Tag Archive | "environment"

Surfrider Foundation to Host Paddle-Building Workshop with Master Craftsman Barry Walz in East Hampton

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A canoe and paddle crafted by Barry Walz. Courtesy of Mr. Walz.

A canoe and paddle crafted by Barry Walz. Photo courtesy of Mr. Walz.

By Tessa Raebeck

For one week last fall, Barry Walz navigated the rivers and streams of the Canadian wilderness, with only his dog, his canoe and his paddle for company.

“It was a bit lonely at times, I found myself talking to myself—but I didn’t answer,” he joked about his first solo canoe trip.

Not only did Mr. Walz manage the trip on his own, it was also entirely self-supported: He built his canoe and paddle by hand.

A master craftsman on the East End for nearly 30 years, Mr. Walz will teach a paddle-building workshop this spring at his East Hampton shop in conjunction with Surfrider Foundation.

“Barry has many years’ experience building beautiful and functional paddles and canoes, and is an excellent teacher,” said event organizer Mike Bottini, chair of the Eastern Long Island Chapter of Surfrider Foundation.

After coming to Shelter Island in 1985 to remodel the house of his brother, internationally known designer Kevin Walz, Mr. Walz decided to stay, making a name for himself on Shelter Island first in general construction. Later, after finding himself happiest doing detail work, he began to focus primarily on cabinetry and custom furniture. He moved Walz Woodworks to East Hampton in 2013.IMG_0022 paddle

The Walz brothers share two lines of furniture, as well as a patent for a technology that enables them to build graceful, lightweight, but very strong, furniture.

“It’s just a way to put things together so it can be very, very light, but very, very strong,” explained Mr. Walz. “We made a chair that weighs about two pounds—pretty cool.”

“I like being able to put things together so they fit well and they make sense to me,” continued Mr. Walz. “When you build cabinets or furniture, you have to be able to see things in three dimensions, so as they go together, you kind of anticipate certain joinery. I just like the way things fit. It’s like putting a jigsaw puzzle together, but you’re actually creating the pieces.”

After seeing Mr. Walz’s work, Mr. Bottini decided to pursue a collaboration between the craftsman and Surfrider Foundation, coming up with the idea for a paddle workshop. Participants in the workshop will be able to choose between canoe, kayak, and stand-up paddleboard paddle designs. Mr. Walz, who will guide each participant through the entire process of constructing their custom-made paddle, will provide all materials.

An avid adventurer, Mr. Walz started building paddles in the late 1980s for his own use. “I was doing research, development so to speak,” he said. “I would take them down the rivers and say, ‘Oh this works’ or ‘This doesn’t work.’” He sent his paddles to experts to have them critiqued and took lessons to fine tune his craft, all the while using friends and his own wilderness canoe trips to test out his creations on the water.

“The first thing is function and then the next thing is the beauty of it,” he said. “Wood is a gorgeous way to build things. It talks to me, I guess, a little bit. That’s where you get a choice—to have it talk to the individual that’s designing it. Whether it’s the blade design or the key grip, it’s all custom; it’s all shaped to the individual hand and the person, so, really, the individual’s going to get a completely custom paddle that they like and talks to them.”

“There is a bit of a science and there’s a balance in everything,” he added. “Some people are talented in one way and you lean toward that and other people are the opposite. But there’s a science and that’s half the fun of it all—the functionality and the beauty of it all—being able to put something together and make it very functional and beautiful.”

People have been calling Mr. Walz’s work “functional art,” he said, but the craftsman is always focused on function first. He gets frustrated when he visits a client’s house to find one of his paddles hanging on a wall, rather than lying outside next to the canoe. “Although they’re very beautiful, I make them to be used. You can always refinish them and make it look pretty again if it gets scratched up,” he said.

The function sustains his love for his craft, as creating a paddle or canoe is a way for Mr. Walz to experience his true passion, wilderness canoeing, from home. “When I’m building a paddle, it kind of takes me there. I’m in the back of my mind as I’m constructing a blade; it kind of brings me back to that spot I love so much,” he said.paddle pics-0

In his younger days, he would do 100-mile loops through northern Minnesota and Canada. “It’s a million acres of anywhere you want to go,” he said of the region, called the Arrowhead. Today, his custom-made canoe has over 1,600 wilderness miles on it and will earn even more this fall, when he guides six novices on a trip up north.

Throughout it all, he always has his dog, his canoe and his paddle. He hopes to share that connection with others through the workshop, creating paddles that are “a special thing for them—something that means something to them,” he said.

With times and dates to be arranged with Mr. Walz, the workshop is limited to five participants and will be held evenings at Walz Woodworks, 216 Springs-Fireplace Road in East Hampton. The fee is $400 for Surfrider Foundation members and $425 for non-members, with a one-year membership included. For more information, contact Barry Walz at 767-8838 or bwcanoe@gmail.com.

