The Southampton Trails Preservation Society (STPS) has been protecting 300 miles of trails for 30 years. The group offers dozens of guided hikes year-round that showcase the beauty and uniqueness of the local landscape.
Keeping the trails available to hikers is the primary mission of STPS, whose tireless volunteers perform constant maintenance. “Trimming, weeding and mowing. We do a lot of everything,” says Susan Colledge, Co-Chair of Trail Maintenance at STPS. “We also do blazing, which is nailing the trail name signs to the trees. We make sure they’re always in good condition. We’re constantly seeking volunteers.”
STPS, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, was established in 1986 by a group of horseback riders. They found that scenic trails were being lost to development. The Society works actively with the Town of Southampton government, neighboring trail groups and many environmental organizations to advocate for and create a system of public-use trails. STPS members are volunteers dedicated to protecting and preserving historic trails, greenbelts and open space, as well as creating new trail systems. Horses on Trails (HOT) is an affiliate and encourages recreational horseback trail riding.
This is Colledge’s second year with the Society and the importance of what they do is significant to her. “It’s vital. I’ve been here since 2014, but development has been contagious. We need to organize the land into trails despite development. We don’t want to lose our linkage.”
Marilyn Kirkbright, President of the STPS, echoes this need and explains the Society’s current efforts: “A small committee of us goes to the Town Hall each month to advocate for open space.”
STPS has sponsored thousands of free weekend hikes led by experienced volunteers. People are encouraged to embrace nature and learn about the different species of plants and animals, and various habitats. “We saw a bald eagle once at Crooked Pond,” says Kirkbright. “It was so amazing.” With trails leading to and around 12 ponds, and 18 different hikes to choose from, there’s a hike for every age and ability. “We’d love to see more children participate,” says Colledge. “We make it fun and exciting.”
An upcoming hike that’s perfect for toddlers and pre-school age little ones is the Children’s Introduction to Trails on June 18 from 10:30 a.m. to noon. The route is an easy walk around Vineyard Field with views of the ponds and grasslands. The trip includes a visit to the South Fork Natural History Museum as well as refreshments. “Children have such a great time,” remarks Colledge.
On the same day, at 12 p.m., STPS is hosting an Obstacle Day at Big Sky Ranch on Millstone Road in Water Mill. The event will be a fun challenge for horse and rider. All skill levels are welcome. Reservations are required, as is a horse, helmet, and membership in either STPS or HOT.
On July 2, Tony Garro of STPS will be leading the Patriotic Tour of Sag Harbor from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Kirkbright says Garro is the perfect guide for historic walks. “He’s been investigating the history of Sag Harbor for years. He’s very funny, which makes the hikes even more fun.” This event is great for the whole family and begins at the windmill on Long Wharf.
In the fall, you can look forward to the Inaugural Bay to Bay Hike on October 22. “I especially love the bottom of this trail. It’s absolutely gorgeous,” says Kirkbright. Hikers will meet at Head of Lots Road in East Quogue. The approximately eight-mile-long hike lasts from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Lunch will be provided.
For any seniors who may have trouble walking, numerous trails are easy on the legs. Kirkbright explains that the Elliston Park hike, for example, can be shortened by half. “We’re all primarily seniors here at the Preservation Society. I believe the trails are appropriate for everyone, but you can let us know beforehand if you need any of the hikes to be shortened,” says Colledge.
For all hikes, Kirkbright recommends bringing water, wearing light colored clothing and long pants that can be tucked into socks to aid in avoiding tick bites.
Here’s to a wonderful summer of hiking and discovery on the East End!