Bonac Hero Awards


It’s that time of the year when we take stock. While we’ve seen a lot of naughty lately, I’d like to focus on the nice and give out the inaugural Bonac Hero Awards.

Since our ocean, bays and harbors mean so much to us on the East End, let’s start with a few people who dedicate their lives to protecting our most precious resource.

Kevin McAllister, president and founder of Defend H2O, has started a petition to ban methoprene in Suffolk County. In a 30-second video that recently went viral, he said the county sprays 20,000 acres of tidal marsh with the toxic chemical, which not only kills its target, mosquitoes, but other beneficial insects and crustaceans, such as crabs and lobsters, and may harm fish and birds.

Methoprene is an “insect growth regulator,” according to the Environmental Protection Agency, which classifies it as a “biochemical pesticide.” It disrupts an insect’s endocrine system by mocking juvenile hormones, preventing the insect from becoming an adult.

The chemical is sprayed on a weekly basis throughout the summer, all over Accabonac Harbor. It gets into the seafood we eat and is used on grains, mushrooms, peanuts and livestock feed, so it’s in our food chain. It is time that we move away from toxins and begin to realize that our health is managed not by adding more chemicals and genetically modified organisms to the environment but by being more aware of our natural surroundings and allowing nature to manage itself. Mr. McAllister advocates using bacillus thuringiensis israelensis, a naturally occuring bacteria, instead of methoprene to inhibit the mosquito population.

Consider signing his petition to ask Suffolk County officials to remove methoprene from the 2018 Vector Control work plan and state officials to restrict methoprene use in the coastal zone.

In addition to fighting methoprene, Mr. McAllister fights hard structures along the shoreline, which disrupts the littoral ecosystem. He also advocates for septic upgrades, all in the name of protecting our water sources.

As a population ecologist, Dr. Arthur Kopelman, president of Coastal Research and Education Society of Long Island, better known as CRESLI, spends a lot of time on the water, and has been collecting data on fin and humpback whales in New York and New England for three decades. For almost as long, he’s been studying the population dynamics of harbor, gray, harp and hooded seals in New York. He is also responsible for some of the best moments in my life, thanks to his whale watching trips out of Montauk. As long as I live, being able to witness dozens of humpback whales bubble-net feeding in the Great South Channel, 20 miles off the coast of Nantucket, will always be a highlight for me.

Beginning in January, CRESLI is teaming up again with the Viking fishing fleet to offer winter and spring seal cruises on the 125-foot Superstar. The vessel, equipped with a heated cabin and fully stocked galley, will sail to Plum Island, Great Gull Island and Little Gull Island to view seals. The fare is $40 for adults and $25 for children 5 to 12 years old. Check their website for dates and reservations. If you’re more of a landlubber, no problem—Dr. Kopelman leads seal walks at Cupsogue Beach County Park for a $5 donation, but the dates do sell out, so advance reservations are a must. Dr. Kopelman is very protective of the seals, and if you plan on clamming in their area, he considers that harassment and will report incidents to authorities, so be warned. There are plenty of other good clamming spots, but you won’t hear them from me. The cetaceans and pinnipeds of the sea thank you, Dr. Kopelman, and so do I.

When I first interviewed landscape designer Edwina von Gal, she was talking about her nonprofit organization, which aimed to improve living conditions for those in Panama.

As we sat on her back porch, overlooking the hammocks of Accabonac, I remember asking her, “Why Panama?” Maybe that was a selfish question on my part, but she admitted that I wasn’t the only one to wonder why she didn’t focus on her own backyard.

As of 2013, having met her goals in Panama, her Perfect Earth Project has done much to educate homeowners and landscape professionals about the dangers of using toxic chemicals on lawns, golf courses and public spaces. It is not necessary to use chemicals in order for a lawn to be beautiful or well groomed.

With hard work and determination, her message has reached far beyond Bonac. The Perfect Earth Project has partnered with various organizations to spread the word and walk the walk, from Bridge Gardens to the Storm King Art Center.

If you want to learn how to make your yard perfect, and healthy for your family and the environment, go to the Perfect Earth Project website and order the PRFCT Yard Handbook. There are tons of great tips, like how to manage crabgrass, when and how to mow and water grass in order to grow a green lawn without chemicals, mulching, and more.

Ms. von Gal is a true leader who supports our community in many ways. Whether it’s Guild Hall, Long-House Reserve, East Hampton Library, Peconic Land Trust or Project Most, she is there—and for that she’s one of my heroes.

I love Carissa Waechter, the goddess of gluten, for finally giving East Hampton Village an old-school bakery.

Ms. Waechter started small, selling bread at seasonal farmers markets. Finally, we can find her baked goodies all year-round. Now, when you need a beautiful birthday cake for that special someone, pies that will blow your mind, and breads baked from local wheat, you know where to go.

She saved my neck from the chopping block many times. For example, when my brother’s girlfriend requested Thanksgiving stuffing with sausage in it. I was not looking forward to learning a new recipe, and the time it would take to make it, when a random email reached my inbox from Carissa’s, announcing that sausage stuffing would be available to order online for pick up on Newtown Lane, or at Lucy’s Whey in the city—along with pumpkin squash pie and salted caramel apple pie for the holiday.

It was then when I also got to try her new charcoal bread, which does not taste like burnt wood or have a gritty texture. In fact, the black bread is dense and moist, with a crispy crust, perfect with fried eggs for breakfast or a hearty stew on a cold night. This is gluten at its best.

For years, it was a scramble to find cakes decorated with real flowers, chocolate pie, fresh ham-and-cheese croissants, or multigrain baguettes all in one place. Retail space in East Hampton Village is outrageously expensive, so it’s a joy to see a young, local woman be able to run a much-needed bake shop. Thank you for making it work, Carissa, and for loving what you do.

Enjoy the holidays, everyone!