Two years into the South Shore Blueway Trail’s official opening, thousands of kayakers, canoeists and paddleboarders have traversed its 50 miles of water routes along Nassau County’s back bays, and local officials are planning to add more launches and landings.
The Town of Hempstead will host its first South Shore Blueway Festival on June 16 at Hewlett Point Park in East Rockaway to continue to raise awareness for the trail and the local environment. The free festival will offer group paddles, eco-tours, races and relays, beach cleanups and kayak and paddleboard rentals and classes, according to Tara Schneider-Moran, a conservation biologist for the town.
“Access to our waterways isn’t always that great, depending on where you live,” said Kyle Rabin, chairman of the Blueway Advisory Committee. “A water trail helps to foster access to waterways, and it also helps to foster that stewardship ethic as well.”
Officials are also seeking federal designations that can help get access to additional resources and funding in the future to facilitate the construction of more launches and landings.
“It’s an evolving trail, we’re always looking for new opportunities,” Rabin said.
While county and local officials said they do not track usership of the trail, they believe water sports are growing in popularity. Officials say thousands have used the trail based on anectodal accounts and tour information. Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen said in a statement that the trail in turn provides benefits to land-based economies.
The trail provides “real opportunities for economic renewal and growth through increased property values, tourism, and recreation-related spending,” she said.
The trail has been in the works since 2006, when Rabin and Empire Kayaks of Island Park submitted proposals to use part of Nassau County’s 2006 environmental bond act to develop the blueway. The trail officially launched in June 2016, and state grants to the county, town and Village of Freeport have since furthered its progress.
Currently, there are 16 launches and two landings spread across the South Shore. Some of the more popular sites are West Marina in Point Lookout, Bay Park in East Rockaway and Norman J. Levy Park in Merrick.
Nassau County and Hempstead Town officials said future access points are planned at Inwood Park in Inwood, Cedar Creek Park in Seaford, Newbridge Road Park in Bellmore and Seamans Neck Park in Seaford.
The Village of Freeport also wants to build a pier and install a launch at Waterfront Park through state grant funding; users can currently launch their craft from the beach, according to Nora Sudars, a village grants technician.
“We’re looking to keep the momentum going,” said Brian Schneider, deputy county executive for parks and public works.
The South Shore Blueway Festival is planned for June 16 to promote the water trail and stewardship of the local environment.
- The free festival is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Hewlett Point Park in East Rockaway.
- The event will be hosted by the Town of Hempstead.
- Attendees can take part in group paddles, eco-tours, races and relays, beach cleanups and free kayak and paddleboard rentals and classes.