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Friends of the Greenway

The Eastern box turtle, above, is a native species to Long Island. Photo by 37and7 from Wikimedia Commons

Through the years, there have been scattered reports of the Eastern box turtle, a native species to Long Island, seen along the Setauket-Port Jefferson Greenway Trail, particularly at a 1/8-mile strip adjacent to the Lawrence Aviation Superfund site.

Though not listed as an endangered species under the federal Endangered Species Act, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation considers the box turtle of “special concern,” a classification for native species that “warrants attention and consideration but current information, collected by the department, does not justify listing these species as either endangered or threatened.”

The New York State Department of Transportation, charged with mowing the Greenway three times per year, was alerted to the turtle presence earlier this summer by the Three Village Community Trust, the local organization supervising and stewarding the trail.

“We became aware that there were some turtles apparently in the area in and around the Lawrence Aviation site,” said Herb Mones, TVCT president. “As a result, we requested that the state, when it does its mowing program, not mow that section or that area.”

The Friends of the Greenway is a subsidiary of TVCT that works to maintain and upkeep the trail grounds. Charlie McAteer, the organization’s chair, held that the mowing operation does fulfill a public end, limiting tall grasses, which can often yield ticks.

“If the tall grass is right next to the paving, people worry about ticks as they go past,” McAteer said in an email. “So these few mowings do help with our human satisfaction.”

But, he added that the organization strives to keep “mowing to a minimum so meadow growth and places for turtles [and other wildlife] can flourish again and trail users can see and enjoy nature along the trail.”

Joshua Heller, public information specialist for NYSDOT, indicated that the department was made aware of the presence of turtles and halted mowing for the area in question. 

“The New York State Department of Transportation prides itself on being good stewards of the environment,” Heller said in a statement. “We have received the Three Village Community Trust’s letter and are reviewing it. In the meantime, we have temporarily halted mowing operations in this area.”

Aug. 22 walkthrough

A walk along the Greenway Tuesday, Aug. 22, painted a different picture.

Outside the Lawrence Aviation property, there was evidence of fresh mowing. However, there was no evidence of harm to wildlife observed during the walkthrough. 

Presented the photos of the recent mowing activities, Mones expressed possible miscommunication. 

“It’s unfortunate that the NYSDOT extended their mowing beyond the area we recommended to them,” the TVCT president said in an email. “In the past, the DOT has been responsive to our requests and recommendations. It’s obvious we’ll need to do more work to create a ‘protective zone’ in the future.”

NYSDOT did respond to a follow-up request for comment on the matter by clarifying that the recent mowing occurred prior to temporarily halting mowing in the area.

Possible solutions

A 2017 thesis paper by Margarete Walden explores the danger mowing activities pose to box turtles. 

To mitigate the potential risk of turtle mortality due to mowing, Walden suggests conducting “mowing activities [from] November to March, so as to coincide with the period of turtle hibernation,” during which they live underground. It is, however, difficult to mow during these months when there is heavy snowfall.

McAteer pledged that the Friends of the Greenway “will work with NYSDOT to try to work on the mowing distance/guidelines” for routine mowings.

For Mones, wildlife conservation and trail maintenance are not mutually exclusive. Rather, he indicated that both efforts could serve the coinciding interests of trail users and wildlife.

“Our motto is, ‘Protecting the places we love,’” Mones said. “We are the stewards of the Greenway, but we also have the residual responsibility to protect the open space and advance environmental protection.”

Photo by Rob Pellegrino

Three Village Community Trust’s Friends of the Greenway will host its monthly cleanup of the Greenway Trail on Saturday, June 17 starting at 9 a.m. in the Port Jefferson Station trailhead parking lot off Route 112 next to Port Jeff Bowl.  Come help keep our community gem clean as we get ready for the summer. Questions? Email [email protected].

