Wednesday, February 2, 2011

EPCAL Grasslands Safe for....

A Northern Harrier taking a break
... at least Two more years! According to today's Newsday (February 2, 2011), Riverhead has hired the consulting firm of Vanasse, Hangen Brustlin Inc. of Watertown Mass. for just shy of a half million dollars to review EPCAL (Enterprise Park and Calverton). The consulting group will conduct a comprehensive study to come up with a new zoning plan for the property which has mostly languished for the past 12 years since the Town of Riverhead received ownership of the property from the Federal Government.  Recently two mega projects have fallen through the cracks, with the Rechler's (a dynamic cousin duo with deep pockets and a penchant for holding local governments hostage over development plants) backing out after being told they could not construct housing on site, and the infamous "Riverhead Resorts" plan (which called for an indoor ski resort, among other things) was finally shot down by the Town after a long lapse in payments.  The fact that the Town strung Riverhead Resorts along for so long was pretty pathetic with the developer looking like someone owing a mobster a big debt and "promising" to pay next week.  Well thanks to these ineffective business plans, the grasslands at EPCAL and the 1,200 plus acres they cover are safe for a few more years.

Savannah Sparrow on a barberry bush
It is my hope (and the hope of many others) that somehow, someway the remaining natural areas of EPCAL will permanently stay that way.  Thanks to the Federal Government's stipulation that the property be used for commercial businesses and not conservation and Riverhead's horrendous bank account it continues to be an uphill battle to preserve this dwindling habitat - but the good guys have been granted two more years to make something happen.  I don't have enough time to go into all that is wrong with how the Feds and the Town have screwed the pooch on EPCAL - nor do I have the time to extoll all the virtues of having a grassland habitat of that magnitude on this island.  So for now I'll leave you with a few of my favorite images taken at this amazing property.  

An American Kestrel hovering above potential prey
*Note: An earlier article detailing much of this can be seen here for Cablevision subscribers:  Town eyes new zoning for Calverton property

A tree swallow in early (and cold) spring

An Eastern Meadowlark searching for a mate

A Lark Sparrow forages for food just North of EPCAL proper
For those interested in my newest feature (book reviews!) check out the following recent posts:

Ultimate Field Guide to Photography

Luke Dempsey's A Supremely Bad Idea

John Turner's Exploring the Other Island

and be sure to check out Jerry Liguori's newest book (soon to be released and reviewed and feature a photograph by yours truly): Hawks at a Distance: Identification of Migrant Raptors

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