The Town of Huntington has cut down multiple trees in a wetlands area at Mill Dam Park, citing a request by the aviation unit of the Suffolk County police department.
The town acted before getting approval of the state Department of Environmental Conservation, which oversees wetlands and other environmentally sensitive properties. But the town said the action was done on an emergency basis to improve the area around the helipad used by police and said it has since been in contact with the DEC.
“Citing safety and visibility issues, a General Services maintenance supervisor, and the Aviation Section pilot, both Iraq War veterans with training to recognize the potential hazards of the situation, determined that the trees were in fact a detriment and needed to be removed,” the town said.
On Friday, the DEC said it was looking into the matter. “The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is investigating a complaint of trees being removed in Mill Dam Pond Park on Nov. 6. DEC determined dozens of trees, mostly saplings, were cut in a protected area (adjacent) to designated freshwater wetlands, along with some grading work. The investigation is ongoing and DEC will take enforcement action for any unauthorized activity,” it told HuntingtonNow by email.
Lori Gunn, a Huntington resident, said she had seen that regrading and tree work over the weekend and reported it to the DEC.
“It must have been very obvious,” she said of the work. “How did it happen–in broad daylight?”
“It’s reprehensible. Natural flora is being wiped out,” she said.
Daniel Karpen, who frequently appears before the Huntington Town Board on a variety of observations on town issues, said he began notifying town officials when he learned about the tree removal. He and others said that at least two dozen trees had been taken down. He said that black walnut, black locust and black birch trees were among those removed and that the action violated the rules.