Visitors to the July 3 Alive on 25 street festival relax in front of Riverhead United Methodist Church. File photo: Denise Civiletti

A security staff members will be posted outside the Riverhead United Methodist Church tomorrow during the Alive on 25 street festival to prevent festival-goers from trespassing on church property and entering the historic cemetery located there.

Members of the Business Improvement District Management Association board of directors and town officials met with the pastor and church trustees at the church this morning to discuss the church’s concerns, as detailed in a July 11 letter to the town board from trustee and church secretary Jeanine Zeltmann.

People have been entering on church property during the street festival and doing things like relieving themselves in the evergreens, littering and worse. At the July 3 event, young children ran through the cemetery on the east side of the church and threw pieces of a broken headstone that marks the grave of a woman who was buried there in 1818. See prior story.

The church’s security cameras captured the tykes’ free-for-all on the property, tearing things up despite the presence of an adult male who was with them.

That was the last straw for church elders. They wrote to the town board and the BIDMA to ask for an immediate meeting. While the meeting this morning was less “immediate” than they had hoped, Zeltmann said the trustees were happy with the resolution of the situation. Though they had asked for some kind of fencing to be put up to keep people off church property, the trustees like the idea of a security staff person assigned to the location better than fencing.

“A fence sends a message of exclusion,” Zeltmann said. “And that’s certainly not what our church is about.”

BIDMA president Steven Shauger said he was dismayed to learn the church had a bad experience.

“I am sorry that they were in this position after the last event and the BIDMA will do all we can to make sure their concerns are addressed,” he said this morning. He said he had not seen an email from the church and was unaware of the issue until contacted by a reporter.

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.