Cleanup efforts continue for Bay to Sound project as Girl Scouts and other volunteers pitch in

After dedicating over 50 hours to clean up and beautify Greenport’s environment, a group of 10 Southold Girl Scouts are on their way to earning their Silver Award.

The Girl Scouts of Southold Troop 2125 are among the countless volunteers who have made progress on Southold Town’s Bay to Sound Integrated Trails Initiative, a state, county and town funded project that will link the Peconic Bay to the Long Island Sound with a network of trails. The Girl Scouts recently dirtied their hands at Skipper Horton Park in Greenport, where they removed invasive phragmites from runoff retention ponds, allowing better sunlight exposure to foster the growth of native plants.

“It kills the other plants around it,” Emily Kaelin, one of the Girl Scouts, said of the phragmites. “When we first went over there you couldn’t even tell there was a pond and now you very much can.”

Emily, along with her fellow eighth-grade Scouts — Brielle Born, Phoebe Faint, Paige Harvey, Emma Kilcommons, Emily Manwaring, Anna Mudd, Brooke Torkelson, Caroline Woods and LeNeve Zuhoski — must now submit documentation of the project and await approval for their Silver Award distinction, the second-highest award they can earn. To achieve a Silver award, Scouts must put a minimum of 50 hours into a sustainable project that will leave a lasting impact on their community. According to troop leader Catherine Kaelin, each of the 10 Scouts hit their 50 hours in February and March and are still putting in more.

The Girl Scouts made their mark on phase five of the Bay to Sound initiative, which targets land south of Route 48 between Albertson Lane to the west and Chapel Lane to the east. In addition to various cleanups, phase five will see approximately 1.4 miles of trails installed at Arshamomaque Preserve and a half-mile trail at Clay Pit County Park, according to John Sepenoski, Southold Town geographic information systems coordinator. Further south, 2.5 miles of trails will be opened at the eastern, town-owned portion of Pipes Cove Preserve.

Empire State Development awarded Southold Town $258,750 to fund phase five of the initiative which is expected to run through 2025.

The Bay to Sound Initiative kicked off in 2007 and envisioned a trail network linking Suffolk County land, Southold Town and Greenport Village preserves and parkland for residents and visitors. As Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell previously put it, the plan will connect the town’s “two greatest assets,” the Peconic Bay and the Long Island Sound.

Trails from the project’s first two phases are open for residents and visitors to walk this spring and summer.

Phase one gave rise to trails from Inlet County Park to Moore’s Woods and then-newly acquired county land. It was funded by a $72,000 New York State Department of Transportation grant that predates the initiative as well as a $35,000 grant Suffolk County issued the town in 2008.

Phase two boasts 3.9 miles of connected trails from Arshamomaque Preserve south through town property to newly purchased county parcels to the western end of Pipes Cove Preserve. Southold Town received $245,00 from the New York State Environmental Protection Fund for phase two in 2016, and an additional $127,000 the following year.

Still underway, phase three is “a more focused phase,” according to Mr. Sepenoski. “We are cleaning up the old Sill’s Dairy Farm property on the south side of the railroad tracks in Greenport,” he said. “There’s an old milking parlor, a silo and junk equipment.” Though still underway, work is expected to be completed in June, he added.

The Group for the East End, an environmental advocacy group, has sought grants and coordinated volunteer efforts for Bay to Sound throughout several phases. In addition to the Girl Scouts, they’ve rallied other youth groups, such as the ROTC, who recently hauled away wheelbarrows loaded with wood chips and removed garbage large and small from trash sites.

“They’ve removed a lot of garbage, something that looked like a small boat, they dug and dragged out of there which was absolutely remarkable,” Taralynn Reynolds, the group’s outreach director, said. “We’ve been getting consistent presence from them, and we cannot stress how helpful it is to have younger people from the community involved in this project.”

The Group for the East End volunteer days are open to members of the public who wish to contribute to a lasting change in their community’s environment. They may join the group and the ROTC on April 8 from 9 to 11 a.m. at Arshamomaque County Park, and the Girl Scouts April 10 and 11 from 5 to 6 p.m. at a still undetermined location. Anyone interested in learning more about volunteering my contact Ms. Reynolds at [email protected].