We were among those excited to hear the long-discussed 10-mile bike trail from Mount Sinai to Wading River Rails to Trails project finally seems to be getting off the ground.
With work expected to begin in spring 2019, the LIPA-owned property will be put to great community use with countless benefits for both locals and visitors to the area. We have heard complaints from residents whose properties abut the trail, and we’ve also heard of issues at other comparable trails on Long Island. It is
incumbent on the organizers of this project — Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), engineering firm NV5 and the county’s Department of Public Works — to not only hear but also act on resident concerns all along the way.
While we understand having a trail suddenly run through your backyard can be a disruptive new addition to a home with the potential to attract strangers, we would argue unused woods can also attract undesirable behaviors. This is not to say that steps shouldn’t be taken to buffer the trail from property lines. We are confident that an amicable compromise can be reached as long as residents’ concerns are truly taken into account.
The popular Long Island Greenbelt Trail, which is overseen by the nonprofit Long Island Greenbelt Trail Conference, is regularly in need of volunteers to help maintain and clean up the massive trail. To its credit, the group has a tab on its website where hikers can submit reports about issues or problems along the trail. Something like this would be great when the Mount Sinai-to-Wading River project is complete. Building a bike trail for residents and tourists alike to enjoy and utilize is great in theory, but maintaining it and keeping it vibrant is another project entirely. We would even propose the newly created chambers of commerce in each of the hamlets through which the trail runs divide the 10 miles and host quarterly cleanups.
We were also glad to hear mile markers will be included on the trail to make it easier for people in need of emergency assistance to let authorities know where on the trail they are located. We’d like to see something similar to what Cold Spring Harbor State Park implemented a few years ago to ensure safety for users of the trail. Suffolk County police officer James Garside helped develop and implement innovative GPS-enabled trail markers there, and since installation in 2017, a man who suffered a heart attack on the trail was saved thanks to the availability of his precise location.
We also hope this new trail is like the Setauket-Port Jefferson Greenway Trail in one specific way.
“From the 6th Precinct’s standpoint there haven’t been any spikes in burglaries or home invasions on the [Setauket-Port Jefferson Greenway Trail],” Community Oriented Police Enforcement unit Sgt. Walter Langdon said during a discussion about safety on the new trail. “With the right-of-ways, people can already access the rear of these houses. With more people on the trail, there’s more people to call 911. In a way, it’s safer.”
Projects for public good are always great by us, but keeping a neighbor-friendly status will require attention and work.