With trail system from Bay to Sound, Southold is connecting its ‘greatest assets’

01/21/2016 6:00 AM |

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Southold Town has taken another step on the years-long hike toward an interconnected trail system stretching from Long Island Sound to Peconic Bay in Southold and Greenport.

On Tuesday, the Town Board approved a conceptual plan for phase two of the Bay to Sound Integrated Trails Initiative, which aims to create a 3.9-mile stretch of looping trails from the Arshamomaque Preserve to the bay.

Although future phases will be needed, this step to include the second phase on the open space projects list brings the town closer to achieving a completed continuous trail system.

The purpose here is bifurcated: The town will connect some of its preserved lands and locals can enjoy an uninterrupted miles-long trek from one major body of water to the other, observing local flora and fauna along the way.

“It’s common sense to link our two greatest assets, which are the Peconic Bay and the Long Island Sound,” said Supervisor Scott Russell. “When you’re able to open these trails up, which is their intended purpose to begin with, it’s great for everybody.”

By putting in trails, Mr. Russell said, the town can keep its preserved lands “as pristine as possible” and allow residents to admire the area’s natural resources.

The Bay to Sound project was originally approved in 2011 and its first phase is nearing completion, according to John Sepenoski, chair of the town’s land preservation committee.

The proposed system of trails — some of which are already constructed — begins on the Sound beach at Inlet Pond County Park and then weaves southward through Moore’s Woods and Silver Lake within the Village of Greenport. From Moore’s Woods, the potential path branches west through Skipper Horton Park, the Arshamomaque Preserve and Pipes Cove.

“The point here is that there will be real trails here that are obvious and marked that you can walk,” Mr. Sepenoski said. “The long-term hope is that this [trail system] would eventually become more of a destination.”

Interest in the project was rekindled when Greenport Village Trustee Doug Roberts offered commitment to including Silver Lake in the trail system and when the town became able to build a trail on the 24-acre Sill property south of Route 25 across from Chapel Lane.

Mr. Roberts said the previous Village Board had “opted out” of participation in the trail program, but he has helped reinvigorate interest. He sees the proposed trail system as an asset for the area and also as a way to improve accessibility to Silver Lake.

“The vision of John Sepenoski and those at the town, Group for the East End, and others of whom I may not be aware, would be a wonderful addition to the lives of Greenport’s residents and visitors, not to mention those living in the surrounding areas,” he said in an email. “[Silver Lake] is a great natural asset right in the heart of the village and I hope we can let the people who live here and those who visit enjoy it soon.”

Mr. Russell agreed.

“Even though the trail itself is technically on town property, to have an asset like [Silver Lake] be part of the trail is a no-brainer,” the supervisor said. “That’s how we breathed new life into it.”

The concept plan for phase two calls for new paths to be built, starting at the Arshamomaque Preserve and snaking southeast through town- and county-owned parcels until they meet the bay at the end of Pipes Neck Road.

More than half of the work would involve newly constructed trails on 67 acres of preserved land currently closed to the public, according to Mr. Sepenoski. Completion of phase two would result in 3.9 miles of connected trails and 148 acres of preserved lands, he said.

Mr. Sepenoski said more sections of the overall Bay to Sound proposal will be completed in the future. He also said there is neither a clear timeline nor an estimate of costs. During its initial push, the town used about $71,000 of grant money transferred from the already-completed Seaview bicycle trails project and also received a $35,000 matching grant from the county.

He also said the town can use some CPF funds at certain locations that were originally purchased with CPF funds.

The town still needs to get permissions from the county and the Long Island Power Authority, both of which own parcels involved in the proposal.

The Sill property has been town-owned since 2011, but its longtime resident, Julia Sill, was allowed to live there until she died, which occurred in November. Now, the town can use that property for its trail project, which is key since the land borders Peconic Bay.

“That’s a critical component,” Mr. Russell said. “The Sill property was really just an excellent acquisition all the way around. It’s a beautiful property with substantial acreage, and obviously part of its appeal was being able to include it in Bay to Sound.”

As part of phase one, the town has already constructed new trails in Inlet Pond County Park, including one connecting the park to Moore’s Woods, and built a boardwalk in the Arshamomaque Preserve. The first phase also included various cleanup projects, and the town will continue to install bike racks and kiosks at the trailheads.

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