New York Legislators Call For Two-Year Delay on DEC Plan to Eradicate State’s Mute Swan Population

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Virginia Briggs photo.

A mute swan swims in East Hampton. Virginia Briggs photo.

Editorial note: an updated version of this post can be found here.

By Tessa Raebeck

New York officials have introduced legislation that would impose a two-year delay on the Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) plan to eradicate the state’s mute swan population by 2025.

Co-sponsored by Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. of Sag Harbor and state senators Tony Avella of Queens and Steve Cymbrowitz of Brooklyn, the bill would halt the DEC plan, which was completed and introduced in December 2013. The legislation would require the DEC to illustrate the “actual damage” the mute swan population causes to the environment or other species before exterminating the species.

“Wildlife experts, rehabilitators and environmentalists do not unanimously agree that exterminating the mute swan population is justified,” Mr. Thiele said in a statement. “In addition, there is debate amongst such experts about whether the planned eradication of the mute swan population is even minimally beneficial to the eco-system or to our environment. Therefore, it is incumbent on the Department of Environmental Conservation to illustrate the necessity of eradicating this non-native species by demonstrating the actual damage to the environment or other species caused by mute swans.”

Mute swans are an invasive species of swan named “mute” because they are less vocal than other swans. Native to Europe and Asia, they were brought to North America in the late 1870s due largely to their aesthetic appeal. Initially introduced in New York as ornaments on the estates of the lower Hudson Valley and Long Island, mute swans were present in the wild by the turn of the 20th century.

According to the DEC, the mute swan population had increased to about 2,000 statewide by 1993, peaked around 2,800 in 2002 and is now estimated at about 2,200. The swans, says the DEC, are still most heavily concentrated on Long Island and in the lower Hudson Valley, although they are also present in the Lake Ontario region.

“On the East End of Long Island, the mute swan is often visible in local ponds and waterways,” stated Mr. Thiele. “My office has not received one report in all my years in office that the mute swan is a nuisance or an environmental problem. This legislation will require all concerned to take a step back and take a hard look before any irrevocable action is taken by the DEC.”

A mute swan on the East End. Zachary Persico photo.

A mute swan on the East End. Zachary Persico photo.

The DEC says the non-native species causes a variety of environmental problems, “including aggressive behavior towards people, destruction of submerged aquatic vegetation, displacement of native wildlife species, degradation of water quality, and potential hazards to aviation.”

To express your comments to the DEC on its draft mute swan plan, email fwwildlf@gw.dec.state.ny.us with “Swan Plan” in the subject line or send letters to NYSDEC Bureau of Wildlife, Swan Management Plan, 625 Broadway in Albany, NY 12233-4754. The deadline for submitted comments is February 21.

To express your comments to Mr. Thiele, call his district office in Bridgehampton at 537.2583.

Barking and Basking, The Seals Return to Montauk for the Winter

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A harbor seal sunning on the jetty at Georgica Beach in East Hampton. (Photo by Tessa Raebeck).

A harbor seal sunning on the jetty at Georgica Beach in East Hampton. (Photo by Tessa Raebeck).

By Tessa Raebeck

While most visitors to Montauk’s beaches come only in the summer months, at least one group prefers to spend the off-season basking in the sun. Harbor seals, once hunted as bounty and nearly depleted in the Northeast, are now abundant on the East End each winter.

Most of the seals in local waters are harbor seals, but grey, hooded, ringed and harp seals have also been spotted. The East Hampton Trails Preservation Society hopes to see at least one type of seal this Saturday, at a guided two and a half mile hike that weaves through a wooded trail along the bluffs in Montauk and ends, ideally, with a display of seals sunning themselves by the shore.

Several Northeast states enacted seal bounty programs in the late 1800s, and substantial catching and hunting contributed to a severe depletion of the seal population in local waters. A bounty program in Massachusetts existed until 1962.

Ten years later in 1972, the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act largely prohibited the “take” of marine mammals in U.S. waters or by U.S. citizens anywhere.

The seal population began to recover following its passage, according to Gordon Waring, who leads the seal program at NOAA’s (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

The number of seals on the Long Island shore has continued to rise.

Dr. Arthur Kopelman, field biologist and president of the Coastal Research and Education Society of Long Island (CRESLI), has tracked changes in seal species, abundance and distribution in the Long Island Sound since 1995.

“What I’ve seen is a dramatic increase in population of harbor seals,” Kopelman said last week.

Harbor seals, Dr. Kopelman said, come down to New York from areas further North and usually stay from September to May, with the population generally peaking in late March in Westhampton Beach, his current area of research.

They have a cute, dog-like appearance and when flared, their nostrils resemble a cartoon heart. About six feet long, harbor seals are various shades of blue-gray, white or brown and covered in speckled spots.

If you’ve seen a seal on the East End, chances are it was a harbor seal.

