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Feb 8, 2019 12:49 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Multi-Purpose Trail Pitched Spans Long Island-Wide

Feb 12, 2019 2:09 PM

Conservationists are using the finalization of a 750-mile-long trail system that spans from Battery Park to Buffalo as a jumping-off point to include bike and hiking paths for Long Islanders, too.

The Trust for Public Land, a nonprofit focused on protecting land and creating parks, floated a $114 million proposal to officials of Nassau and Suffolk counties to create a paved, multi-purpose trail network from Manhattan to Montauk—similar to the Empire State Trail, linking Manhattan, Albany and Buffalo, which is expected to be finished next year.

About half of the trails would run along roads, and half would run off-road, along utility corridors. Some would connect to existing trail systems, while others will forge new paths.

However, there won’t be any overlap with the Paumanok Path, which spans the 125 miles from Rocky Point to Montauk through Brookhaven, Riverhead, Southampton and East Hampton towns. The trust contends that the path is more suited for hiking and won’t be compatible with biking, jogging and commuting.

In fact, none of the proposed trail would run through the Town of Southampton because of its rough terrain, the trust said.

Dai Dayton of Southampton Trails Preservation Society, which was instrumental in getting the Paumanok Path finished, doesn’t mind.

Ms. Dayton said, while noting that the trust didn’t reach out to her or the association, said that any new trails would be welcome. “The more trails the merrier,” she said.

The trust didn’t reach out to Eva Moore of East Hampton Trails Preservation Society, which also had a hand in establishing the coveted scenic path, either—and was a little more skeptical of the plan. “I just don’t understand where they are going to put it,” Ms. Moore said. “Why do we need it?”

Carter Strickland, the trust’s New York State director, said that aside from myriad recreational uses, a trail system would bolster Long Island’s tourism economy and give commuters who want to bike or walk to work easier access to mass transit, including the Long Island Rail Road.

There is some precedent for the proposal. Suffolk County is currently working with the Long Island Power Authority on a 10-mile stretch from Port Jefferson to Wading River using utility corridors.

Ultimately, state, town and village leaders, as well as public works, transportation and parks officials, would have to sign off on each leg of the trail network.

“It isn’t an easy route across Long Island,” Mr. Strickland said.

The 66-page report details several possible routes on the East End. An estimated 15.4 miles would be off-road and 52.7 miles on-road.

The eastern route would start at the Peconic River at Middle Country Road, where it transitions to Route 25 in Riverhead. It would continue northwest on Roanoke Avenue before heading east on Cox Neck Road on the North Fork. Once it crosses the Mattituck Inlet, there is a brief spur on Depot Lane to Oregon Road before the trail heads south on Cox Lane. Hikers, walkers and joggers would then go off-road to the North Ferry Terminal in Greenport.

Trail blazers would take the ferry to Shelter Island and then over to North Haven, heading south on to Route 114 on the South Fork.

The rest of the venture will be along the railroad out to Montauk.

“With the ferry, we can loop both forks together. Plus, ending in Montauk—how can you not end at the lighthouse?” Mr. Strickland laughed.

“We know that Southampton would love to have a route go through there, but it would mean branching out and risk cutting off the North Fork,” he continued. “The alternative route proposed through Southampton is hilly and may be too difficult to navigate.”

If all goes to plan, the trail system would be formally integrated into the Empire State Trail and design, construction and operation can commence on Long Island routes. Best-case scenario—with the proper funding from federal, state, local and private sources—trails could open in the next five, maybe 10, years, but will likely launch in stages.

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