Tags Posts tagged with "Friends of the Greenway"

Friends of the Greenway

County Executive Steve Bellone, Legis. Sarah Anker and Assemblyman Steve Englebright were on hand for the ground-breaking ceremony of the North Shore Rail Trail project Oct. 25. Photos by Kyle Barr

On the freshly mowed grass of a right of way in Miller Place, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) held up a yellowing booklet and from it unfurled a map of Long Island. The booklet was from 1972, and the map showed plans for a trail along the North Shore from Wading River to Mount Sinai.

On Oct. 25, little less than 50 years since the first county planner, Lee Koppelman, drew up those plans, officials finally put the first ceremonial shovel in the ground for the 10-mile rails-to-trails project, now dubbed North Shore Rail Trail.

Construction is set to begin in early November.

“This site will become a premier destination for hiking and biking,” the county exec said.

County officials were joined by town, state and town representatives, various civic leaders, along with hiking and biking enthusiasts to dig the first ceremonial dirt piles and pop the cork on a bottle of champagne. 

Officials said construction will start in Mount Sinai and continue through to Wading River. County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) said building it could take close to two years to complete. Officials had an expected finish date for fall 2021. The trail will not officially open until the entire project is completed, Anker said.

Local and state officials break ground on the North Shore Rail Trail project Oct.25. Photos by Kyle Barr

Some area residents are unhappy with the new trail, including several whose homes abut the right of way where the trail will extend through. Rocky Point resident Gary Savickas, who has long been a vocal opponent of the new trail, said his property currently overlooks the fence in his backyard which borders the right of way, and walkers will be able to look directly into his yard.

Anker said the county is planning to work with Rocky Point Civic Association in gathering together funds to address barriers and other measures to help with privacy concerns, but there is no word of when that funding will come. 

The current 3-mile Setauket-Port Jefferson Station Greenway Trail has entered its 10th year, and Herb Mones, Three Village Civic Association trustee and active member of the Friends of the Greenway, said many of the complaints he has heard with the new trail are ones he heard during the Setauket trail’s development.

“Now when I walk on the greenway, those very same people will walk up to me and shake my hand,” he said. “The attitude changes, but the attitudes are a result of not having enough of these recreation corridors for people to appreciate.”

For those who enjoy hiking and biking, the tune is much different. Elyse Buchman, who owns Stony Brookside Bed & Bike Inn in Stony Brook along with husband Marty, said she knows many who will use the trail. On Oct. 13, she and several hundred people from all over the Northeast raised money for the New York Bicycling Coalition, but some who wanted to come to that event didn’t, with many bikers having qualms about riding on roads as congested as some on the North Shore.

“This is a destination, this is for our long-distance riders who want to get to the North Fork, and get there safely,” Elyse Buchman added.

The $8.82 million trail is being funded through federal and state grants, along with Suffolk County funds. The trail was finally confirmed with Bellone signing legislation last year.

Though there are likely people who will want to use both the North Shore Rail Trail and Greenway Trail, they will have a 1-mile stretch between their two end points with several roads in between. The county exec said they are currently creating an interconnected hiking and biking plan, with a general idea to make Suffolk a regional destination for hiking and biking. Included in that plan is a scheme to connect the two ends of the separate trails, though he added there is no definite plan to do so. 

“The connection is a priority,” Bellone said.

 

Residents, legislators and members of the Friends of the Greenway and the Three Village Community Trust, above, celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Setauket-Port Jefferson Station Greenway Trail. Photo by David Luces

Countless runners, bikers and families enjoy the Setauket-Port Jefferson Station Greenway Trail every day, many unknowing to the fact that the 3.5-mile trail at one point was destined to be a highway.

Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine, Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn, State Assemblyman Steve Englebright, Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright, Three Village Community Trust members Herb Mones and Cynthia Barnes, Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker and Charlie McAteer, chair of the Friends of the Greenway. Photo by David Luces

On June 8, residents, members of the Friends of the Greenway and the Three Village Community Trust as well as public officials gathered to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the greenway trail opening at the midpoint of the trail — Lynx and Bobcat lanes.

“I can’t tell you how happy I am that the trail is so actively used by so many different groups of people,” said Herb Mones, TVCT trustee.

Mones said like any project it took a tremendous amount of planning and execution.

The process began in 1999, when residents began discussing what to do with the land acquired in the 1960s by the New York State Department of Transportation that ran from parts of East Setauket to Port Jefferson Station. Initially the state wanted to create a bypass to Route 25A.

