A wildlife identification sign will be installed near this location on the downtown riverfront boardwalk, thanks to one talented Riverhead graduate. Photo: Denise Civiletti

Growing up in Riverhead, Holly Williams has always loved watching the wildlife on the Peconic River from the downtown boardwalk.

Now that she has returned to her hometown with a graphic design degree from SUNY Purchase, the 22-year-old wants to use her talents to help others enjoy the wildlife too.

Williams, who often spends time on the riverfront when she’s finished with her job at Costello’s Studios in Quogue, said she recently noticed that there is no signage with information about the river’s native plants and animals.

“I like to hang out there all the time after work and watch the birds flying by,” Williams said in an interview yesterday.

She is working with East End Arts, Riverhead Town and Cornell Cooperative Extension to design and install an informational sign on the boardwalk to educate the public about the wildlife they might see while strolling along the Peconic River.

“The Peconic Estuary is a super unique ecosystem with lots of wildlife, and it’s in the heart of downtown,” said Williams, who graduated from Riverhead High School in 2011. “People are there all the time. It’s a good opportunity for them to learn about what they see there.”

A variety of wildlife can often be seen in the cove in the Peconic River downtown. Photo: Denise Civiletti
A variety of wildlife can often be seen in the cove in the Peconic River downtown. Photo: Denise Civiletti

The sign will feature her artistic renderings of local plants, birds and other wildlife, including osprey, piping plover, egrets and blue claw crabs. Williams will paint full-body, detailed portraits of local wildlife in watercolors. She will then scan the portraits and arrange them digitally to fit on a 2 by 4 foot sign, labeling them with their species and scientific names.

She will also create a “cool little map” that depicts the Peconic Estuary itself, from its origin point to downtown Riverhead.

“We’re going to print it on a thick aluminum sign, like the ones they use on the highways,” Williams said.

Williams plans to create detailed watercolor portraits of important wildlife and plants that are native to the Peconic Estuary for the sign. Photo: Holly Williams

The four-foot-tall sign will be flood-proof and hurricane-proof, she said. She’d like for it to be installed in a central location on the boardwalk, near the floating docks, across from a small cove where lots of wildlife is always on view. Its approval and location is up to the town.

“I feel like it’s important that we have something that educates the public, residents and tourists alike,” she said.

Williams has been communicating with Cornell Cooperative Extension’s marine program to identify important native plants and wildlife to feature on the sign.

She is currently raising money through a GoFundMe page to cover the costs of production, including the sign itself, a smaller sign to list donors and sponsors and all of the hardware and materials involved.

She has submitted a diagram and a blueprint with her proposal to the Riverhead Town engineer. The town will be responsible for digging the holes for the sign.

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