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For Release: Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Crackdown On Illegal ATV Use at Edgewood Nets Charges for 11

Weekend Effort by DEC Forest Ranger at DEC Oak Brush Plains Preserve Has Huge Impact

A weekend all-terrain vehicle (ATV) crackdown carried out by a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) forest ranger at DEC's 813-acre Edgewood-Oak Brush Plains Preserve has resulted in charges against 11 people caught riding illegally at the Preserve, announced DEC Regional Director Peter A. Scully.

"Illegal ATV use damages valuable natural resources and important wildlife habitat," said Director Scully. "Those who choose to violate the law by riding their ATVs at Edgewood should realize that DEC forest rangers are watching, and violators face significant fines and seizure of their vehicles when caught."

According to Scully, Ranger Mike Burkholder was on special ATV enforcement assignment over the weekend of November 19th and 20th after DEC received complaints regarding illegal ATV use on the Edgewood property. Within a two day span, Ranger Burkholder managed to apprehend a total of 11 ATV riders on the Edgewood property. ATV riders ranged in age from seven years old to 39, and hailed from areas as close as North Babylon, and as far as the Bronx. Some riders attempted to elude Ranger Burkholder but his familiarity with the terrain ensured escape was impossible.

"DEC's forest rangers routinely patrol state lands and their familiarity with the properties they protect are unparalleled," DEC Forest Ranger Captain Timothy Byrnes said. "I am proud to have such dedicated rangers protecting our natural resources. Illegal ATV operation is a continual problem, but DEC's forest rangers are up to the challenge."

A total of 15 Environmental Conservation Appearance Tickets (ECATs) were issued including:

  • Four tickets for use of an unauthorized motor vehicle on state land (Maximum $250);
  • Six tickets for operating an ATV on public land without written consent (Maximum of $500 with potential impound of vehicle);
  • Two tickets for riding an ATV without a helmet (Maximum $100);
  • One ticket for riding an ATV under the age of 16 (Maximum $100); and
  • Two tickets for operating an ATV carrying more than one person (Maximum $100).

Two of the riders' ATVs were impounded following their apprehension. Impound fees can cost as much as $500 for release of a vehicle.

Eleven individuals were ticketed including:

  • Orlando Perez, 31, East Meadow;
  • Mauricio Hatzvel, 33, East Elmhurst;
  • David Rivera, 39, Bronx;
  • Angel Juarbe, 29, Bronx;
  • John A. Scarola, 49, Lindenhurst;
  • Eric Fain, 20, North Babylon;
  • Louis Feis, 18, North Babylon;
  • Michael J. Digangi, West Babylon; and
  • Michael T. Drake, 23, West Babylon.

Two underage drivers were also ticketed.

All of the tickets are returnable to Suffolk County First District Court in Islip. Individuals spotting illegal activities are encouraged to call DEC's forest rangers at (631) 444-0291 or the DEC's environmental conservation officers at (631) 444-0250 during business hours, and (877) 457-5680 or (518) 408-5250 at all other times to report suspected illegal activities.

DEC forest rangers routinely patrol state lands as part of the DEC's efforts to control illegal ATV use.

The Oak Brush Plains State Preserve at Edgewood is an 813-acre area located in the towns of Babylon, Huntington and Islip. This land was originally acquired by the New York State Department of Mental Hygiene (DMH) in the 1930s for the purpose of constructing two psychiatric hospital facilities, the Edgewood State Hospital and the Pilgrim State Hospital.

In 1983, the Office of Mental Health (OMH) transferred 631-acres to DEC, and in 1987 that land was dedicated to the State Nature and Historic Preserve. In the mid-1990's, DEC acquired 100 acres from Multi-Town Solid Waste Management Authority for addition to the preserve, and in 1999 OMH transferred another 81 acres to DEC.

Today, the preserve is dominated by pitch pine-scrub oak barrens, interspersed with areas of grassland and stands of bigtooth aspen. The preserve is home to many common animal species including several types of warblers, red-tailed hawks, eastern cottontail, red fox and hognose snakes. In addition, several species of rare invertebrates are present including the coastal barrens buckmoth. The preserve provides many recreational opportunities to the public including hiking, bird watching, and bike riding.

The preserve is maintained and improved through the continuous efforts of the DEC, the towns of Babylon, Huntington and Islip and volunteer stewards including the Edgewood Flyers, a local model airplane club, Concerned Long Island Mountain Bicyclists (C.L.I.M.B.), and Long Island Healthy Trails and Greenways (L.I.G.H.T). Through their cooperative efforts, tons of illegally dumped waste has been removed, unlawful access routes have been blocked, and new parking facilities have been constructed. Efforts will continue to maintain and improve the preserve, as well as allow access and recreation for the community.

Individuals wishing to utilize the preserve must obtain a free DEC three-year seasonal access permit. Access permits can be obtained at the DEC's Stony Brook office, or by visiting the DEC access permit webpage.