“At first, many people didn’t understand how a pathway would work, because there was no example of it in the community,” Mones said. “People scratched their heads and said I don’t want that.”

It took 10 years to figure out how the trail would look and feel. Along the way, residents began to recognize the benefits of a greenway/bike trail.

The TVCT also had help from public officials.

Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) was one of the first to see the potential of a greenway trail in the area and was able to secure more than $2 million in funds for the initial build-out of the trail. On the federal level, former Congressman Tim Bishop (D) was able to obtain $5 million for the remaining sections of the trail.

Residents enjoy the 10th anniversary celebration. Photo by Herb Mones

“It is really a testament to the community, volunteers and public officials to see this through,” Mones said. “Now this greenway is being used as a model for other trails being built in the county.”

George Hoffman, co-chair of the Three Village Civic Association, remembers initially people were upset with the idea of a trail but now residents advertise their homes being on the greenway as a selling point.

“This a great community resource,” he said. “Still some people don’t know this is here.”

Charlie McAteer, chair of the Friends of the Greenway, said he was glad for the turnout.

“Ten years ago we were at this spot, we had the support of the community, now you see what it had brought out, a three-mile trail that we all enjoy,” he said. “You see how many people use this trail. That’s what we intended.”

The success of the greenway trail has inspired the future county project Rails to Trails, a 10-mile path that will run from Mount Sinai to Wading River.

McAteer said he and the Friends of the Greenway are looking forward to helping with the project. Officials said they hope to break ground on the new trail sometime in fall 2019.

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Participants enjoy a walk and talk on the Setauket-Port Jefferson Station Greenway Trail April 18. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Every day, Brookhaven residents walk or ride bikes along the Setauket-Port Jefferson Station Greenway Trail, a paved path surrounded by nature that easily could have been taken over by cars and trucks.

Herb Mones shows participants invasive plants along the Setauket-Port Jefferson Greenway Trail. Photo by Rita J. Egan

On April 18, the Three Village Community Trust kicked off its spring Join the Conversation series with a walk and talk presentation dedicated to the nearly 3.5-mile trail. A little more than a dozen participants joined Herb Mones, TVCT trustee, and Charles McAteer, Friends of the Greenway chair, at the Limroy Lane entrance in Setauket to learn about the trail’s history.

The walk and talk was held in anticipation of the greenway’s 10th anniversary in June, as the first phase of the trail opened between Gnarled Hollow Road and Sheep Pasture Road in 2009.

Mones and McAteer said those who travel the greenway can experience a variety of landscapes, including an old-growth forest, a centuries-old woodland with a variety of trees and species; a field of rhododendrons that nursery owners once grew for Gold Coast estate owners; a sandpit; and the former Lawrence Aviation Industries property.

In 1999, residents began discussing what to do with land acquired in the 1960s by the New York State Department of Transportation that ran from East Setauket by the site of what is now the headquarters of hedge fund Renaissance Technology to the park and ride on Hallock Road in Port Jefferson Station. Mones said the state’s original intent was to create a bypass to Route 25A during an era when transportation departments were looking to move as many vehicles as possible as quickly as possible.

During the 1980s and ’90s, the state was under pressure to move people not only by cars but with different modalities of transportation, according to Mones.

“What better way did New York State have in fulfilling its mission to create an alternative to vehicles than having a greenway built,” he said. “So, it became not only an advantage to this community but also something the state could hang its hat on and say, ‘We’re doing something other than building bigger and better roadways.’”

Mones said the residents first met in 1999 to discuss the trail in the office of Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket). Mones and McAteer said the meeting included different members of the community with various opinions, including those who were against the trail.

“It was the biggest disaster ever,” Mones said, adding that many residents weren’t familiar with greenways and were apprehensive about the idea.

Attendees learn about the Setauket-Port Jefferson Greenway Trail during a walk and talk April 18. Photo by Rita J. Egan

One of the biggest concerns of residents was people walking behind their property and potentially stealing from their homes.

Mones said it took a whole year before the community reengaged and organized a task force, and it took about 10 years until its opening in 2009. Earlier meetings were held at Renaissance Technology with the support of the hedge fund’s founder Jim Simons, and there were also smaller neighborhood meetings on Saturday mornings in cul-de-sacs and on corners to have discussions about concerns with residents, which McAteer said had more positive outcomes than the initial meeting at Englebright’s office.

