Paddling 'trail' for South Shore bays detailed

A photo of the Marina in Wantagh Park. A photo of the Marina in Wantagh Park. (Oct. 21, 2013) Photo Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

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A draft plan unveiled Monday for a South Shore Blueway Trail on the bays of southern Nassau County outlines 22 potential launching sites to provide access for a 40-mile paddling loop.

The proposal was developed by officials from the state, county, Hempstead and Oyster Bay towns, the village of Freeport, paddling outfitters, consultants and an advisory committee after more than four years of planning. It will be the subject of a public meeting Nov. 14 in Freeport and is expected to be approved a week later after a 30-day comment period that began Monday.

The trail would open in the spring.

Four of the identified launching sites currently are inaccessible because of obstructions that would have to be remedied to avoid long stretches of coastline with no outlet, said planning consultant Barbara La Rocco of Going Coastal Inc.

The report recommends that the eight municipalities involved set up a common access policy and fee structure for nonresidents.

The goal of the trail -- like the Oyster Bay Theodore Roosevelt Blueway Trail on the North Shore awaiting final approval from the N.Y. Department of State before a scheduled opening also next spring -- is threefold: encourage more use of the water, raise environmental awareness and boost tourism.

"The South Shore Blueway Trail will provide more access for kayakers," Nassau County Executive Edward P. Mangano said. And "it will create an economic boost for our county as well."

The genesis of the trail, which the planners envision being used by thousands of kayakers, canoeists and paddleboarders annually, was a proposal by Michael Fehling, owner of Empire Kayaks in Island Park, and Kyle Rabin of Woodmere, who has chaired an advisory committee. The county approved a $50,000 grant that was matched by Freeport through a Department of State grant to pay for the planning and design work.

Additional grants will be sought for construction, erecting kiosks at launching sites, printing brochures and developing a smartphone app, Rabin said. The trail would connect with a New York City trail and a planned Town of Hempstead paddling trail, Rabin added.

Information on the hearing and draft plan can be obtained at www.southshoreblueway.com. The Nov. 14 public meeting is 6 p.m. at Freeport Village Hall, 46 N. Ocean Ave. During the 30-day comment period, the public can submit questions and comments to info@southshoreblueway.com.

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