After years of planning, town officials and Friends of the Big Duck gathered in Flanders on Thursday to cut the ribbon on the first-ever bathrooms at the iconic and beloved attraction.
The facilities are housed in a refurbished building, once dilapidated, that stands adjacent to the Big Duck; the structure was once a sandwich shop, over 25 years ago.
“Thanks to the help of the community, and in particular, the Friends of the Big Duck, over these past few years, the Big Duck Ranch property has been greatly restored to reflect the rich heritage and history of Flanders, while also providing a public grounds that residents and visitors can utilize and enjoy,” Councilman Chris Nuzzi, liaison to the Southampton Town Parks Department, said.
Nuzzi also noted that the Big Duck was originally built by duck farmer Martin Maurer in 1031.
The new rest rooms, Nuzzi said, "have been a long time coming." He said traditionally, ribbon-cutting ceremonies are not held for new bathrooms, to mark "the ceremonial first flush."
But in the case of the Big Duck, the new facilities are representative of the ongoing improvements and commitment of the town to the project.
Southampton Town Councilwoman Bridget Fleming congratulated residents who have long advocated for the Big Duck. "The community has been so tenacious," she said. "They've worked so hard."
Chris Bean, Southampton parks and recreation superintendent, thanked the Friends of the Big Duck, who will steward the project. "This is a red letter day," he said.
Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst agreed. "This is a good day for the Big Duck," she said.
The new bathrooms signal the most recent in a string of improvements to the Southampton Town-owned property adjacent to the Big Duck, including the restoration of the Brooder Barn, updated signage and lighting, new picnic tables, and upgraded landscaping.
Energy efficient and sustainable fixtures and lighting were utilized in the creation of the new rest rooms.
“We’ve been working for the past five years to help raise funds for improvements at the Big Duck,” Fran Cobb, President of the Friends of the Big Duck, added. “We’re happy to see the rest room project completed and are looking forward to continuing to help further enhance the property.”
Brad Bender, president of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Civic Association, attended the event and said the new bathroom were a "great" addition to the site.
Built in 1931, The Big Duck is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Five years ago, when the Big Duck was relocated back to Flanders in 2007, Southampton Town commenced working in collaboration with the county, state, and the Friends of the Big Duck to revitalize the property -- not only a popular tourist destination but the setting for a series of highly attended community events every year.
During the event, a spectator fainted but was soon revived and was able to drive off of her own accord.