Eventually, Englebright secured more than $2 million for the initial build-out and, on the federal level, former Congressman Tim Bishop (D) was able to obtain $5 million for the remaining sections of the trail. Mones added, due to the state and federal grants, the Friends group didn’t have to raise millions on their own.

While the Setauket-Port Jefferson Station Greenway Trail had a rough start, McAteer said it inspired the future county project Rails to Trails that will run from Mount Sinai to Wading River. McAteer said Rails to Trails, which will be approximately 3 ¼ miles from the end of the greenway, had it’s opponents who at first didn’t want a trail running behind their backyards.

“They now have seen how well this trail is utilized, and how we keep it up with the Friends of the Greenway and working with our municipalities,” he said. “So now they see what can be done. So, another trail will become because of this.”

The Three Village Community Trust will hold a 10th anniversary celebration of the Setauket-Port Jefferson Station Greenway Trail opening June 8 at 11 a.m. at the greenway on Lynx Lane just east of Old Town Road in East Setauket. For more information, visit www.threevillagecommunitytrust.org.

The first section of the greenway opens in 2009. Charlie McAteer (red shirt) watches as Herb Mones and Steve Englebright (holding scissors) cut the ribbon. Photo from Nick Koridis

By Susan Risoli

What could have been a highway nobody wanted became a nature trail everyone loves. The nearly-3.5-mile Setauket to Port Jefferson Station Greenway Trail is maintained by hometown people, with a little help from members of local and state governments.

Charles McAteer of Friends of the Greenway helps with a clean up. File photo by Alex Petroski

The volunteer organization Friends of the Greenway, and civic groups that support its work, are Times Beacon Record News Media’s People of the Year for the attention paid to a place enjoyed by many.

Community activism for the trail started in the 1980s, with a task force formed by state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket). The group wanted to stop the proposed construction of a four-lane Route 25A bypass highway, on New York State Department of Transportation land stretching from East Setauket to Port Jefferson Station. Englebright secured $2.1 million in state funds for design and construction of a greenway. The first section of the trail opened in 2009, and the project was completed with $5 million in federal transportation funds obtained by U.S. Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton).

Friends of the Greenway, a group affiliated with the Three Village Community Trust, grew out of the concern of those who wanted to watch over and improve the trail. Chairman Charlie McAteer said that through the friends’ trail stewardship program, people can “adopt” a section of the greenway. By taking ownership, volunteers agree to walk the path, removing litter and debris.

Stewards prune and mow vegetation, and supervise cleanups in their section. Any problems the trail stewards can’t resolve on their own — a fallen tree or broken lights — are referred to the community trust, to the Town of Brookhaven or to the DOT.

“Ultimately, government can only do so much,” McAteer said. “You always need people looking after things and helping maintain. You need those eyes and ears.”

Englebright said that just as the Setauket-Port Jefferson Station greenway connects communities, the Friends of the Greenway is the group that works to bring people together and engages them.

“Through scheduled cleanups and community programing, the Friends of the Greenway work step-by-step to encourage a culture of caring and connection that results in making the greenway a better place,” he said. “The friends should also be applauded for bringing local Scout troops into the mix, through volunteer days and being a prime location for Eagle Scout community service projects.”

Herb Mones, a member of the Three Village Community Trust’s board, said at first, some didn’t understand what a greenway could bring to their lives.

“There are many greenways around the country, but not many in Suffolk County,” he said, adding he feels that once the trail became a reality people embraced it. “A lot of people use it every single day because now they can see, feel and touch it.”

Trail steward Susan Colatosti keeps a close eye on the trail from her own property bordering the greenway. If she sees a sign knocked down or garbage cans overflowing, she reports the issue. When she sees litter clutter on the landscape while walking, she picks it up. Colatosti and other volunteers planted daffodils along the trail.

Eagle Scout Nick Brigantino (in uniform), from Boy Scout Troop 229 in Selden, leads an effort to install a bat house. Photo by Nick Koridis

“The trail has preserved this open space for posterity,” Colatosti said. “It’s a wonderful way for people to walk safely and see their neighbors.”

Boy Scout unit commissioner Nick Koridis spreads the word to local Cub Scout and Boy Scout troops, who have held car washes to raise funds to buy recycled plastic lumber for benches along the trail, and have donated labor to install the benches. Other projects have included installing mile markers, birdhouses, bat houses and street crossing signs. Younger kids clean up the trail with their parents.

