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Ticks pose growing problem at preserved farmland in Jamesport

Two properties in Jamesport that were preserved as a “passive park” have become less inhabitable now due to a growing tick problem, according to town officials.

In 2017, Suffolk County agreed to preserve 32 acres of farmland north of Main Road in Jamesport, and also agreed to buy 10 acres fronting Main Road, where 42,000 square feet of retail were proposed. 

Both properties, known as Sharper’s Hill, were under pressure of development from both residential and commercial development before the county eventually preserved them.

In addition, an ancient Native American burial ground on the site would also be protected. 

The goal was to preserve the land as a “hamlet park,” according to Anne Marie Prudenti, Riverhead’s deputy town attorney.

She said the town and county formed a partnership in which the county acquired the 10 acres and preserved the development rights on the 32-acre farm.

The town, in turn, would be in charge of management of the property. But so far, managing the property hasn’t been so easy.

Town Engineer Drew Dillingham said the county showed plans for a 2.1-mile trail for the property. He said the town submitted a proposal with asphalt trails and the county wanted dirt trails that are three feet wide.

He said the woods are very thick and filled with ticks.

“I had the bottom of my pants taped, and when he untaped them, I had over a dozen ticks on me,” he said at last Wednesday’s Town Board work session. 

He said he was bitten nine times and had to go on antibiotics for two weeks. Another employee also had over a dozen ticks on him, Mr. Dillingham said.

“If we put the public in this park, I can guarantee they are going to get bit every time they go there,” Mr. Dillingham said. He added that town employees will also be bitten “and then you’re going to get worker’s comp suits.” 

As for spraying the ticks, Mr. Dillingham said he spoke to exterminators. 

“They told us to spray would be an enormous waste of money,” he said. “If you spray the trail itself, it will keep the ticks off until the next rain, and then people will be susceptible again.”

Councilman Tim Hubbard said he was on the  board at the time of the Sharper’s Hill acquisition.

“There was no talk of a 2.1-mile trail,” he said. “The idea that was sold to the board at the time was that it would be a passive recreation park, and all that would be required was some gravel in certain areas for parking, and there would be benches put in. That’s how it was sold to us. There was no mention of a 2.1-mile trail.”

The Town Board resolution to acquire the property said “the town will create a pedestrian walking trail to traverse a portion of the subject property. The other portion of the property will be designated a non-disturbance area to protect and preserve the historical and archaeological significance of this portion of the property.”

It continued, “the Town will seek to locate benches along the path and kiosks describing the history of Jamesport and the archaeological/ancient burial site.”

But County Legislator Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue), who worked to preserve the property, said in an interview that there is no size requirement on the trail. “That’s up to the town,” he said. 

“I walk outside my house and I’m covered in ticks,” Mr. Hubbard said. “That’s Long Island, it’s not New York City. I came out here for a reason. I can deal with the ticks.”