The mysterious destruction of the trails and woodlands in the Massapequa Preserve, apparently by the use of all-terrain vehicles (ATV), has alarmed a local hiking organization, and caused police to beef up patrols of the area.
Trees trampled and broken are the apparent result of illegal use of all-terrain vehicles in the Massapequa Preserve.
According to a representative of the Long Island Greenbelt Trail Conference who wished to remain anonymous, damage to the trail was first spotted about two weeks ago, in the form of broken trees and track marks.
"This cuts right through the trees. This is not a trail. He made a trail," the representative said, as he showed the destruction to a Nassau County Parks official Tuesday morning. "What kind of a machine can do this?"
The Greenbelt representative noted that the use of ATVs, likely at speeds of up to 35 miles per hour, has affected about a mile and a half of the preserve, causing the widening of two previously narrow foot trails, and destroying part of the Greenbelt trail. "They keep widening it. One of the fears is that we could end up with four-wheel drives back there," he said.
"An ATV does a tremendous amount of damage by killing the trees," he said, noting that while the trees may grow back, the activity also causes erosion, which is irreparable. "And what happens is that when one comes in, usually another one comes in. And pretty soon, you have a whole group of them back there. And then you end up with a little mini-race track back there."
In addition, the Greenbelt representative said, the vehicles could scare away the wildlife that live in the preserve, which is a protected, quiet wetland area with more than 200 species of birds. He added that it creates a dangerous situation, because a driver could hit a hiker or bicyclist while speeding around a narrow bend. "It's a preserve, and there's not supposed to be any motor vehicle activity in the preserve to begin with," he said.
Following his report to the Parks official, the Greenbelt representative filed a complaint with the Nassau County Police Department's 7th Precinct. Although the Greenbelt representative believes the damage was caused by criminal mischief, Officer Marianne Thompson, crime analyst with the 7th Precinct, said the report of criminal mischief was unfounded, because the damage seemed to be unintentional. She also noted that the use of ATVs is only the assumed cause of the destruction, and that police do not yet have any proof of this. She added, however, that in response to the incident, the precinct is providing intensified patrol of the area, and that its Problem Oriented Policing (POP) unit is researching how to prevent it from happening again. Anyone with information on the damage may call the 7th precinct at 573-6700.
The 423-acre Massapequa Preserve is overseen by Nassau County and is the largest preserve in the county south of Old Country Road. It offers such recreational amenities as a bicycle path, hiking trails, and fishing, and is part of the 20-mile Nassau-Suffolk Greenbelt Trail, which extends from Massapequa to Cold Spring Harbor. The Greenbelt Trail is the county's only national scenic recreation trail protected by the US. Department of Interior. The Long Island Greenbelt Trail Conference is a not-for-profit volunteer-based organization which gives free guided hikes year-round while maintaining and establishing trails in Nassau and Suffolk counties.
The Greenbelt Trail Conference hopes their reports to park and police officials will lead to the arrest of the environmentally insensitive perpetrators and the impounding of their vehicles, or will at least scare them away.
To that end, the group has posted the following sign in the preserve: "If you have any description of the vehicle (make, color, plate number), or its rider, or know what it was in the park, or where it went when it left the park, please call the 7th precinct desk at 573-6700. All calls will be kept confidential."