Pretty soon, Long Island will have its own version of the High Line.
The North Shore Rail Trail, a 10-mile hike and bike trail that will extend from Port Jefferson Station to Wading River, is scheduled to be completed by 2021. It is being touted as a trail for tourists or locals, with a connection to multiple downtown districts.
The trail is being constructed within an abandoned railway right of way, similar to how the High Line in lower Manhattan, a popular 1.4-mile aboveground park and trail, follows a former railway.
"The concept is certainly similar. That’s a good local example of where we’ve seen this," said Johnathan Keyes, director of Suffolk County’s Downtown and Transit Orientated Development. "Ours is going to be more natural. It will be a [10-mile] asphalt path for bikers and runners. It’s a little more straightforward, but a lot more to appreciate with the natural environment."
While Suffolk’s trail won’t be elevated, it will feature trees and vegetation, in addition to information kiosks at the eastern and western trail heads.
The $9 million project is being federally funded, but Suffolk County contributed $500,000 to complete funding, county officials said, without giving specifics. The county broke ground on the project last month.
"I think it’s a great idea and enhances the community. It will bring property values up and I don’t see a downside to it," said Lee McAllister, a member of the Ridge Civic Association, who has authored a book on hiking on Long Island.
The westernmost portion of the trail will start along Route 25A at the northeast corner of Hallock Avenue and Crystal Brook Hollow Road in Port Jefferson Station, county officials said.
Plans are to purposely border that trail with the Setauket Greenway, a 3.5-mile shared-use bikeway that heads west toward Stony Brook University.
"It’s an incredible amenity for the community. It’s off road, safe and pleasant. It has the opportunity to lead to some of the downtown central business districts along the way," Keyes said of the North Shore Rail Trail. "The Tesla museum is along the way, so there will be tourism."
Next year, Suffolk wants to complete a hiking and biking master plan connecting all the trails countywide that will include facilitating transportation, recreation and economic development, officials said.
The county is analyzing more than 800 miles in bike lanes and routes, and 150 miles in potential shared-use paths as part of this planning process, county officials said.
Suffolk officials said the Port Jefferson project complements recent efforts to extend the Empire State Trail, a 750-mile trail from New York City to the Canadian border.