THE RANGE, SOUTHAVEN PARK AND THE CARMANS RIVER

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THE RANGE AND THE RIVER

The Suffolk County Trap & Skeet Range is located in Southaven County Park in the Core Preservation Area of the Pine Barrens and it rests very close to the Carmans River.
Naturally, we as a community are concerned for our own health and quality of life issues, but just as importantly we (as do many other Long Island residents) enjoy the presence of the Carmans River and are concerned about its future health.  But the bigger picture here is that the presence of this shooting range in an environmentally sensitive area threatens an ecosystem which has been designated by New York State as an environmentally critical and sensitive watershed and more importantly threatens the health of the Carmans River - the last relatively pristine river left on Long Island.

The CARMANS RIVER WATERSHED AND MANAGEMENT PROTECTION PLAN outlines a detailed effort to preserve and protect the Carmans River but it is simply not possible to have any serious discussion about protecting and preserving the Carmans River Watershed without addressing the existence and effect of the Suffolk County Trap and Skeet range which sits a mere 800 yards from the river itself.  Way back in March of 2002, the "Carmans River Environmental Assessment Report" was prepared for Suffolk County by Cashin Associates.  The report pointed out that the Carmans River “is almost entirely fed by groundwater from the uppermost of Long Island’s aquifers”.  That very same report also examined the Suffolk County Trap & Skeet Range and pointed out that the range “sits directly atop a sole source aquifer from which Long Islanders draw their drinking water and is part of the Carmans River Watershed and Drainage Basin.” 

Also in March of 2002, a report of the Trap and Skeet Oversight Committee was prepared for then Suffolk County Parks Commissioner Peter A. Scully.  That report indicated that: “Lead contaminated soil exists throughout a major portion of the range.  Lead levels well above those acceptable for parkland use were encountered to a depth of at least 6” below grade.”   This report also stated that groundwater samples taken in December of 2001 indicated lead levels as high as 20ppb, which is significantly higher than the New York State standard for drinking water of 15 ppb.

Suffolk County’s own documents, namely the “Review of the 2007-2009 Proposed Capital Program 2007 Capital Budget”, (published in May 2006), as well as the 2006-2008 Proposed Capital Program 2006 Capital Budget, (published in May 2005), refer to lead and other contaminates that resulted from the use of the range stating that “This material has been determined to be hazardous waste and poses a threat to the ground water."   Additionally, more recent groundwater testing (between 2007 and 2008) in an area downgrade of the range near the Carmans River showed elevated levels of arsenic (arsenic is used in the manufacture of lead shot as a hardening agent).  Suffolk County's own documents also point out that activity at the range introduces an additional 31.25 tons of lead shot into this environmentally sensitive area each year.

(See: "ENVIRONMENTAL AND HEALTH ISSUES" click HERE)

Adrienne Esposito, the Executive Director of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment wrote a letter on November 26th, 2008 to Peter Scully (presently the DEC Regional Director) calling for the Suffolk County Trap and Skeet Range to be closed.  In her letter, Ms. Esposito wrote: “The Trap and Skeet facility in Southaven County Park has accumulated high amounts of lead and other contaminants from years of use”, and that “Levels this high pose potential threats to the environment and public health.”  Ms. Esposito also wrote:  “The soil and water testing clearly indicates that there is significant lead contamination in the surrounding area…CCE would urge the Pine Barrens Commission and the Department of Environmental Conservation to act swiftly to close the trap and skeet facility in Southaven County Park ...” 

(For the complete text of Adrienne Esposito's letter, click HERE)

Clearly, the presence of the Trap and Skeet range constitutes a threat to the environment as well as a threat to the Carmans River itself.  Suffolk County owns and operates the range and is directly responsible for its impact on the environment.  The County’s own documents as well as findings published by a variety of its own committees and legislative bodies all refer to the range as having a negative impact on the environment and that cannot be ignored. 

Whatever one's position is regarding the need for this facility, the impact it has on its immediate surroundings as well as its impact on the Carmans River and its environs must be considered.  For Suffolk County to claim that it is concerned with protecting the Carmans while ignoring its own role in threatening the health of the river is alarming.

SOUTHAVEN PARK AND SUFFOLK COUNTY'S "DOUBLE-STANDARD"

Back in November of 2011, there were County Legislative meetings dealing with the purchase of land at the North Fork preserve for use as County parkland.  This land was also considered to be a possible relocation site for the Trap and Skeet range since there already was a skeet range on the property in question.  The relocation idea was hotly debated and ultimately defeated, but the issue illustrated the parallels between the North Fork Preserve and Southaven Park which turned out to be ridiculously similar; in fact, they are nearly identical.

Consider the following:

  • Both parcels had existing shooting ranges before they became County Parks
  • Both are located in Core Preservation Areas
  • Both offer Hiking, Camping and Equestrian activities (among others)
  • Both are in close proximity to residential development (within 1/2-mile at North Fork; and 33-feet at Southaven)
  • Both contain environmentally sensitive areas (though only Southaven contains an environmentally threatened river - said to be the last nearly pristine river left on Long Island)

The interesting things is that It was all of those issues that were cited as reasons why no shooting of any kind should be allowed at North Fork.  In fact, the only way that Riverhead would sign on to be a partner in the acquisition of the land (as is required by law) was if shooting was specifically prohibited.  Riverhead told the Legislature that if shooting was to be part of the amenities offered at North Fork, they would not agree to partner the deal.

So this begs the question: "Why the double-standard?"

 Why is it that one Suffolk County park offering all of the stated amenities and being situated on environmentally sensitive land, being a half-mile from residential development and having an existing shooting range on its property WOULD NOT ALLOW shooting, while the OTHER Suffolk County park - which exists a mere 17 miles to the west of North Fork - with identical amenities, identical environmental issues (including an endangered river), proximity to residential development of 33 FEET and with an  existing shooting range DOES ALLOW shooting?

Do the standards for a Suffolk County Park change east of Southaven Park?

Why do the conditions at North Fork prohibit shooting, while identical conditions at Southaven don't?

This is especially odd when you consider, for example, that the proximity of the range  to residential development at Southaven is measured in FEET instead of miles or that the only separation between the range and public areas of the park is a chain link fence. 

NONE OF THIS is allowed at North Fork while ALL OF IT IS ALLOWED at Southaven.

So why Does This Double Standard Exist?

 

 

     
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