Buoy Tree: Community Collaboration At Its Best

The Fishers Island community generously donated time and resources to create the festive Buoy Tree currently on display at the Parade Grounds. (l) First day of buoy installation Nov. 21. Jane Ahrens Photo (r) Buoy Tree nearly completed in early December. Gussie Foshay-Rothfeld Photo

A Buoy Tree has taken center stage on the Parade Grounds west of the State Troopers’ barracks. The tree, nearly completed in early December, exists due to the generous efforts of the Fishers Island community.

Last summer, fishers island.net Editor Jane Ahrens happened to see Michele Klimczak moving buoys out of the Fishers Island Conservancy maintenance shed. Michele clears marine debris from Fishers Island shores for FIConservancy, and the buoys were piling up.

“Michele hoped we could do something better than just toss the buoys into the dumpster,” Jane said. “So we Googled ‘recycle buoys’ and a bunch of Buoy Trees popped up. What a great idea, we thought!”

The first step was getting approval from FIFerry commissioners and FIConservancy President Tom Sargent. FIFerry District manages the Parade Grounds, which are owned by the Town of Southold. FIConservancy restored and maintains the Parade Grounds grasslands.

An informal committee, comprised of Jane, Michele, FIConservancy Executive Director Kristen Peterson and Nate Malinowski, set the project in motion.

Kristen started at Race Rock Garden Co. where Tom Kexel offered to build the support structure. David Burnham helped with building materials and also donated buoys that were in one of his bunkers.

“Our buoy collection continued to grow as Fishers Island Oyster Farm and numerous Island residents, including Joe Rogan and the Gaumonds, dropped off buoys to be painted,” Jane said. “Nate helped figure out how to attach the buoys to the tree, and I have added most of them. Fishers Island Yacht Club, with the help of Manager Beth Arsenault, donated a lot of rope for hanging the buoys, and John Ski gave us some as well.”

A small solar panel with three spotlights illuminate the tree. Jay Cushing and his team at the Electric Company repaired the socket at the base of the nearest streetlamp to supply electricity. When the tree is completed, strings of white lights donated by Our Lady of Grace Rummage, will circle the tree.

“The best part is that so many people have painted beautiful buoys for the tree, including Mrs. Sawyer’s art students from Fishers Island School. I have the names of about 60 people who have painted buoys, and there are more that have been dropped off but with no name,” Jane said.

“There are about 125 buoys on the tree so far. Every time I go to the tree, or open the trunk of my car, there are more buoys. Several have been painted and sent back to the Island—wonderful!”

December 6, 2020