Town Board covers deer, debris, stewardship and plant invasions

REPORTER FILE PHOTO | The Town Board met in work session Tuesday, January 8 to discuss a full agenda.

The Town Board was in a how-to state of mind at Tuesday’s work session.

On the agenda was deer management, debris cleanup from Hurricane Sandy, land stewardship and educating the public on controlling invasive and destructive plant species.

Admitting that the board was “playing catch up” in codifying management plans for property bought to preserve years ago, Supervisor Jim Dougherty and the board turned its attention to two parcels, Turkem’s Rest Preserve and Cackle Hill Preserve.

Purchased jointly with Suffolk County in 2006, Turkem’s Rest is about six acres of open space on South Midway Road opposite Dickerson Creek and bordered by Fresh Pond on the north. Almost half of the property is tidal wetlands, and has a history of aboriginal people living on or near it 3,000 years ago.

The preliminary management plan states there will be no “improvements on this property” and it “will need minimal maintenance.”

Public access will be strictly defined due to the ecological fragility of Fresh Ponds, with parking limited to the shoulder on the north side of South Midway road where there’s space for two or three cars.

A budget of $500 will be allowed for cleanup and clearing, the same amount for the Cackle Hill Preserve, 17 acres of wooded space off Stearns Point Road, purchased in 2007 from the Pike family.

This property also will be “unimproved.” It has, the management plan states, “extensive encroachment by vines and undergrowth.” The only entrance will be from the south side of Stearns Point.

The board discussed clearing the invasive plant species from both properties and also addressed the issue of signage, which Councilman Peter Reich said should be consistent in design for all public parcels. A bronze plaque on a large stone is in the cards to identify the parcels, give visitors directions toward paths and define the exact boundaries of the parcels.

This was a good idea, said Councilman Paul Shepherd since “it all looks good to me when I have my chain saw.”

Turning to deer management, Supervisor Dougherty told the board of a meeting last Friday in Riverhead of East End supervisors and village mayors to hear about a new legislative initiative from Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor) and State Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson).

The proposed legislation is inspired by what Senator LaValle has termed a “health crisis on two fronts,” which he described as tick-borne illness and fatalities from cars striking deer. The legislation was characterized as “still very early days,” by Supervisor Dougherty at the meeting. It would give more control of deer management to the East End municipalities, such as writing their own bow and arrow and firearm hunting restrictions, defining length of seasons and allowing town clerks to opt out of the licensing process.

One proposed change to help cull the deer herd would be to allow municipalities to alter state regulations on distances from structures allowed for the discharge of firearms and bows. Currently no firing of either weapon is allowed within 500 feet of a structure. One idea is to reduce the setback distance to 150 feet for bows, since most bow hunting is done from tree blinds, with the hunter shooting in a downward motion.

Mr. Dougherty said he had discussed licensing with Town Clerk Dorothy Ogar. Ms. Ogar reported there were about 80 deer hunting licenses issued by the town at a dollar a piece. One legislative proposal would be to let municipalities waive licensing. But the supervisor said he was in agreement with Ms. Ogar that knowing who is recorded by the clerk is a benefit to the town. There are only “one or two” people licensed that it’s important “to keep an eye on” Mr. Dougherty added, and licensing helps that process.

Public Works Commissioner Jay Card said the town would continue to waive fees at the Recycling Center for storm-related debris caused by Hurricane Sandy. The policy will stay through the end of the month when it will be reviewed, the board agreed.

Proof is required to show that any pieces of dock or bulkhead are truly storm debris and not merely old or worn out components that needed replacement anyway. Mr. Card said most of the vegetative debris on the ground was cleaned up and tree contractors have been taking down hanging limbs left from the storm that are a potential safety hazard.

Councilman Ed Brown noted that this might be the time for the town to promote an educational campaign to educate the public on the destructive capacity of invasive plant species. Mr. Brown said an inexpensive and effective way to get the message out would be to use the town’s public access Channel 22 for informative videos.

Supervisor Dougherty also announced he’d received reports that readings from all 13 Shelter Island wells had increased in quantity, some as much as four percent over previous months.

“This is very good news,” Mr. Dougherty said after the meeting. “With global warming, we could be having a drought in December.”