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New pine barrens hiking trail honors environmentalist Ray Corwin

On Saturday, April 28, 2018, a trail stretching 12.1 miles from Rocky Point to Yaphank was dedicated to the late Ray Corwin, the longtime executive director of Central Pine Barrens Commission, honoring his tenure as an ardent environmentalist for Suffolk County. Credit: Ed Betz

A sliver of Suffolk’s pine barrens now bears the name of a late Port Jefferson environmentalist who devoted nearly two decades to preserving them.

Ray Corwin, who died in 2010 at age 56, had spent 17 years overseeing the protection of the Central Pine Barrens area — 105,000 acres of forests, ponds and swamps that include the only remaining wilderness on Long Island.

“I don’t think we would have advanced the pine barrens cause as quickly as we did without someone like Ray Corwin,” said Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson).

LaValle and other state and local officials gathered Saturday morning in Ridge to dedicate a new nature trail to Corwin, the longtime executive director of the Central Pine Barrens Joint Planning and Policy Commission.

“Even though it took eight years, it’s never too late to recognize someone who gave us so much,” said LaValle, who co-sponsored the 1993 state legislation establishing protections for the Central Pine Barrens area.

The new 12.1-mile trail stretches from Yaphank to Rocky Point, passing by a black gum swamp and through pitch pine forests and the nesting grounds of more than 30 species of warblers, officials said. Members of the Long Island Greenbelt Trail Conference blazed the new path, which officials had sought for years to establish in Corwin’s memory.

“Ray played a pivotal and influential role in protecting Suffolk County’s open spaces, natural environment and drinking water,” said John Pavacic, who succeeded Corwin as executive director of the commission. Corwin oversaw the development of a management plan for the land in the 1990s that formalized how it would be safeguarded, Pavacic said.

“This trail will serve as a living legacy,” he added.

Louise Spangle was one of many Long Islanders who inaugurated the new trail on guided hikes Saturday morning.

Long Island’s reputation for suburban sprawl belies the natural wonders it contains, said Spangle, 69, of Kings Park.

She made her way past a massive rock that glacial ice deposited in the pine barrens millennia ago.

“There’s a lot of things here. You just have to look for them,” she said.

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