Following the April 9 passing of Harry Wehrmann, the Peconic Baykeeper will have a solid foothold in Hampton Bays. Wehrmann’s estate, which he fondly called “Tranquil,” will be donated to the Peconic Baykeeper in an effort to provide a place for education, as well as the continued research and monitoring of Long Island bays and surrounding waters. Wehrmann spent many summers on the East End at the 12-acre family property until his passing. I spoke to Kevin McAllister of Peconic Baykeeper to learn more about Wehrmann and what his donation means to the environmental group.
“I was introduced to Harry about seven or eight years ago by a mutual friend who’s a tremendous supporter of Peconic Baykeeper, so at the time, I think Harry was reading in the press about our activities and recognizing that we were a staunch clean water advocate, something he cared a great deal about for his lifestyle,” McAllister said. “We spoke for about two hours that night and basically, he said that our organization was going to be the beneficiary of his home when he passed. He wrote it into his will and with his unfortunate passing, the wheels are in motion.”
The land is being subdivided, with a section being dedicated solely to Peconic Baykeeper. The Southampton Town Board purchased Wehrmann’s land through the Community Preservation Fund, which will allow the land to be used as a public park, as well as the headquarters of Peconic Baykeeper. “We’re in Quogue, but our space is limited. This’ll put us on a beautiful piece of property, our space will be tripled and the home itself lends itself to inviting people in for meetings as well as educational programs,” McAllister said. “It’s right across the street from Red Creek Pond. Having that accessible right there is great. I think Harry had very strong environmental ethics. He cared deeply for the area. That’s how he managed his property, in keeping in line with the natural state of things,” McAllister said. “His legacy is that the land wasn’t developed into multiple homes. As an individual, he had a number of friends who were active in exploring the bays with him, exploring the waters.”
McAllister also highlighted how genuinely funny Wehrmann was. “You had to listen very carefully to pick up on the intricacies of Harry’s sense of humor,” McAllister said. “I probably visited with him a dozen times over the years, chatted on the phone frequently. I’m glad I got to see him before he passed. About a week before, we got together for a few hours and I wanted to make it clear how meaningful his gift is to us, how appreciative we are.
“It’ll be nice to have a place to hang our shingle and conduct business, but more importantly, it’ll be a beautiful spot to provide education,” McAllister said. “Even without the things being written into the will, we plan on keeping the grounds the same. It’s a wooded lot, a dirt driveway. We wouldn’t change a thing about the spot. What improvements we might need to do to set it up as an office space are minor. The place is move-in ready for us, to be honest. Over the next six months or so, everything will be sorted out and we’ll be handed the keys to conduct business.”
There’s still a bit of red tape for Peconic Baykeeper to cut through, like bringing a nonprofit entity onto what was formerly residential property, but McAllister maintains his hopes that within the next few months, Peconic Baykeeper will be moved in and conducting business at Wehrmann’s estate. “We couldn’t ask for better neighbors. Everyone’s all about clean water. I feel honored to have known Harry,” McAllister said. “I’d rather see the man still walking the Earth, but he leaves a legacy for Long Island. There’s not a lot of people like him around.”