Long Island paddlers, kayakers and canoers will soon have a blueway trail to explore, as the Huntington Town Board recently took the first step towards beginning the project. A blueway trail, which is a water route exclusively for non-motorized boats, aims to connect the community and the environment.
“Creating a blueway provides a venue to promote stewardship and support existing local and regional conservation, recreation and restorative efforts,” according to the South Shore Blueway Project website, www.southshoreblueway.com.
The board authorized applying for a $76,000 grant from the New York State Environmental Protection Fund to launch the project with the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County. The trail, which would be completed in 2020, is planned to run through the Long Island Sound, Cold Spring Harbor and the Huntington/Northport Bay complex.
A blueway trail map, interactive smartphone app and video tour would also be included in the project. The smartphone app would highlight natural and cultural heritage points of interest along the trail, as well as identify trail heads, routes and amenities.
The interactive app would “allow visitors easier access to trail information and better options in trip planning,” a spokesperson for Huntington Councilman Eugene Cook said.
The app would also provide “increased safety through use of georeferenced maps while on the trail,” said the spokesperson.
A similar blueway trail has already been established on the South Shore this year as part of the 2006 Nassau County Environmental Bond Act. The trail runs through Hempstead Bay and South Oyster Bay and connects to the South Shore Estuary Reserve. The trail is made of 22 launches and landings that provide easy and safe access to the water for visitors. The blueway has been extremely successful thus far, according to Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto.
“Establishing the South Shore Blueway Trail has created an exciting and unique way for people to learn about and enjoy our beautiful natural waterways and promote many attractions in and around the area,” said Venditto.
Huntington Councilman Mark Cuthbertson believes the blueway will also contribute to the education of local youngsters.
“Providing diverse educational opportunities in a recreational setting is a valuable win-win, promoting physical health and wellbeing and using resources that are protected and managed for public enjoyment,” said Cuthbertson.
The blueway could benefit the community economically as well. A study done by the Outdoor Foundation found that approximately $11.3 billion have been spent on paddle boarding gear in New York state alone and $800 million in tax revenue has been collected by the state. The study also found that the number of paddle boarders in New York has grown to 1.8 million, supporting more than 130,000 jobs.
The goal of the blueway trail project is to “increase awareness and use of coastal resources,” as well as “encourage ecotourism” in the community, according to the spokesperson for Cook.