Pols, Friends celebrate Big Duck bathroom opening

10/26/2012 8:00 AM |
Southampton Town, Flanders, Big Duck

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Southampton Town officials had some fun cutting the ribbon at a new bathroom at the Big Duck Park Thursday.

A ribbon cutting ceremony for a bathroom?

Yes, but not just any bathroom.

On Thursday, Flanders residents and Southampton Town officials gathered for a such a ceremony at the Big Duck’s bathroom.

And no, the ribbon wasn’t across the bowl, and it wasn’t made of toilet paper. It was across the door to the building.

“It’s not so often you see a ribbon cutting for a bathroom, but we felt it was that important to reach out to the community and thank those who are responsible for us having gotten to the point we can can go in and have that ceremonial first flush,” Southampton Councilman Chris Nuzzi said.

“This is a good thing for the Big Duck,” said Southampton Supervisor Anna Throne Holst, who added that she was looking forward to the “inaugural flush” as well.

Operation of the bathroom will be turned over to the Friends of the Big Duck, a nonprofit group founded to preserve the history of the Big Duck, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, said Chris Bean, the town’s recreation department supervisor.

The Friends will set the hours of operation for the bathroom and will contract to have it cleaned, Mr. Bean said.

It’s expected to be open when the Big Duck is open, said Christine Fetten, the town’s director of municipal works. She said the town contracted for the exterior work on the bathroom but did the interior work in-house.

The Friends seek to preserve the Duck for the community and for tourists,” said Neil Young, the group’s vice president.

“We want to promote the Big Duck and promote Long Island’s duck farming heritage,” he said. “And it’s also a nice spot to just come and have lunch if you’re in the area.”

The bathroom building, located just west of the Duck itself, is one of three buildings on the Big Duck site that Southampton Town planned to renovate as part of a plan to create “Big Duck Park.” Two of the three have now been renovated.

At one time, there were about 20 different buildings on the former duck farm, but most of them were beyond repair, said Northampton resident Chris Sheldon.

The town still has yet to renovate a former duck brooding barn on the property, which officials envision as a museum on the history of duck farming in the area.

The idea for a Big Duck historic park on the site dates back to 2003, when then-supervisor Skip Heaney put $100,000 in the town capital budget for the project, at a time when the Duck was still at its previous location.

The Big Duck moved back to its current location in Oct. 2007, after having spent the previous 19 years at Sears-Bellows park, also on Flanders Road, but in what some people considered Hampton Bays.

The Big Duck was originally build in Riverhead in 1931 as a store for duck farmer Martin Mauer, and moved to its current site in 1936, where it stayed until 1987.

tgannon@timesreview.com