The recreation trail at the Calverton Enterprise Park is closed this month for deer hunting season — but town officials are having a hard time keeping bicyclists and hikers off the trail, despite signs posted at trail entrances advising the public that because the town allows deer hunting at the park during the special shotgun season.
Wildlife Management Committee members Jerry Halpin and Chris Witt attended the town board work session Thursday morning to discuss their concerns about trail use during shotgun season.
People have moved police barricades and event peeled the “trail closed” stickers off signs at entrances, Halpin said.
Halpin said he thinks most of the issues are with people who are not local residents. He characterized their reaction to the trail closing as “brazen” and said he and other committee members have even been sworn at.
“There’s a sense of entitlement, now that the bike trail is complete,” Witt said.
The committee members asked if the town could require town parking stickers for trail users.
Councilwoman Jodi Giglio, who is the town board liaison to the alternative transportation committee and has spearheaded the trail project, said use of the trail is not limited to town residents. It has been developed with the assistance of grants from the state and county, she said.
Riverhead began work on the trail in 2008 with the aid of state grant funding, including $100,000 in grant funding from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, completing an approximate 3.2 mile portion of the trail. The town then secured $200,000 in Suffolk County funding provided through the work of Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski and a $500,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Fund.
Violators of the month-long prohibition are subject to a $500 fine and up to 30 days in jail for trespassing, town attorney Robert Kozakiewicz said.
Witt suggested the town install larger, permanent signs at the trail heads, which could include a description of the penalties for violation.
The town holds annual lotteries for permits granted to state-licensed hunters to hunt on undeveloped areas of town-owned land at the enterprise park during archery season and firearms season.
The trail remains open during archery season, but for safety reasons is off-limits during the January firearms season.
“We can’t allow people who are breaking the law to push out those who are complying,” Halpin told board members.
“You guys have been complying with everything to a T, doing everything by the book,” Councilman Tim Hubbard said. “You’re thinning the herd out and we appreciate what you’re doing, how you’re doing it,” he said.
Giglio said the town would “send out notices to all the bike clubs” and improve the notice provided on the town’s website.
“The hunters know if they drive on the bike trail, they’re going to be fined,” Halpin said. “If you fine a biker or walker on the trail, the word will get out there.”