Paragliding Club Hopes To Take Flight At Enterprise Park At Calverton

Supe says use is more "benign" than drag racing at site.

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.



Bob Buehler September 24, 2012 at 01:46 AM
Sean Walter is lying about the takings permit. We spoke to the DEC and said this is unnecessary. How are airplanes less benign and quiter than cars? By the time anyone got a permit sub-division would be done. (That's a joke) Sean keeps talking about a dragracing country club trying to silence the motorsports community knowing that this could never work. Some of our people are gullible enough to believe this, but not most. He is stalling and screwing the people of Riverhead out of enough money to straighten out all the debt they are in.
Pete Scalzo December 10, 2012 at 05:27 PM
Paragliding, Drag Strip, Driving School, Drifting, Autocross, SCCA events, Model Airplanes. They ALL could coexist. Why not test these activities even if it is only on a temporary basis? Who knows what will come of this other than much needed revenue for the Town, wholesome family entertainment, jobs, incresed income for local businesses not to mention making the streets by providing a safe, controlled venue where people could compete. There is no issue with insurance for Drag Racing and Drifting because I deal with the two major motorsports insurance companys. They are Wells Fargo and K&K insurance. The DEC has no problem as long as we stay on the asphalt This temporary activity would not interfere with the Town's plans for long term subdivision, zoning etc. Try it. you will like it! Pete Scalzo.


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