Dozens of kayakers embarked from East Rockaway on Saturday morning, paddling into the Western Bays to celebrate the formal opening of Nassau’s South Shore Blueway.
“It’s just a great way to get people out on the water” and appreciate the beauty of the salt marshes and their importance in coastal protection, said Kyle Rabin of Woodmere, who is active with the Blueway’s support group.
The Blueway — a network of trails and launches — opens all 44 miles of Nassau’s southern coast to paddlers, hikers and birders. Planners hope to expand it to Suffolk and perhaps Nassau’s north shore, Rabin said.
Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, who joined state Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) and local officials for a ribbon-cutting, described the Blueway as an “eco-tourist destination.”
The event drew both novices and experienced kayakers.
Stephon Martin, 36, of Freeport, wants his four children, ages 12 to 5, to enjoy kayaking the way he does. The father would appear to be off to a promising start.
“The way I feel on water is different than how I feel on land,” said his daughter Destiny, 12, anticipating the freedom of the experience.
“We think we saw a loon,” said Chuck Abar, 59, of Lynbrook, adding that he and his friend, the only canoeists, definitely saw osprey.
Lucas Kuchler of Lynbrook was one of the few paddle boarders on hand.
“We’ve had a paddle board, but there really was no place to take it out,” he said.
Patricia Silva, 44, of Lynbrook, and her husband Juan, 37, own two of the most notable kayaks on display.
While hers was bubble gum pink, his was fashioned by hand from honey-colored cedar — a creation that took about 3 1/2 months to build.
“My hand was broken; I needed something to do,” said Juan Silva, an operating engineer.
For the couple, the Blueway’s launches are a springboard to adventure.
“Instead of just being able to go out and hike, now you can go out in the water,” Patricia Silva said.