvey. All were present in support of the Baykeeper, with a degree of cautious optimism, "I don't know if it has made a difference, but we hope it makes a difference, otherwise we are all done. It has to work, so we hope it does." Hummel went on to expand that the commercial fishermen's greatest challenge was "lack of production in the bay, lack of product." I asked if he could wish for anything regarding his business what would it be - he responded, "Increased marketing of our product, let the customers know where it comes from, buy local, support your local fishermen."

A lively crowd of grassroots supporters of the Peconic Baykeeper enjoy the Blue Point Brewery sponsored cocktail hour.

Although McAllister cannot address the issue of marketing the Great South Bay's bounty, his work does directly impact the marine production, or reproduction, in the waterways he patrols and protects. Waterways he defends, by the way, with no government funding, as he is a watchdog of the government as well as the waters.

On the board of the Baykeeper is Manhattanite, summer childhood resident of Montauk and now weekender in Southampton Maureen Kilinsky, "I have been on the board for four years and I got involved because it is easy for one to be very concerned with the over-development on land, but it is harder to see the abuse of the water. Once you meet Kevin and go out on the boat and see what is going on, it is very hard to not get behind him and his work. I think we all grew up with an attitude that we had a right to take everything from the water, we now, hopefully, realize it is not about having a healthy lawn but having healthy water."

Another longtime supporter of the Peconic Baykeeper is Lobster Inn owner Skip Tolleffeson, who actually gave McAllister the boat he uses as Baykeeper along with donating 300 acres of bay bottom. Tolleffeson's suggestion for the preservation of the waterways seemed simple enough to me, "I think 10 percent of the Preservation Fund should go into saving the water and the remaining 90 percent to saving the lands."

Phyliis Toohey, Kevin McAllister, Skip Tolleffeson, Maureen Kilinsky and Stuart Goode.

I asked McAllister about the need for celebrity support, "Relative to the other charities out here, and they are all good causes; we are the only organization that is focused on clean water. I wish some of the celebrities would take a look around, take a look off their decks." As McAllister explained, a notable celebrity would indeed draw more attention to the work of the Peconic Baykeeper, but the events will never be sacrificed to celebrity worship at the cost of the grassroots mission of this non-profit, non-obligated, non-government supported community appointed sheriff of the waters.

Hardworking environmentalist and Great South Bay resident of Bellport, actress/author/model Isabella Rossellini will be honored as a Guardian Award recipient at the 2010 spring fundraiser which will be celebrated at Todd Jacob's Atlantica Restaurant in June. Like Tolleffeson, another unselfish, community-concerned restaurateur that has supported the work of the Peconic Baykeeper for years.

Rossellini is more than worthy of the award, as her work with the Nature Conservancy, the Sundance Channel's "Green Porno" environmental films and the SPAT shellfish reclamation project of the Great South Bay has more than earned her the accolade. Rossellini is a celebrity in support of the waters that she, as a resident, cherishes and defends with her fame and her hands-on, personal involvement. She does indeed understand the value of the work of the Peconic Baykeeper, as so should we all.

For more information go to www.peconicbaykeeper.org

Frequently mistaken for the "Most Interesting Man in the World" from the Dos Equis commercials and the iconic gray-bearded Sean Connery, DMH is the Senior Contributing Editor at Hamptons.com. www.hamptons.com Hamptons HamptonsOnline HamptonsOnline

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