Long Island Trail Lovers Coalition

preserving, protecting and enhancing
our nature and recreation trails

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Kissing Gates Stewardship Project

 

 

In response to the extensive damage caused by the dumping of garbage, and the operation of off-road motorized vehicles on public lands in the Central Pine Barrens, it was determined that a first step towards habitat restoration on public lands may be achieved by reducing those activities that are injurious to the ecological environment.  ATVs afford access to public and private land for a small minority of high-impact users. This small minority of the public can have a significant negative effect on the environment by causing irreparable harm to our trails and natural open space.  The vast majority of people who visit “The Natural Island” do not participate in motorized recreation and instead seek experiences that are free from the effects of motorized recreation; these people are even being "displaced" by encounters with these unwanted effects. The Protected Land Council Interagency ATV Damage Mitigation and Restoration Project in Flanders, Southampton is using a variety of barrier types to protect natural open space from illegal vehicular access.  LITLC participated in the development of this project and would like to expand its participation in this initiative by raising money for materials to design and build post and rail kissing gates to accommodate appropriate sites.  Post and rail kissing gates are not visually jarring; they blend in with the natural environment. LITLC would like to focus its efforts on protecting the formal trails meant for gentle use; built, blazed and maintained by the nonprofit and the management agencies.

Post and rail wood fencing consists of posts attached to split rails.  An open design allows these fences to be used without blocking a view. This type of fencing can flow with the terrain. These barricades are not infallible barriers to illegal use, but the presence and persistent maintenance of these barriers sends out the message that wholesale damage of the public’s nature and recreation trails will not be tolerated. Graham Hawks, Peconic Land Trust South Fork Land Steward has two paid employees installing kissing gates on sensitive trails.  He says, “the barriers are working really well, people respect them when they see them in the middle of the woods.”  Andy Gates, East Hampton Department of Natural Resources has also begun a program of installation of these gates.


Post and rail “Kissing Gates” are harder to construct than many other types of barricades, but they blend into their natural surroundings better. There are a couple of different theories about the origin of the actual name for the kissing gate. One possible origin has to do with the design itself. Since the gate mechanism is understood to kiss or touch the sides of the enclosure when in operation. A more fanciful idea has to do with a game associated with using the gate. Since only one person at a time can go through the mechanism, the first person emerging from the gate can effectively block the second person from proceeding. Usually, passage is granted upon the reception of a kiss. It is generally understood that this game only takes place between persons who are on friendly terms.

LITLC will negotiate with the land managers to construct these gates in places where trails are being badly damaged by motorized traffic, or to protect especially beautiful or fragile areas.

LITLC will work with the land managers to develop, build, monitor, modify, and replace the gates.  LITLC will also report illegal activity, and assist in educating the public about this initiative in order to protect our natural open space.  We will work to develop a volunteer patrol to monitor and maintain the gates.  If vandalized, the gates must be restored promptly otherwise the impression will be that no one is watching. Once the ongoing damage abates, LITLC will assist in the restoration of damaged trails and natural areas. LITLC would also like to experiment with developing equestrian and mountain bike friendly barriers. However, we can easily start with trails that are exclusively for hiking and do not offer administrative vehicular access.

Depending on the particular site, the materials to construct a gate could cost between $60 and $125.  When you consider the value of the land it protects, that seems well worth the expenditure.

 

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Long Island Trail Lovers Coalition

Ken Kindler
Open Space & Trails Advocate
Post Office Box 1466
Sayville NY 11782
ken@litlc.org

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