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SUNY Empire State College

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, right, and Jim Malatras, president of SUNY Empire State College. Photo from Suffolk County

Right before the official opening of its new campus in Selden, State University of New York Empire State College has partnered with Suffolk County to offer the beauty of nature to students and surrounding residents.

On Oct. 29, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) and Jim Malatras, president of SUNY Empire State College, signed an educational partnership. The agreement will connect the county’s existing trail network to the college’s new 6.6-acre Long Island campus at 407 College Road, Selden, which is scheduled to open Nov. 13.

The trail network connection will be used for academic programming which will be designed by SUNY Empire Assistant Professor Matt Schmidt. It will be open for public use, and events for students and community members will focus on exploration of the surrounding habitat.

“This partnership will benefit our students by leveraging the county’s sprawling trail network and turning it into a model program through SUNY Empire State College,” Bellone said.

Trails will be marked and rated for accessibility by The Nature Conservancy, and the paths will be maintained in part by volunteers from the Long Island Greenbelt Trail Conference.

Malatras thanked Bellone as well as the Nature Conservancy and the Long Island Greenbelt Trail Conference for their assistance in the project.

“SUNY Empire State College is happy to do its part to protect and maintain these natural areas for the benefit of its students, faculty and staff, as well as the broader Suffolk County community,” Malatras said.

According to a press release from Bellone’s office, a comprehensive connected countywide network of hiking and biking trails is currently in the works. The process will include analyzing hundreds of miles of bike lanes and signed bike routes and potential shared-use paths similar to the North Shore Rail Trail, which will run from Wading River to Mount Sinai. The master plan, expected by early 2020, will map the existing hiking and biking network, identify the gaps in that network and then develop a plan to prioritize and build out those gaps.

College and elected officials broke ground two years ago in Selden on the new campus, according to SUNY Empire’s website. There are currently two campuses in Suffolk County — Hauppauge and Riverhead. The new Selden campus is described as a state-of-the-art, environmentally friendly learning facility. The facility will offer both in-room and online classes.