Longtime Friends of Connetquot President Ginny Fields has retired. We offer her our thanks and congratulations for all she has accomplished during her tenure and wish her health and happiness. Here is her own recounting of her years at the helm.
I served as a founding member of what started as a small nonprofit board of directors for Friends of Connetquot and was an active volunteer for more than two decades before deciding it is time to step down. After founding the Friends, we were able to help stop Connetquot River State Park Preserve (CRSPP) from becoming a Bed and Breakfast and start raising money to update, repair and restore various parts of the Preserve. During those years, when serving first as a Suffolk County Legislator and then as a New York State Assemblywoman, I was able to secure many small grants and a few large ones, such as $50,000 toward the rebuilding/restoration of the Grist Mill and $250,000 toward the Hatchery after the NYS DEC shut it down upon discovering the trout disease IPN. The Mill is almost completely restored and the Hatchery is open to trout fishing once again.
I’ve been unbelievably fortunate to have had the opportunity to be so creative and to make so many projects happen during my tenure. It has been an honor serving you and leading the Friends in achieving many accomplishments. I am proud that I was able to make significant contributions to the growth and visibility of CRSPP. Some of those achievements have been starting a Facebook page so that more people could see our beautiful Preserve, generating ways to bring people who had never been to CRSPP to the Park, and raising money to support the many projects that needed to be completed.
The first fundraising event we held was a gala, “celebrating the past, present and future of Connetquot River State Park Preserve.” It was an outdoor gala with carriage rides, free food from many local restaurants, fly fishing exhibitions, tours inside of the Main Building and the Hatchery, culminating with a very profitable auction. We organized that for approximately 15 years, then decided to change to an indoor gala at a local restaurant with many raffle prizes. In the interim, I developed a profitable “Ladies Tea” where we served scones, petit fours, and tea sandwiches, and offered fabulous raffle prizes to ladies wearing won- derful hats. In December, 2018 we staged a beautiful “Christmas at Connetquot” event with 50 uniquely decorated trees which we raffled off.
With the money raised in these fundraising events, along with donations, several much-needed grants from the Gardiner Foundation (with noteworthy assistance from Cathy Curran and Judge Peter Cohalan), semi-annual appeals to members, grants from various politicians, the able assistance of Park staff and some of our Board Members, (in particular Jerry and Rita Trapani and Richard Remmer) we were able to achieve many improvements: four historically replicated rocking chairs in the Billiard Room, linoleum in the kitchen, a repair of the stained glass transom window at the entrance to the main building (thanks to a grant from the Gardiner Foundation), and the recent rebuilding and restoration of the Grist Mill (mostly accomplished by John Remmer).
We replicated the Epithalet Snedecor portrait in a framed canvas print in the foyer of the main building, created a canvas portrait of Gil Bergen for the Men’s Dining Room, secured a large, beautiful boulder donated by the Rudolfer family and had a bronze plaque placed on it dedicated to Gil. We also awarded scholarships to local high school students, among many other endeavors. The passion of the staff and many volun- teers who have worked and supported the Preserve were why we were able to do so much in the past two decades.
And so, although it’s sad to have to do so, I’ve made the decision that I’m bowing out before I burn out. I am much older now, my husband has finally retired, and we wish to travel and spend time with our family. I shall miss everyone, and I’m enormously proud of everything we’ve achieved together.
I wish my many Friends, colleagues, and the new President the very best. I will continue to celebrate the accomplishments of this fine organization as it begins its next adventure.
Given the uncertainties presented by the Delta Variant, the Board has decided not to hold a Gala this year. Pray we get past this and can hold a 2022 Gala. That being said, the Friends Board is planning an Open House for our members and family in late October. Keep an eye on your email or mail for that invitation.
I have so many plans and ideas that I hope you will help me with and embrace. One of my initiatives is to establish a Volunteer Corps. As you know, community service is important for youth development. FOC will set up monthly activities for members, your children and grandchildren to come do a little light work at the Preserve on a monthly basis (weather permitting).
We are so proud of the work the Friends have done to reopen the Grist Mill. But the Mill can’t be open for tours without docents. Please consider becoming a mill docent. Your commitment could be a little as 2 hours a month during the season! (Easy-peasy!)
Another initiative I have is to offer members more group activities in the Preserve. Have you hiked the Greenbelt Trail? Ever wanted to try fly fishing? Would you like to ride a horse? Let’s all explore this wonderful Preserve together!
Do you have ideas? Want to get involved? Leave a message or a voice message and I will get back to you ASAP. Let’s make I Love My Park Day 365 Days a Year! No reason for us to wait until that one day in May!