Town approves study of Fishers Island bike path

BETH YOUNG FILE PHOTO | A view from Fishers Island.
BETH YOUNG FILE PHOTO | A view from Fishers Island.

The Southold Town Board hasn’t exactly warmed up to the idea of spending $500,000 to extend the Fishers Island bike path, but it is willing to pay to study the matter.

The board voted unanimously Tuesday to approve an $8,900 feasibility study for the project.

The move comes just two weeks after board members Louisa Evans and Chris Talbot sparred over spending money on the Fishers Island project during the Dec. 5 work session.

Fishers Island residents have been pushing for the town to extend the bike path along the public road to the downtown area, but the town has been reluctant to approve the project due to the half-million-dollar price tag, Supervisor Scott Russell said. According to 2010 census data, 236 year-round residents lived there in 2010.

During a discussion earlier this month, town engineer Jamie Richter advised widening the road and extending the bike path on the shoulder as a less expensive alternative.

The idea didn’t sit well with Ms. Evans, who voiced concern that the plan would do little to protect bicyclists. Instead, she requested that the town at least pay for a survey of the roadway so the project could move forward.

Mr. Talbot said the money would be better spent widening roadways in New Suffolk, an area where residents have raised safety concerns. Some roadways in New Suffolk are very dangerous, Mr. Talbot said, with bicyclists, including children, forced to ride in the street.

“You’re willing to spend money to do that but you won’t spend it on life-saving measures in New Suffolk?” he said. “It’s recreation versus life-saving.”

Ms. Evans responded by saying that Fishers Island receives far less funding than any other hamlet in Southold.

“We spend a lot of money in Southold Town that Fishers Island sees no part of,” Ms. Evans said during the Dec. 5 work session. “The residents are asking for something that benefits them.”

On Tuesday, Mr. Russell said he was able to work with the town comptroller to find the $8,940 needed to fund an initial survey for the Fishers Island bike path extension.

Board members also agreed to get a cost estimate to survey the streets in New Suffolk, the supervisor said.

“We realize the problems here,” Mr. Russell said Tuesday. “Let’s address these two issues simultaneously.”

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