“It’s all for the community,” Koridis said. “For the Scouts themselves, taking care of the greenway lets them have fun outdoors while learning the skills of working together.”

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) also has been involved with the trail since its beginning.

The greenway is “sustained by the labor of devoted volunteers, and because of their care the trail binds the hearts of two communities,” Hahn said. “The partnership of government and community has become the foundation of a recreational space that not only unites these hamlets to one another, but also to all people from across Long Island.”

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Norman Samuels and Herb Mones clean up the Greenway Trail.

By Karen Jillian

“It’s not a surprise that many people are calling the Three Villages ‘Long Island’s Bicycling Capital!’” So writes Herb Mones regarding the Setauket to Port Jefferson Greenway Trail. Mones, a member of the Friends of the Greenway, says “the Greenway Trail [protected open space constructed for conservation and recreational purposes] is a great community resource. Its second phase finished, it has now become “the longest paved greenway in Suffolk County — 3 ½ miles long.”

The Greenway Trail runs between Limroy Lane in East Setauket and the New York State Department of Transportation parking lot in Port Jefferson Station, near Route 112 at Hallock Avenue.

Due to the overwhelming amount of positive results associated with the path, Mones has decided to “engage the community in a program to enhance and beautify the Greenway through monthly cleanups and having the public adopt and maintain portions of the trail.”

A biker enjoys a section of the Greenway Trail.
A biker enjoys a section of the Greenway Trail.

A cleanup was held this past Saturday morning. The 28 volunteers were ably assisted by Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) who believes that “the development of the Greenway has been nothing but a positive asset and resource.”

“When I speak to people in my district about the trail, they mention they enjoy that it connects communities. At the beginning, when a new idea like this is introduced, there is always a level of fear from some in the community until people see what an asset it can be, especially once people use it,” said Cartright.

Local resident and volunteer, Norm Samuels, echoed her sentiments. “People are generally very happy with the trail and use it in many different ways:  walking, running, biking and dog walking. During the right weather I go cross-country skiing! Only complaint some have: no port-o-potty.”

Another hardworking elected official at Saturday’s cleanup was Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket).An obvious environmental enthusiast, she said, “I was always excited about this idea of a trail. From social community, health and environmental  perspectives, we are all better for it. The good use of the trail drives out any bad use.”

The volunteers report that “bad use” consists of the occasional strewn trash, which is a light amount. As for people being worried about kids hanging out, non-usage of the trail or any negatives, the trail, has, instead, brought many positive attributes. Usage of the trail is very high. Most people have cleaned up after themselves and their dogs and traffic on Upper Sheep Pasture has slowed down dramatically because of the enhanced safety crossings and alerting of drivers to crosswalks.

But the best may be yet to come. This trail, which began as an acquired stretch of property in the 1960s and had originally been pitched as a bypass to 25A, had, in the 1990s become part of an alternative plan to become a Greenbelt Trail. Today the Friends of the Greenway are working with North Shore Rails to Trails “in an effort to extend the path from Port Jefferson Station to Wading River, which would create a 15-mile ribbon of bike paths,” according to Mones.  Not bad for something that started out over 50 years ago as a paper road for a vehicular bypass!

The trail, though, needs the community for it to survive and be maintained. The next clean up is scheduled for Sept. 26 from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. If you would like more information on being a part of this growing community that uses the trail or would like to volunteer, you can call the Three Village Community Trust’s Friends of the Greenway at 631-689-0225.

The Greenway Trail runs between Port Jefferson Station and East Setauket. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

With the summer in full bloom, the Friends of the Greenway will mow, prune, clip and beautify the Greenway Trail — and the group would like community help.

Volunteers for the event, this Saturday, July 25, from 8 to 10 a.m., should bring gloves, trash bags, clippers, mowers, brooms or shovels along with any gardening tools. They can choose an area on the hiking and biking trail to clean or report to a trailhead for an assigned task.

The Greenway Trail, which opened in 2009, runs from Limroy Lane in East Setauket to the New York State Department of Transportation parking lot in Port Jefferson Station, close to Route 112.

A monthly effort to clean the trail will help maintain the community connection. Volunteers who cannot make the Greenway’s monthly beautification schedule can contact Charlie McAteer from Friends of the Greenway at cfmcateer@gmail.com to find out other ways to help.