Town of Brookhaven Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich, center, swears in Ira Costell, right, and Carolyn Sagliocca as president and vice president of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association. Photo by Raymond Janis

The newly reconfigured executive board of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association went straight to work Tuesday night during the body’s general meeting April 25.

Nearly six dozen people turned out as former civic president Ed Garboski and vice president Sal Pitti left their posts, transitioning leadership authority to Ira Costell and Carolyn Sagliocca, respectively. 

Village of Port Jefferson Mayor Margot Garant, former New York State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) and representatives of state Sen. Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) and Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) were all in attendance.

Town of Brookhaven Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) officiated over a formal swearing-in ceremony for the newly elected civic officers. He thanked the departing civic leaders and congratulated their successors.

“There’s an energy in this community that we haven’t felt in years,” he said. “It’s a whole new optimism, and in large part, that’s because of the drive out of this civic organization.”

To Garboski and Pitti, the councilmember added, “You two are fantastic civic leaders, and I have every confidence that the new board will continue to focus and do the work that you’ve done.”

The newly reconfigured executive board of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association during a general meeting on Tuesday, April 25. Photo by Raymond Janis

Land use

Costell quickly got moving, announcing the creation of a land use committee headed by Sagliocca, which will monitor development and related land use activities within the hamlet.

Further expanding on this theme, Costell articulated his vision for overseeing the redevelopment of the area, narrowing his focus around the projected $100 million proposed investment into Jefferson Plaza, owned by Staller Associates.

“The Staller project is the keystone, if you will, about the entire development of our little hamlet,” he said.

Between the Jefferson Plaza proposal, several planned retirement communities throughout the hamlet and significant residential development in Upper Port, Costell described PJS/T as looking at challenges associated with population density.

“I think it’s incumbent upon us as an organization to register our desire and intention to seek new planning overall, to bring a traffic study and some of the impacts of all of these things cumulatively,” the civic president said. 

He added, “I’d like to go in front of the [Brookhaven] Town Board and express our concern that our little hamlet needs some attention, that we’ve gotten a whole lot of multifamily activity here that we welcome but want done in a fashion and manner that’s going to ameliorate the impacts on existing residents and invite new people in.”

Kornreich concurred with this assessment in part, stating that overdevelopment represents a danger to the quality of life in the area.

“I agree with you that overdevelopment is one of the gravest threats that we face in the destruction of the suburbs, both in respect to our way of life and from an environmental standpoint,” the councilmember said.

Town natural gas program

Kornreich informed the body on a cost-savings strategy for consumers of natural gas. 

Recently, the town launched its Community Choice Aggregation program, partnering with Manhattan-based Good Energy to deliver a fixed rate on natural gas at 69 cents per therm. [See story, “Community Choice Aggregation: Town of Brookhaven joins energy revolution,” March 9, TBR News Media website.]

The councilmember said ratepayers could potentially save hundreds of dollars per year by strategically opting in and out of the CCA program based on the gas price from National Grid.

“Essentially, you can opt in and out at any time as many times as you want for free,” he said.

To save money, he encouraged residents to closely monitor National Grid’s service rates, published at the beginning of every month. “When that price is lower than 69 cents, you stay on National Grid,” he said. “When it goes over, you switch over.”

Based on a model he had conducted for his bill measuring the CCA against the National Grid price, Kornreich projected he would have saved approximately $250 last year.

“This month, in the month of April, National Grid’s price is 35 cents a therm,” he said, adding, “It’s half the price of the CCA … so I’m opting out.”

Reports

A Suffolk County Police Department officer delivered a report on public safety, noting that the phenomenon of catalytic converter theft within the area remains ongoing. The 6th Precinct also observed a slight increase in petit larcenies from this time last year.

He remarked on the new speed cameras installed on the Long Island Expressway. [See story, “New York implements new work-zone enforcement program.”] . The officer reported that during testing, the cameras generated roughly 6,500 summons within a 45-minute window. 

