Riverhead says it will fine trespassers on town nature trail

Keep Out! Hunting In Progress




Bikers and hikers be advised: The recreation trail in the Calverton Enterprise Park is closed until February, and town police have been advised to enforce a $500 fine for trespassing. The reason? The deer shotgun-hunting season is open until January 31.

Two members of Riverhead Town’s Wildlife Management Committee, Jerry Halpin and Chris Witt, appeared before the town board on Thursday, January 10, to discuss ways to keep people out of the park during what can a dangerous time, as state-licensed hunters cull the deer herd.

“This is the first year that we’ve had the full EPCAL trail completed during that season, so there is some concern of how it’s being posted to let the community know that they cannot go on the property that time of year,” Riverhead Town Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith said. “We have notified the newspapers, it’s on our website, it’s been placed on our social media, but we feel we need to continue notifying the public that it is closed at this time for safety reasons during this season.”

Not only could trespassers be fined $500, but they could face up to 30 days in jail, according to Riverhead Town Police Chief David Hagermiller.

The two wildlife management committee members said they’ve had issues with the removal of posted signs and peeling off of stickers from signs during the archery season. Halpin said while finding people on the trail at this time of year is not a new phenomenon, it has
escalated with the trail’s completion.

He cited a “brazenness upon those from outside of Riverhead . . . that somehow this is for them and no one else can have it.” He said of the more than 100 people the committee has spoken to regarding the park’s limitations through deer hunting season, “The people who give us the majority of the grief and the push-back — and swearing— are not from the Town of Riverhead.”

The committee’s suggestion to create a way to register visitors who want to use the trail was not considered by the board as the trail was completed using state and federal funds, but the board asked police to patrol the area on a regular basis and enforce trespassing fines. It will send notices to bike clubs and post additional signs, as well as consider larger, permanent ones to alert visitors how hunter activity taking place three months out of the year affects park closures.

“Some of these deer are pretty scrawny up there and you’re kind of doing a public service, if you will, to thin the herd out up there, and we appreciate what you’re doing,” said Councilman Tim Hubbard, the board’s liaison to the Wildlife Management Committee.

“I appreciate what you’re doing, how you’re doing it, and wish you to continue on. I’m not looking to shut down anything for the sake of some people who refuse to abide by the law. The onus is on them. In my opinion, the town has done everything in its power to make this known to the public. So, if you walk by a four-by-eight-inch sign that says that it’s closed because it’s hunting season, shame on you.”

For more information, visit the town’s website at http://www.townofriverheadny.gov.