It’s a project a half-century in the making.
“Anytime a project has been on the drawing board for 50 years, and you’re actually at the ribbon cutting, that’s a great day,” said County Executive Steve Bellone at an event Friday for the North Shore Rail Trail in Shoreham.
The 10-mile trail extends as far east as Wading River-Manorville Road in Wading River and as far west as Crystal Brook Hollow Road in Mount Sinai. It’s built along what used to be the Wading River railway line, which was abandoned in 1939 and is now owned by the Long Island Power Authority.
Although people have been using the popular path for about a year for walking, running and bike riding, the official opening was Friday, when residents, political leaders and civic leaders gathered for a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
“We are finally here,” said County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), whose district includes the trail and who fought to get it built.
The path originally faced three large challenges, she said.
One was that then-County Executive Steve Levy didn’t support the project.
Another was the Long Island Power Authority had concerns about liability. The county agreed to take on the liability for the project, she said.
The third concern was the neighbors who didn’t want the trail near them, Ms. Anker said.
“Some folks were concerned about having this in their backyard,” she said, adding that they had to convince residents that the path will give kids a safe place to ride bikes and play.
“This will help our economic and spur economic growth and tourism,” Mr. Bellone said. “It will improve everyone’s quality of life and property values.”
Bruce Kagan of Wading River was a teacher in the Miller Place School District in 1992 when his students had a voluntary writing campaign in which they wrote letters to then-Gov. Mario Cuomo in support of the trail. Mr. Kagan has been advocating for the plan since then.
He said that Riverhead Town’s Alternative Transportation committee, of which he is a member, would like to see the North Shore Rail Trail linked to Riverhead’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial Park, which has a bike and walking path inside the fence of what used to be Grumman.
Mr. Kagan said there are also efforts to connect the North Shore Rail Trail with the Greenway Trail between Port Jefferson and Stony Brook.
County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) said Suffolk County’s roads often are criticized for being among the most dangerous for bicyclists and pedestrians.
The recreation trail will help reduce those numbers, she said.