A Mastic man accused of causing more than $20,000 worth of damage to undeveloped wilderness at Walter S. Commerdinger Jr. County Park in Lake Ronkonkoma was arrested and charged with felony criminal mischief and other offenses, Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney said.
Terence Wolffe, 41, appeared for arraignment Wednesday before acting County Court Judge James McDonough, who released him on his own recognizance. Wolffe is scheduled to return to court on Dec. 11.
“The destruction of county parklands is an affront to our quality of life in Suffolk County,” Tierney said in a news release. “We will never stand by and allow Suffolk’s beautiful ecosystem to be compromised.”
It was unclear late Wednesday if Wolffe had hired or been appointed an attorney.
Investigators with the Suffolk Park Rangers Target Response Unit learned that Wolffe, over a prolonged period, would travel to an off-trail area in the interior of the Lake Ronkonkoma park to clear and excavate a personal “hang-out” spot, Tierney said.
Wolffe used axes, machetes and shovels to chop down trees, remove vegetation, and dig up earth, according to prosecutors. He piled the displaced brush, soil and tree limbs on nearby parkland, smothering other plants and vegetation, prosecutors said.
Wolffe also damaged the roots of trees that he left standing, prosecutors said, creating the possibility that hikers could be injured by falling timber.
Wolffe allegedly dug so deep in certain spots that he redirected water flow from nearby wetlands into the cleared zone.
Preliminary estimates place the replacement value of felled trees and cleared plants at approximately $20,000, Tierney said. That does not include restoration of the park’s natural grade or the labor and equipment costs for remediation.