Paragliders hoping to soar over Riverhead might soon be able to spread their wings.
Representatives of the Long Island Paragliding Club came before the Riverhead Town Board at Thursday's work session to discuss a proposal for a training facility to be sited at Enterprise Park at Calverton.
The group showed a video presentation demonstrating the sport, during which a person attaches a lightweight canopy, similar to a parachute or sail, to their bodies with a harness, allowing them to glide.
"It's like sailing," said Miguel Afanador.
Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter discussed whether the group needed to be a tenant on EPCAL property to obtain a runway use agreement.
Walter said while the group was "not at that stage yet," the idea might be tested on a trial basis, perhaps for a month.
The paragliding group would like to utilize the westernmost runway during the months from May to October, two or three days a week.
Afanador gave a description of how paragliding works. "It's the most basic form of aviation," he said.
While aviation developed with a commercial focus, paragliding, said Afanador, "is for people who want to have fun."
Paragliders, he added, are environmentally conscious; enthusiasts enjoy soaring through the air with various birds including red hawks and bald eagles. Paragliders can not only gain significant heights but can stay in the air for up a few hours, using air currents or thermals and the dynamics of lift -- and fit all of their equipment into a backpack.
The goal, Afanador, is to teach those who want to learn the sport so they can participate safely.
The group, Afanador said, must follow all Federal Aviation Administration regulations.
"We are a legitimate organization and we work hand in hand with the FAA," he said. "We have to follow the same rules as airplanes."
The board agreed that they would like to move forward with exploring the proposal. "You have our interest," Walter said.
Walter discussed the legal aspects with Riverhead Town Attorney Bob Kozakiewicz; Walter said he did not think the use would require a wildlife taking permit from the Department of Environmental Convervation.
Motorsports enthusiasts advocating for a drag strip at the parcel might be able to perform a sound test, Walter said, but need a DEC wildlife takings permit, something that could take time. "By the time you have a takings permit from the DEC we will have the subdivision done," Walter said.
In the case of the paragliding use, Walter said, "You're not really threatening birds, there is no loud noise -- you're acting like a bird. I think it's a benign use."
Other issues including insurance need to be discussed, Walter said. And should the project move forward from a month-long trial basis, a qualified and eligible sponsorship hearing would need to be held, he added.
"This is a crawl before you walk situation," Walter said.
Afanador said paragliders are a committed group. "They're paragliding till the day they die," he said.