It’s been a long time coming.
Since 2007, the Bay to Sound Integrated Trails Initiative, or Bay to Sound project, which works to expand the trail network in a partnership between Suffolk County, Town of Southold and Village of Greenport, has been a joint project to connect preserves and parkland from the Long Island Sound and the Southold Bay on the North Fork.
In completing the next stage of the project, John Sepenoski, of Southold’s land management coordination department, says the town will have to go to bid to purchase materials and hire contractors that are needed. This process is expected to “take some time,” he says.
“All that will likely start this summer is volunteer work,” Sepenoski says. “The volunteers will be handling all of the trail construction and most of the trash. … We know there are some vehicles, and such, where our highway department is going to have to get involved.”
There were multiple dumping sites for cars throughout the area, Sepenoski says. The major dump yard was cleaned up during phase two.
“There’s an abandoned farm truck on one of the properties,” he adds.
Phase five, which is funded by a $258,750 New York State Department of State grant, includes the construction of trails and parking lots at various parks throughout the area, including Pipes Cove Preserve and Arshamomaque County Park, habitat restoration of an abandoned house site at Pipes Cove Preserve, phragmites removal at Skipper Horton Park and Pipes Cove Preserve, as well as cleanup of old junk vehicles and boats at multiple locations.
Additional phases are currently being discussed, as well, including the possibility of creating kayak launch and landing sites.
“One of the things we’ll be hiring a contract for is to help develop educational materials, offer programming and coordinate volunteers with trail days,” Sepenoski says. “We know from phase two that we will end up with a bunch of random volunteers. These are people who just found out about the project and they would just go to a trail day, but they would also work outside of that. So we’re anticipating that at least some of those folks would continue.”
Funding in the initial stage came from the state Department of Transportation and Suffolk County in the amount of $107,000. The funding was matched by Southold, Greenport and local organizations. Since the project began in 2007, Sepenoski says, more people have been drawn to the area to enjoy the trails.
What inspired the project initially was that stakeholders wanted to see their trails linked up so that they could explore parks throughout the East End.
The Nature Conservancy in New York, which works to solve climate change and biodiversity loss, assisted the project by helping acquire a number of properties in the area adjacent to Pipes Cove Preserve and other local properties.
“While we provided the town with support letters through the phases, all the credit goes to the town and we fully supported their access to and through a number of different properties,” says Kevin McDonald, the Long Island policy adviser for the Nature Conservancy in New York. “It really will present an opportunity for the public to experience the diverse shorelines and water resources of Southold and the landscape, walking from one place to another.”
McDonald told Dan’s Papers that he was proud of the town for being so consistent on this project. The Peconic Estuary Partnership has also been a longtime supporter of the project.
“It’s really important that communities that are here full-time and communities that are here part-time really get to have a hands-on experience with the natural environment,” says Dr. Joyce Novak, executive director of the Peconic Estuary Partnership. “I think it’s why people enjoy the East End so much.”
The Bay to Sound project, she adds, has been an ideal model for what’s possible when towns and communities work together and give people an opportunity to get outside.