“Please be careful when you get on the LIE,” he said, adding jokingly, “That’s not a county thing. That’s a state thing, so please don’t call us and complain.”

Comsewogue High School students Kylie and Max updated the civic on various developments within the school district. The Spanish Honor Society at the high school recently held a fundraiser to buy Progresso soup donated to the Pax Christi Hospitality Center in Port Jefferson.

Andrea Malchiodi, assistant director of Comsewogue Public Library, announced that the library is conducting a raffle for all cardholders as part of National Library Week. “We’re doing a huge raffle basket, so anybody who is a library card holder can go and put in a raffle to win this fun basket,” she said.

The library is also collecting pet food for a collection drive through Long Island Cares.

PJSTCA corresponding secretary, Charlie McAteer, reported that the town would be holding a Drug Take Back Day on Saturday, April 29, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at the Train Car Park in Port Jefferson Station.

McAteer also said that the Friends of the Greenway would conduct their next cleanup on Saturday, May 13, at 9 a.m. at the Port Jefferson Station trailhead. This cleanup will coincide with this year’s iteration of the Great Brookhaven Cleanup.

PJSTCA will meet again on Tuesday, May 23, at 7 p.m. at Comsewogue Public Library.

Volunteers gathered at the eastern trailhead of the Setauket-Port Jefferson Station Greenway on Saturday, April 22. Photo by Gretchen Mones

At the eastern trailhead of the Setauket-Port Jefferson Station Greenway trail, a group of volunteers and community members met on Earth Day, April 22, kicking off the first cleanup of the season.

The Friends of the Greenway, a subsidiary of the Three Village Community Trust, hosted the event, which featured volunteers from various community groups, including the Stony Brook-based Avalon Nature Preserve. The cleanup coincided with Earth Day, a global holiday that recognizes the achievements of the environmental movement and the need for sustainable planning.

Greenway: an environmental triumph

“We schedule this [cleanup] in April for Earth Day to celebrate the Earth,” Herb Mones, TVCT president, said during the event.

Mones first became involved with the trail in 1999, when former New York State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) asked him to head a task force for its planning. The task force included educational programming and active community collaboration, followed by a planning phase, which took 10 years. 

The concept of a multipurpose trail was revolutionary for its time, Mones suggested.

“In Suffolk County in particular, there are very, very few greenways that are multimodality paths — paved paths for residents, pedestrians and bicyclists,” he said. “It was a process of getting people to understand what a bike path would look like.”

The task force’s vision was soon enacted, and the Greenway has been servicing locals since 2009. Mones described the trail as in “pretty good condition,” though regular pockets of litter have tended to stick around. The Friends of the Greenway organization targets those areas once per month, keeping its community trail tidy and clean.

Celebrating Mother Earth

Volunteer cleanup initiatives are putting the themes of Earth Day into practice at the community level. 

Englebright, for whom the trail was renamed in 2022, was present during the cleanup. For him, the convergence of local cleanup efforts with Earth Day reflect the environmental movement’s local and global momentum.

“The volunteerism was very heartening and very rewarding to me,” he said. “When people are volunteering their time and focusing their energies on Earth Day, it’s just a positive vibration and it speaks well for the role of the trail in the maturation of our communities.”

Throughout his time in public life, Englebright has been a vocal advocate for the environment, one of the earliest voices to ring the alarm on overdevelopment and sprawl, open space preservation and water quality protection in Suffolk County.

Over time, however, the former assemblyman said he had observed even greater attention for sustainability and environmental consciousness.

“I’m greatly encouraged to see people of all ages — there were people with white hair and people at various grade levels of our public schools — all working together with their enthusiasm reinforcing one another, reinforcing the premise that Earth Day should be special,” he said.

In Port Jefferson Station, there are several new development proposals, most notably at Jefferson Plaza, just a block from the trailhead. [See story, “Developers pitch plans for Jefferson Plaza,” June 24, TBR News Media website.] 

