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Serving the communities of Massena and Potsdam, New York

Croil Island focus of Local Government Task Force meeting

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LOUISVILLE - Last spring when area outdoor enthusiasts pulled their boats ashore at Croil Island they were greeted by signs prohibiting hunting, trapping, camping, fires and swimming on the island, located off the shores of the St. Lawrence River adjacent to the Massena Country Club.

New York State Department of Parks and Recreation Thousand Island’s Regional Director Kevin A. Kieff said the signage is standard for undeveloped state park properties across the state.

Mr. Kieff said very little attention is paid to the island, but when his department did an inspection of the island last year they discovered evidence of fires, trees that had been cut down, furniture that had been discarded, beer cans and other debris scattered across the island.

Mr. Kieff brought photos of the messes left behind by others to the meeting, and they were images that resonated with Massena Town Supervisor Joseph D. Gray at Wednesday night’s Local Government Task Force meeting.

“If the people who complained about not having access to the island are responsible for this shame on them,” he said, after looking at the photos. “I don’t blame parks and rec for being upset and requesting the signs. When I see these pictures, it’s disappointing that people would leave this kind of mess behind.”

Mr. Kieff said people still do have access to the island, noting that permitted uses include fishing, bird watching, hiking, picnicking and other “passive recreational” activities.

“You can get out walk around, have a picnic and enjoy the island. We encourage that,” he said. “All we ask is that if you bring it with you, you take it with you. If that would have been happening we wouldn’t be having these discussions.”

As for the prohibited uses mentioned on the signs, Mr. Kieff said they were only making people aware of rules that were already in place.

“How often does that get policed? Not very,” he said.

While not justifying the behavior, Lee Harper of Massena did offer an explanation for at least part of the debris.

“The legality of having empty beer cans on your boat is very different in Canada than it is here,” he said. “They can’t have empty beer cans on their boat period. That is why you see empty cans on the islands.”

Peter G. Stromsky said it was never his intent or that of others who use the island to break any rules.

“If people were camping there illegally, we didn’t know that,” he said.

Describing a spot on the island that is popular with local outdoor enthusiasts, Mr. Stromsky said, “It’s one of the only places people can pull up a boat and it’s sandy. It’s really important to the public to be able to access their natural resources.”

Kevin F. Perretta agreed, noting he would like to see hunting and camping allowed on the island.

“What would it take to get Croil eligible for hunting?” he asked.

Mr. Kieff said a request would have to be made, preferably by a municipality. That request would then be reviewed by local state park officials, who would then forward it to the DEC before it would go to the state Parks Commission for final approval.

“It’s difficult to police, but we would leave that up to the DEC,” he said.

Mr. Perretta suggested the task force approve such a resolution at their next meeting.

Mr. Legault also said he would bring a similar resolution before his town board in Louisville, where the island is located.

As for the development of campsites on the property, Mr. Kieff said the chances of that happening aren’t very good.

“The chances of that would be nil,” he said. “We’re not in expansion mode.”

Mr. Kieff did take the opportunity to promote the two parks in the area, where the state does allow camping.

“We would like to invite people to camp at Coles Creek and Robert Moses,” he said.

Mr. Legault then suggested having the department relinquish its control of the property and turn the island back over to the New York Power Authority, who could enter into a maintenance agreement with the town.

He suggested this would allow for increased recreational opportunities for the public on the island and would be similar to an agreement the town has with NYPA for Sand Island, located near Whalen Park, that has a walking trail and even docks for local boaters visiting the island.

“We do maintain the island and keep it clean,” he said.

Mr. Kieff said that was one solution that seemed possible.

“My inclination would be to say yes,” he said. “I think it’s something we would certainly discuss. If there was a viable municipality who wanted to do something more with the property than what we’re doing, we would likely say, ‘God bless.’”

Mr. Kieff did add, however, it would require conversations with the power authority.

“We would have to talk with our NYPA partners,” he said.

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