Editor’s Log: State Parks FAB Update - The Fisherman

Editor’s Log: State Parks FAB Update

By Fred Golofaro

 

It was January since the State Parks Fishing Advisory Board last met due to the many issues surrounding COVID-19. Last week we were able to meet thanks to the wonders of communication from our homes, and discuss some of the issues associated with fishing and access in the Long Island Region. To the state’s credit, New York’s State Parks remained open throughout the early stages of the pandemic, and actually encouraged residents to engage in outdoor recreation activities like fishing, while adhering to CDC guidelines. This was in direct contrast to other states such as neighboring New Jersey and Connecticut where residents initially had no access to their state parks. Needless to say, our parks drew large crowds which stretched park staff, including State Park Police, to their limits. They were also burdened by responsibilities like maintaining a presence at the Jones Beach COVID-19 testing site, and having park staff monitoring restrooms and parking lots. Despite the many obstacles resulting from the pandemic, they were able to process more than 17,000 4×4 Beach Vehicle Permits and almost 3,000 Sportfishing (Night) Permits, and provide some enforcement and monitoring of beach access and permit issues.

 

Going to the beach has been one of the most popular sources of recreation during the pandemic and attendance has far exceeded what would be normal up to this point in the season. It has resulted in more people trying to access beaches like Gilgo, Sore Thumb and Demo without the proper permits or equipment, vehicles not airing down, driving in the dunes, fires on the beach, and excessive littering in places like Caumsett. As a result, enforcement and monitoring beach access points was high on the meeting agenda. Lt. Alex Goodman reported on the Park Police efforts to deal with these issues. They have been pulling permits although a large percentage of the infractions involve vehicles that have no permit at all. Due to the most recent class being cancelled due to COVID, they do not have the dozen or so recruits that are normally available to assist with these enforcement issues and existing staff is already spread thin. Staffing at beach entrance sights is hampered by staff and budget shortages, with parks only able to staff the Gilgo entrance for example four out of seven days and there is no staffing at night. Lt. Goodman did ask that we encourage park users who witness these abuses to report  them to State Park Police Headquarters at 631-669-2500 and an officer will respond, but understand that it may take some time.

 

The FAB was updated on the status of the Montauk Point Revetment Project at the lighthouse. The start of the project has been delayed for various reasons over the past two years and recently had to be rebid. Parks is hopeful that work can begin some this coming winter and is expected to take about two years. It entails raising the seawall to 35 feet above sea level. It is currently at 25 feet. The existing seawall consists of 25,000 tons of rocks and the new one will contain 63,900 tons. Included in the construction plans are a flat lower level 20-foot wide fishing platform and a 20-foot wide upper level to allow tourists to safely access the area below the lighthouse. Total cost of the project is in the neighborhood of 25 million dollars.

 

We were also updated on the status of the Habitat Conservation Plan which if accepted by U.S. Fish & Wildlife would make accessing beaches containing nesting piper plovers possible. Massachusetts successfully submitted a plan several years ago which has resulted in 4×4 beach access through the plover nesting season. State parks has submitted a plan for feedback from F&W in hopes of coming up with a final plan that will meet the requirements of the Feds.

 

The West Brook Pond issue was also discussed and continues to drag on as opposed to a relatively simple repair of the dam. Surveys are ongoing and invasive vegetation are being removed. They are gathering data prior to making a final decision on the restructuring of the site.

 

Tom Dess, Montauk’s park manager, updated us on beach access at that end of the Island. The road leading to the north side beaches has been repaired and leveled with material provided by the park’s fishing fund. The entrance to the beach at Napeague was recently graded and smoothed out making for easier access. The middle of Napeague was open the day of the meeting. Both the eastern and western sections will be open by the time you read this as the plovers will have fledged by then.

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