While Mones accepts new development projects as “inevitable,” he said those projects should be grounded by sound community plans, considering the interests of all concerned parties. 

“Development and the environment can work together, but it takes kind of a synergy between town planners, the developer and the community to work together to do a plan that works for everybody,” he said.

Englebright said the redevelopment plans for Jefferson Plaza and other projects have been, up to this point, guided by such concepts. He expressed optimism that the Port Jeff Station/Terryville community could hash out a workable compromise.

“When you say redevelopment, it’s also reinvestment into a community,” he said. “I hope that we can bring those projects forward that are being planned for the redevelopment of Port Jefferson Station in a way that lifts all of the boats in the harbor at the same time.”

The North Shore Rail Trail, which connects Mount Sinai to Wading River, was formally opened last summer. The two trailheads at Port Jefferson Station and Mount Sinai are about a mile apart. Englebright remains optimistic that the two may soon intersect, enabling a continuous bike ride from Setauket to Wading River.

“They should be linked up,” he said. “Look, if the Appalachian Trail can go the length of the Appalachians from Maine to Georgia, and they can link that together, then we can link our trails together here on Long Island.”

Photo by Dave Wang

A TRUE PORT JEFFERSON BYPASS

Friends of the Greenway chair Charlie McAteer submitted this photo by Trail Steward Dave Wang which perfectly captures the original intent of the Port Jefferson Station-Setauket Greenway as these two wild turkeys ‘By-Pass Port Jefferson’ by using the trail last week. He writes, ‘Guess these birds too are enjoying our community gem.’ Join the group for their next clean up on July 23 at 9 p.m. starting at the Port Jeff. Station trailhead.

Send your Photo of the Week to [email protected]

Cole Swensen, a Boy Scout in Miller Place Troop 204. created a bench and concrete pads along the Setauket-Port Jefferson Station Greenway Trail. Photo by Kyle Barr

With the weather warming, and with more people available to take walks while home from work and school (maintaining social distancing, of course), one local Boy Scout’s Eagle Scout Service Project has made a lasting impact.

Port Jefferson resident Cole Swensen, a member of Miller Place Boy Scout Troop 204, installed a bench, along with concrete pads on the Setauket-Port Jefferson Station Greenway Trail earlier this month. 

“I’m happy with the finished product,” Swensen said.

Swensen, a senior at Earl L. Vandermeulen High School in Port Jefferson, said he and his dad use the trail often for running and biking and saw there was a need for a new bench, made from wood composite, at the top of the hill just after the westernmost trail entrance in Setauket. The young man also installed three concrete pads on the trail, one at his new bench and two more at existing benches.

“These pads not only clean up the look of the benches and trail, but they also prevent the area in front of the benches from getting muddy,” Swensen said. “It also is a place for strollers to easily get off the main trail.”

Charlie McAteer, the chair of the Friends of the Greenway, said Troop 204 has been a huge boon to the trail, having done five projects with the Greenway, with one more still in the planning phase. This new project comes just as the Greenway is getting increased usage thanks to more people looking to spend time outdoors while maintaining a distance from others.

“This is a remarkable commitment to the Setauket to Port Jeff Station Greenway Trail,” McAteer said. “The community will be enjoying these for decades.”

The high school senior said he had been working on the project since before last summer but had to put it on pause after a severe bike accident led to a concussion. He conducted his fundraising last month, just as things with the coronavirus crisis were starting to close in. Still, he managed to raise about $1,000 toward the project. The build was over a three-day period with the bulk of the work centered on installing the new bench and making sure the concrete pads were leveled against the slope of the hill.

Swensen said he is still waiting on the finalized paperwork for his Eagle Scout application, since all offices are closed everything now has to be mailed.

After graduating high school, Swensen expects to attend SUNY Maritime to study naval architecture, involved in designing the hulls of boats and ships. 

Swensen’s father, Eric, said his son has been interested in boats and sailing since he was young.

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.”