By Victoria Espinoza
Kayakers, canoeists and water enthusiasts in Huntington may be singing a different kind of blues in the near future.
The Huntington town board approved a plan at a July meeting to create a blueway trail, that would span from Cold Spring Harbor to Northport Bay, and highlight both historic and cultural areas along the town’s shoreline.
According to the National Park Service, a blueway trail is a water path that provides recreational boating opportunities along a river, lake, canal or coastline.
The Huntington blueway trail would be geared toward increasing awareness and use of coastal resources, while also encouraging ecotourism.
“This will provide an opportunity for residents to provide their own input, experiences and recommendations.”
Huntington Stand Up Paddle business owner Katie Buttine said a blueway trail would be an asset to both her business and customers.
“That would be awesome,” Buttine said in a phone interview. “Water sports are continuing to grow and people don’t know where they can and can’t go in the area. This would help so people would no longer be frustrated when they get to a beach and realize they can’t load there.”
Town board members unanimously approved a resolution to apply for a $76,000 New York State Environmental Protection Fund grant to undertake the project with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County, a nonprofit community education agency that works to preserve the county’s heritage, protect ecosystems and provide opportunities for young people.
The project, which would begin next year and be completed in 2020, will plan a blueway starting from Cold Spring Harbor, through the Long Island Sound and the Huntington and Northport Bay complex, and ending at the mouth of Fresh Pond in Smithtown Bay.
The grant will be used to create a blueway trail map-and-guide smartphone app, and a video tour.
The guide app would include a map of the trail, as well as natural and cultural heritage points of interest. It would allow visitors easier access to trail information, better options in trip planning and increased safety through use of georeferenced maps while on the trail. Trailheads, amenities and downtown assets such as paddle sport establishments would also be identified. It could be used by people on land or water, and would be similar to guides the town has compiled for land-based activities.
Currently, Huntington’s website features detailed information on nature trails in the area, complete with addresses, parking fees, hours and animals that may be seen in the area.
The Huntington trail would resemble others on Long Island.
Oyster Bay started working on a water path in 2010, with a similar grant and help from a community planning firm that inventoried the best-suited trailheads and amenities that provide access to recreational facilities, commercial establishments, and ecological, historical and cultural resources along the proposed trail, according to Friends of the Bay. A community survey was also conducted to let residents give input on what they thought the trail should look like.
Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto praised the project in a 2012 statement:
“[It created] an exciting and unique way for people to learn about and enjoy this beautiful natural watershed and promote the many attractions in and around the harbor. The whole purpose of the blueway trail map is to provide a simple and easy way to discern the best places to stop and take in the wonderful attractions our town has to offer.”
Huntington is hoping their blueway trail will have the same effect.
Cornell Cooperative said it will be working with the town to collect public opinion, field research and more.
Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) introduced the resolution to the town board in July, and said the nonprofit approached him with the idea.
“[The organization] came to Huntington with a very strong project proposal, and we are very delighted to be partnering on this endeavor,” he said in an email.
Carolyn Sukowski, resource educator for the nonprofit said Huntington’s blueway path will be enriched with community contribution.
“This will provide an opportunity for residents to provide their own input, experiences and recommendations,” she said in a phone interview. She also said Cornell Cooperative plans to hold public meetings and distribute surveys that will help determine stops and points of interest on the blueway trail, and the app as well.
Cuthbertson agreed that resident feedback will be an invaluable part of the process.
“We anticipate extensive community input,” he said. “Clearly we expect that our parks, beaches, marinas and historic sites will be included, but our list will be compiled with community input.”
Sukowski said the path will have stops on the shoreline, suggestions for destinations near the water and a list of town parks.