They represent 95 percent of local seals. Dr. Kopelman counted 55 seals in Westhampton just last week, the vast majority of which were harbor seals.

Montauk has more grey seals than Westhampton, the population ecologist said, although the majority are still harbor seals. He has seen the rocks in Montauk filled with hundreds of barking seals in the past.

If harbor seals look like dogs, grey seals look like horses. Grey seals, larger and more aggressive with long faces and large snouts, account for four percent of the local seal population.

Adult males can weigh as much as 700 pounds; double the size of adult male harbor seals.

Dr. Kopelman said according to anecdotal evidence, the grey seal population in local waters is increasing. Typically classified as seasonal visitors like harbor seals, it appears grey seals – like many before them – have become attached to the area and are staying on the East End year round.

“In fact,” Dr. Kopelman said, “there are some folks who seem to indicate that there’s a year round presence of grey seals out here. Although, again, that’s somewhat anecdotal – but probably correct.”

The Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation has rescued and rehabilitated many newborn seals recently, but it is not officially confirmed the pups were born in the area.

According to Dr. Kopelman, female harbor seals are often pregnant while here but typically head back North before giving birth to their pups, which can swim minutes after being born. It is “likely,” however, that grey seals are giving birth locally.

The remaining one percent of local seals – harp, hooded and ringed seals – come from as far north as the Arctic.

“They are less frequently encountered,” said Dr. Kopelman, “but they are encountered.”

The Seal Haul Out Hike will take place on Saturday, December 28 at 10 a.m. at Camp Hero Road in Montauk. For more information, contact Eva Moore at the East Hampton Trails Preservation Society at (631) 238-5134 or sharstat@yahoo.com.

New Southampton Town Board Member Focuses on Environment

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Christine Scalera_7985 adjusted

By Claire Walla


Last Friday marked the four-week point for new Southampton Town Councilwoman Christine Preston Scalera. The Republican from Water Mill defeated Independent Party member Brad Bender in a tight race last November for an open seat on the town board.

So, what’s it been like to be at town hall for one month? The Express sat down with the councilwoman to find out.

“I know it’s only been four weeks, but it feels like it’s been four months!” exclaimed Preston Scalera who said she felt almost fully integrated into the fabric of town hall pretty early on.

As the former deputy attorney for Southampton Town and a former councilwoman in Oyster Bay, Preston Scalera said she came into town hall with certain strengths, which she said she’s already put into action.

“My background is planning and zoning,” she noted. “I would very often help people through the myriad of legislation [surrounding such things as building permits], and help them deal with different people in different departments.”

Thus, she is already assisting Councilman Chris Nuzzi in his effort to create a project development council for the town.

According to Preston Scalera, this would be a resource for residents, particularly small business owners, who are in the midst of planning or building projects. The council would advise applicants how to best complete all necessary documentation with the town in the most efficient way possible, to avoid redundancies and superfluous material.

But beyond town hall operations, the councilwoman has already demonstrated a keen interest in environmental issues, and is spearheading the effort to build an educational campaign around the town’s use of plastic bags.

“I’ve been working on that diligently,” she said. “The challenging part of that is trying to get the food industry and the other business entities, and the town’s sustainability committee all on the same page.”

While Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst had pushed efforts to adopt legislation that would effectively ban all single-use plastic bags in the town of Southampton — as has already been done in Southampton Village — Preston Scalera said there are too many interests at stake, which is why she’s helping to promote an education campaign instead.

“I think that an all-out ban, legislation, is the easy way out,” she continued. Getting people to change their habits and stop throwing away plastic bags “takes more thinking outside-the-box. You have to balance the very real goal of protecting our natural resources and minimizing the impact on the business community.”

At this point, Preston Scalera called legislation a “quick fix.” But, she said if education efforts don’t seem to work, then the town might revisit legislation.

In the same vein, Preston Scalera is also beginning to draft legislation that would create a water mitigation fund, which she said would be general enough to apply to both freshwater and coastal mitigation projects.

“It could be used for a whole host of things, like upgrades to septic systems or even projects the [Southampton Town] Trustees are working on,” Preston Scalera said of the proposed fund.

“I also want to change the code so that it would be a town-wide benefit under PDD [Planned Development District] law,” she added. In this way, any construction project that falls under PDD jurisdiction would be able to put money toward water mitigation as a “community benefit,” just like low-income housing and pine barrens restoration.

Most recently, Preston Scalera also said that she completed the rather customary cycle for new board members of official “getting to know you” conversations with town hall department heads. She expects to review their written feedback — details on plans or studies in the works, and upcoming capital projects — in the coming days.

“I want to see where there may be room for us [town board members] to step in and help, or what may need to be put on the backburner,” she explained. “Just as we’ve streamlined staffs, we have to help them run [their departments] efficiently.

“The most challenging thing is constantly looking for that balance,” she continued. “Given our economic constraints, this means [streamlining the town’s workflow] and still getting residents the services they need.”