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Hiking Trail

Northport Scout Joseph Luft on the trail and steps he rebuilt on the Vanderbilt Estate. Photo from Vanderbilt Museum
Project enhanced beauty of estate and safety for visitor-hikers

Joseph Luft rebuilt the steps on a steep trail at the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum as part of his project to become an Eagle Scout.

Luft, a junior at Northport High School and member of Troop 41, reconstructed the hill and the steps leading from the Wishing Well Garden at the Vanderbilt Mansion down to the Boathouse on the waterfront. Jim Munson, the Vanderbilt’s operations supervisor, said the old steps had begun to fail and became a safety concern. On a Troop 41 trip to the Museum in 2020, Luft noticed the deterioration and decided he wanted to make the trail his Eagle project, Munson said.

Above right: Kyle Roelofs, Michael Monda, Connor Jorgensen, James Posillico, Joe Luft, Ryan Edebohls, Will Ponder, David Luft. Photo by Virginia Luft.

Elizabeth Wayland-Morgan, executive director of the Museum, said, “We’re grateful to Joe for his important contribution to the Vanderbilt. The rebuilt hill, steps, and trail are crucial not only to the beauty and accessibility of the estate grounds, but also to the enjoyment and safety of visitors who hike the trail.”

Luft, who chose the project because he loves hiking, started planning it a year ago. He began working on the trail in August and with help from his family, troop, and friends completed work on October 2. He thanked “14 incredible scouts” for helping him raise $1,324 by holding a car wash and for working with him to complete the trail.

“The most surprising aspect of the project,” Luft said, “was how willing people were to lend a hand whenever I needed help or volunteers. Whether it was purchasing supplies or scrubbing down cars, someone was always there with me to help make sure it was done right. The people at the Vanderbilt were incredibly flexible with timing and with occasionally lending us one of their golf carts to haul tools.”

Luft, who is about to complete the Eagle Scout requirements, said it felt “amazing” to finish the project. “It was a huge weight lifted off my shoulders, a lot of stress and work. But the project was finally done and all I could do was sit back and look at everything accomplished with a smile.”

He said he learned a lot about how to organize fundraisers and how to write emails in a professional manner. “I also learned something about time management and how strong a community Northport is when it comes to people supporting each other.”

File photo

Detectives charged a man with second-degree murder this week, just days after his wife was found dead in their Lake Grove home.

The Suffolk County Police Department said Paul Leitgeb injured his own wrist and throat, threatened to further harm himself and threatened officers before he was taken into custody on Tuesday. Cops had tracked him to a hiking trail in Pawling, N.Y., and authorities from the state police, the Dutchess County sheriff’s office and the Metro-North police extensively searched the area before a state canine team found the suspect on the Appalachian Trail that day.

Police allege that Leitgeb, 49, murdered his wife, 42-year-old Tricia Odierna. The SCPD said last week that Odierna was found dead in their home on Win Place in Lake Grove on Oct. 1, and authorities believed the woman’s cause of death was criminal in nature.

Her body was discovered as Suffolk County patrol officers responded to a 911 call that afternoon and entered the house, near Hawkins Avenue. The woman was publicly identified a few days later.

Attorney information for Leitgeb was not available Thursday. Police said he was treated for his injuries at a hospital in Poughkeepsie before being transported to a hospital in Suffolk County for further treatment, and would be arraigned when he is released.

Detectives from the SCPD’s Homicide Squad are still investigating the alleged murder. Anyone with information is asked to call them at 631-852-6392, or to call Crime Stoppers anonymously at 800-220-TIPS.