North Hempstead has been awarded $450,000 in state aid to fund a construction project that lengthens the town’s largest nature trail.
The money from the New York State Regional Economic Development Council joins another $450,000 provided by the town.
North Hempstead officials plan to expand the Hempstead Harbor Shoreline Trail in Port Washington by an additional 4,972 feet. When completed, the trail will cover more than two miles.
“It’s a very beautiful trail and I’m thrilled and excited about this,” Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth said. “People really love walking on it. We get compliments about it.”
The unpaved nature trail, which opened in May 2015, includes portions that are packed gravel and others that are wood chips. Portions are handicap-accessible. The trail follows West Shore Road and is lined with benches and native plants.
Town officials have no timetable for starting or finishing the extension, but Bosworth said she wants to have it completed in 2019. The town needs to approve bonding for its $450,000 matching contribution.
The planned extension is part of the town’s larger goal of adding another two miles to the pathway to access Gerry Pond Park in Roslyn.
In 2005, the town received a $271,000 grant from the New York State Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation office to extend the trail, but the money sat unused for a decade, Bosworth said. State officials threatened to take the money away, Bosworth said, so the town quickly expanded the trail to its current 1.25-mile length.
“I believe that one of the reasons we got these funds is that we’ve actually used the [previous] grant money and we’ve already extended it past a mile,” she said.
Eric Swenson, executive director of the Hempstead Harbor Protection Committee, which advocates for the shoreline said in a statement the economic development council money and resulting extension will mean more foot traffic along the trail.
He called the state aid “a wonderful Christmas gift.”
Once extended, the trail “will bring more people down to its shores to view wildlife, get to know nature, learn about its history and inspire them to become better stewards to protect it for future generations,” Swenson said.