GREAT KILLS — Joyriders on ATVs have damaged Staten Island's defense system against floods.
Residents were dismayed to see ATV riders illegally off-roading on the berms at Crescent Beach, leaving tire trails in the sand and tearing up some of the plantings done by volunteers.
The plants there are far more than decorative.
"This is our lifeline here," said Connie Cerrachio, who lives across from the berm and told the city about the riders. "They're just not thinking."
Cerrachio and her husband chased away two pairs of ATV riders from the dunes over the weekend, as well as a driver who rode his Ford Explorer on them. The tires damaged two spots on the dunes, tore up and killed grass planted by volunteers lead by Cerrachio's husband two weeks ago.
"It took us hours to plant them," she said. "To see them just rip it up, I had to stop them."
The dunes, which were put in after the hurricane to help curb future storm surges, have special grass planted on them that helps increase their size and keep them in place, said Tara Kiernan, a spokeswoman for the Parks Department.
"Dunes are essential protection against damaging coastal storms, and beach grass helps to increase the size of the dunes by trapping windblown sand, while its fibrous root systems strengthen dunes by keeping sand in place," Kiernan said by email. "It is crucial that people stay off the dunes at all times, especially while they're young and growing in, but even when they mature."
The damage done by the riders didn't completely destroy all the grass planted, but Kiernan said a lot would have to be replaced. Tire marks and ripped-up grass from the vehicles were found near the Glover Street and Winman Avenue entrances to the beach, Parks officials said.
The department will have Parks officers patrolling the spot to prevent further damage. Anyone caught damaging property could face a fine of as much as $2,000, Kiernan said.
Parks officials plan to have fencing installed around the dunes, which will help stabilize them, plus put up signs to tell people to stay off.