Brookhaven Town Supervisor Mark Lesko announced Wednesday that he takes “full responsibility” for the illegal clearing of trees at Bartlett Pond Park and said he has developed a proposal to restore the land.
During the Central Pine Barrens Commission’s monthly meeting in Riverhead, Mr. Lesko told his fellow board members that the town’s intentions were good because it appeared that vines and other invasive species were having a “detrimental effect” on the trees at the park located on Middle Country Road in Middle Island. Parks employees cleared the trees in February.
The supervisor added that a restoration plan is in the works and that an arborist will assess the survivability of the remaining trees at the park. He also said a landscape architect will map out a plan to replant trees and shrubs.
As the town moves forward with its plan, Mr. Lesko said he “vehemently opposes” any monitoring or oversight by the commission during the restoration process.
“I urge my Town Supervisor colleagues to also oppose that if it is suggested because I think that would have an effect on your townships,” Mr. Lesko said during the meeting. “I think this is a unique and isolated incident and we believe we have a proposal in plan to remediate the mistake.”
But Pine Barrens Society executive director Richard Amper told the commission that while he appreciates Mr. Lesko’s efforts, he believes the commission should pursue legal action in order to “prevent this from happening again.”
“This should not have happened — cannot happen — and is clearly a violation of state law,” he said.
John Pavacic, executive director of the Central Pine Barrens Commission, said “preliminary information” about the clearing of over an acre of land has been submitted to the commission.
“We need to hear from the commission on whether or not they want us to do anything further,” he said, adding that he believed the commission will make a decision by its next meeting, which is scheduled for June 15.