SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A Long Island homeowner is facing potential trespassing charges and fines after installing a deer fence on the grounds of a historic cemetery.
Officials said Merik Denis trespassed on the cemetery when he began construction on the 10-foot high, 200-foot long fence around the perimeter of his property, which abuts the town’s oldest burial grounds.
“This was extremely hurtful because a lot of the people have ancestors who are buried here,” Tom Edmonds, Executive Director of Southampton Historical Museums, said.
The fence extended over Denis’ property line and twelve feet into the burial grounds, officials said.
“He dug post holes going down three feet,” Edmonds said.
Southampton is one of the oldest settlements on Long Island, with the town celebrating its 375th year in 2015. The Old Southampton Burying Ground is a testament to that history, with unmarked graves bearing the remains of historical figures and Shinnecock Indian ancestors.
“I would say there are thousands of people buried here,” Edmonds said. “There are probably historic artifacts in that dirt.”
Denis told CBS2’s Caroyln Gusoff that he is incredibly remorseful, and put up the fence in desperation to solve a deer problem — and that it was mistakenly put in the wrong place.
The fence has since been taken down, without official supervision — something the Town wanted to do to help effectively assess and preserve anything that may have been unearthed.
“We had the responsibly to sign the site to educate people to what this place is,” Zachary Studenroth, Southampton Town Historian, said. “And and why its so historic and important.”
A kiosk and signage will go up the site in light of the incident.