Updated: Town Cuts Down Trees in Mill Dam Park Wetlands

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.

Loary 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.

Neighbors said that the work to remove the trees had been going on for a number of weeks.

16 Replies to “Updated: Town Cuts Down Trees in Mill Dam Park Wetlands”

  1. This is more of the ‘ask and seek forgiveness ‘ tactics utilized in demolishing wetlands in Huntington seen in recent years. No DEC permits and property owner Town of Huntington allowing non-employee entities to direct Town employees. And there appears to be inference that one’s veteran status exempts from following NYS Law. This isn’t just a few trees removed. Significant regrading and fill removal as well as wetlands clear-cut well right up to the pond shoreline. There’s little of this sort of ecologically important wetlands along Huntington Harbor Waterfront. It’s priceless…preserve it! And hold those accountable who destroy it.

    1. Thank you, I agree.
      Wetlands provide valuable ecological services, such as filtering pollutants and soaking up floodwaters and are a life source for wildlife. protecting and improving water quality, providing wildlife habitats, storing floodwaters and maintaining surface water flow during dry periods.
      The US Supreme Court ruling in 2023 narrowed protection for wetlands, leaving many valuable ecosystems at risk since the Sackett vs EPA decision. It’s disheartening to see this happening in Huntington.

    2. In 2023 the Supreme Court narrowed protection for wetlands, making many valuable ecosystems at risk of destruction. This was the ruling in Sackler vs EPA. It’s a devastating, ignorant decision. Wetlands protect and improve water quality, provide fish and wildlife habitats and prevent flooding.
      It’s disheartening seeing this happening in Huntington.

  2. Of course the helipad is important for our community, and safety is vital. At the same time, the wetlands adjacent to it are home to a large variety of wildlife, including many species of birds that have been observed there. Hawks, ospreys, herons, egrets, and other migrating shorebirds and waterfowl make those wetlands their home. Surely there was enough time to inform the DEC and allow for an approach that considered the environmental impact. The helipad has been in use for many years, and the trees did not grow into a hazard overnight.

  3. I live across the street and did notice them clearing the area. I had no idea what they were doing. If a residents wants to cut down trees they need to pay a fee and have a visit from a town inspector. One has to show why the tree should be taken down. I would like to know ordered the trees to be removed and why.

    1. They need a maritime museum or some kind of place to hold the beauty and history of long island like the whaling museum in cold spring.harbor to attract visitors who come by boat.and local pride.

  4. That helipad serves Huntington Hoslital for hospital to hospital transfers of critical patients and also medevacs by Suffolk County Police from car accidents or other critical incidents. As a helicopter pilot I can attest to the critical need of safe landing areas free of tall obstacles located in the approach paths of the helicopters.

    If this was a helipad solely utilized for commercial passenger transport it would be totally appropriate for permitting to be required. Unfortunately due to the sole use of this helipad for critical patients, permitting and environmental review just isn’t practical or safe due to the prolonged process.

    If this permit and environmental review process was required I’m sure the only option would be for the helipad to be shut down until it was completed which would not be a fast process. Once an unsafe condition like this is identified, FAA rules would prohibit the use, and the real losers in this would be Huntington residents who wouldn’t have Medevac resources available.

  5. One of the photos accompanying this story illustrates an Asplundh truck in the parking lot. Asplundh is a near-100-year-old company with an outstanding reputation for vegetation management. Are we to believe that their supervisor or their management team wasn’t familiar with DEC regulations? Seriously??

  6. Town should have spent the thousands of dollars, had public hearings so all interested parties could weigh in, hired private consultants to do all the necessary paperwork and environmental analysis after five or ten years of court battles we could have stopped this degradation of our natural ecosystem. Where is the justice???

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