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Hempstead Harbor Trail grows with an extension in Port Washington

North Hempstead is asking its residents to take a hike.

The town has completed a mile-long extension of the Hempstead Harbor Trail, part of a bid to highlight the North Shore waterfront.

The longer trail in Port Washington, built for $800,000, caps plans first drawn in the 1990s. After the original quarter-mile trail opened, the town acquired land and received grants to make the extension possible. Officials hope to extend the trail to near the Roslyn Viaduct.

The trail, bordering West Shore Road, is newly paved and connects with disabled-accessible routes. Three wooden overlooks have been added, along with new signs to educate the public about native waterfowl. A new bridge linking walkways is facing the harbor.

"It's hard to believe that just off busy West Shore Road we have a trail that is so tranquil, showing the beautiful waterways and where you can be at peace with nature," Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth said in an interview Monday, after a walk on the trail.

The town plans a ribbon-cutting this morning.

Bosworth said the extension is an effort to attract residents to Hempstead Harbor and to beautify the area. In recent years, officials have worked to remove sand from the harbor -- making it easier for boats to pass -- and wetlands have been restored.

On Monday, as Bosworth walked the trail, ducks scattered from the waters and a red-winged blackbird sat quietly on a tree.

Tall winter wheatgrass surrounds the trails and helps protect the soil from eroding.

The land in Port Washington was a sand-mining operation for much of the 20th century. Those in the construction industry had prized the fine Cow Bay Sand, used to build skyscrapers and sidewalks in Manhattan. Shipments were sent on barges to New York City.

Eric Swenson, executive director of the Hempstead Harbor Protection Committee, said this trail "is probably one of the more well-designed and natural trails that there are -- it's basically created from scratch."

Some paths have a wood-chip surface, while the disabled-accessible ones are topped with bluestone.

Bosworth said she envisions more trails for the town and hopes to attract kayakers to the waterways. Swenson said shellfishing -- usually for hard clams -- is increasingly popular in the outer harbor.

Community meetings on future projects are planned, Bosworth said. She and Councilwoman Dina De Giorgio have discussed plans for the entire North Hempstead Beach Park. The town is seeking ideas for a restaurant to anchor the park.

"We want this to be a real family destination for people to come here and help our economy," Bosworth said. "It's got to be a vision; it can't be done episodically."

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