Welcoming a new friend of the bay

Heather Johnson commits to protecting the O.B.-CSH complex


The non-profit environmental organization Friends of the Bay has recently welcomed a new friend.

Heather Johnson, of Smithtown, was named the new executive director following Paul D’Orsey’s retirement on Oct. 6. Johnson said that she and D’Orsey met while he was the director of the Cold Spring Harbor Whaling Museum and she was the director of the Northport Historical Society — both part of the Huntington Historic Partnership.

“I actually learned about the position through Paul, and I’ve been interested in working with an environmental organization for a long time,” Johnson said.

Friends of the Bay was established in 1987 with the mission to preserve, protect and restore the Oyster Bay-Cold Spring Harbor complex and surrounding watershed.

The new director has a two-decades-long list of administrative credits from Hofstra University, where she worked in the public relations department, international admissions and the campus museum. Johnson worked at the Northport Historical Society for five years, and joined Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories in 2016, where she worked in the meeting and courses department.

Although she enjoyed contributing to the vital work the lab was doing, she said her deep-rooted love for the environment drew her to Friends of the Bay.

“Since I was younger, my heart has always been with the environment,” she said. “As a kid I enjoyed hiking, kayaking and just being in the outdoors.”

This love, coupled with her extensive experience managing nonprofits, made her more than qualified to take over as executive director.

“I wanted to do something where I wake up every morning and I feel the work is impacting my surroundings,” she said. “Protecting the environment is a really important issue to me, and to have a job where I’m even a small part [of that], it’s a dream come true.”

In addition to continuing water quality monitoring and advocacy work, she wants to develop programming that expands the organization’s educational outreach.

“I want to do a speaker series at the office that brings in scientists, authors and historians to educate school and community groups to talk about the bay’s environmental history as well as steps to take towards protecting it,” she said.

Johnson added that the series could also inspire others to actions. “Somebody that we talk to at these outreach programs might want to effect change as well, and contribute to helping to keep our waterways clean and healthy,” she said.

She is excited to help fulfill the mission of the organization as its executive director, and see the goals of the Friends to fruition. “We’ve made great strides and contributed greatly to the health of the bay,” she said.

She attributed this accomplishment to the work taken on by Friends of the Bay, as well as other organizations devoted to sustaining the bay’s longevity.

“You work better when you work together, and I’m looking forward to meeting other non-profits and groups that exist in Oyster Bay,” she said. “Collaboration is key.”