The wooded area across the Peconic River, as seen from...

The wooded area across the Peconic River, as seen from the opposite riverbank in Riverhead, is where work on a trail recently started in Riverside. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

The teeth of an excavator bucket tore into the ground along Flanders Road in Riverside, pulling up tree branches and soil. Nearby, a large wood chipper waited to shred tree limbs into tiny pieces.

Last week's arrival of heavy machinery in a wooded lot along the Peconic River signaled the start of building a trail that is part of a long-awaited project called Riverside Maritime Trail Park.

Officials and residents have envisioned the park, first planned in 2018, as a central part of a revitalization effort that has been in the works for nearly a decade in the economically distressed Southampton Town hamlet. 

Crews began a land clearing operation Wednesday. It started after the Southampton Town Board's vote last month to hire Bay Shore-based The LandTek Group to construct a multiuse maritime trail for $511,754 — a project that largely will be covered by grant money.

The trail represents the first phase of an effort that began at a grassroots level, with residents lobbying to transform the wooded area into a walkable park with waterfront access across the river from downtown Riverhead’s boardwalk.

Southampton Deputy Supervisor Frank Zappone said the trail will give residents a place to hike or take a stroll with their dogs.

A second project phase would add amenities that could include a kayak launch or comfort station, he said. 

The trail will be built on county parkland, while features like a kayak launch would be added on adjacent land the town acquired with money from its Community Preservation Fund — money set aside from real estate transfer taxes.

Angela Huneault, president of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association, said residents were “ready to rejoice” at the sight of work starting. She said a walking trail was at the top of residents' wish list when the organization did a health study several years ago.

"They wanted something where they could go and walk, and see nature and enjoy what is there," Huneault said.

A trail entrance will align with a crosswalk on Flanders Road just west of Vail Avenue. A map shows the trail winding east deeper into the woods before a turn that creates a loop back to the entrance.

There also are plans to build a parking lot with space for more than a dozen cars, Zappone said.

Vince Taldone, 63, who previously led the community association, cautioned that while he’s excited to see work on the trail begin, the rest of the plan “is kind of hazy.”

The trail represents just a sliver of the plan for the park that was developed five years ago after input from community members, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation staffers, town officials, Suffolk parks employees and others.

“I’m so afraid that people that are not all that tuned in to what’s going on are going to see the bulldozers and say, ‘Oh my God, our park is coming,’ ” Taldone said. 

The town plans to seek community input again before finalizing plans for a second park phase, according to Zappone.

Southampton officials said some of the 2018 park plan had to be scaled back based on input from the Suffolk County Parks Board of Trustees because there are limits to what can be built on county parkland.

The county bought the land to keep as open space, according to Zappone. He also said "it took a little bit longer than we had anticipated" for the town to reach an agreement with the county about how the space could be used.

Permitting from the DEC would be required for any further construction because of the proximity to wetlands, according to Janice Scherer, the town's planning and development administrator.

Huneault said she's hopeful the trail's construction will remind residents who lobbied for the project "that we didn't do all this for nothing" and renew their excitement about the possibility of a larger park.

"We're hopeful that the trail is not the last step," Taldone said.

The teeth of an excavator bucket tore into the ground along Flanders Road in Riverside, pulling up tree branches and soil. Nearby, a large wood chipper waited to shred tree limbs into tiny pieces.

Last week's arrival of heavy machinery in a wooded lot along the Peconic River signaled the start of building a trail that is part of a long-awaited project called Riverside Maritime Trail Park.

Officials and residents have envisioned the park, first planned in 2018, as a central part of a revitalization effort that has been in the works for nearly a decade in the economically distressed Southampton Town hamlet. 

Crews began a land clearing operation Wednesday. It started after the Southampton Town Board's vote last month to hire Bay Shore-based The LandTek Group to construct a multiuse maritime trail for $511,754 — a project that largely will be covered by grant money.

The trail represents the first phase of an effort that began at a grassroots level, with residents lobbying to transform the wooded area into a walkable park with waterfront access across the river from downtown Riverhead’s boardwalk.

Southampton Deputy Supervisor Frank Zappone said the trail will give residents a place to hike or take a stroll with their dogs.

A second project phase would add amenities that could include a kayak launch or comfort station, he said. 

The trail will be built on county parkland, while features like a kayak launch would be added on adjacent land the town acquired with money from its Community Preservation Fund — money set aside from real estate transfer taxes.

Angela Huneault, president of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association, said residents were “ready to rejoice” at the sight of work starting. She said a walking trail was at the top of residents' wish list when the organization did a health study several years ago.

"They wanted something where they could go and walk, and see nature and enjoy what is there," Huneault said.

A tree chipper, one of several pieces of heavy machinery...

A tree chipper, one of several pieces of heavy machinery at a site along Flanders Road in Riverside, was being used recently to help clear land for the creation of a trail for the future Riverside Maritime Trail Park. Credit: Joe Werkmeister

A trail entrance will align with a crosswalk on Flanders Road just west of Vail Avenue. A map shows the trail winding east deeper into the woods before a turn that creates a loop back to the entrance.

There also are plans to build a parking lot with space for more than a dozen cars, Zappone said.

Vince Taldone, 63, who previously led the community association, cautioned that while he’s excited to see work on the trail begin, the rest of the plan “is kind of hazy.”

The trail represents just a sliver of the plan for the park that was developed five years ago after input from community members, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation staffers, town officials, Suffolk parks employees and others.

“I’m so afraid that people that are not all that tuned in to what’s going on are going to see the bulldozers and say, ‘Oh my God, our park is coming,’ ” Taldone said. 

The town plans to seek community input again before finalizing plans for a second park phase, according to Zappone.

Southampton officials said some of the 2018 park plan had to be scaled back based on input from the Suffolk County Parks Board of Trustees because there are limits to what can be built on county parkland.

The county bought the land to keep as open space, according to Zappone. He also said "it took a little bit longer than we had anticipated" for the town to reach an agreement with the county about how the space could be used.

Permitting from the DEC would be required for any further construction because of the proximity to wetlands, according to Janice Scherer, the town's planning and development administrator.

Huneault said she's hopeful the trail's construction will remind residents who lobbied for the project "that we didn't do all this for nothing" and renew their excitement about the possibility of a larger park.

"We're hopeful that the trail is not the last step," Taldone said.

Long-awaited trail takes shape

  • Work began this month on a Riverside trail that's expected to be completed by spring.
  • Officials will gather resident input before a second phase of the project to build a larger park.
  • Once completed, the park will provide access to the Peconic River waterfront in Riverside.
A Newsday analysis shows the number of referees and umpires has declined 25.2% in Nassau and 18.1% in Suffolk since 2011-12. Officials and administrators say the main reason is spectator behavior. NewsdayTV's Carissa Kellman reports. Credit: Newsday Staff

'Why am I giving up my Friday night to listen to this?' A Newsday analysis shows the number of referees and umpires has declined 25.2% in Nassau and 18.1% in Suffolk since 2011-12. Officials and administrators say the main reason is spectator behavior. NewsdayTV's Carissa Kellman reports.

A Newsday analysis shows the number of referees and umpires has declined 25.2% in Nassau and 18.1% in Suffolk since 2011-12. Officials and administrators say the main reason is spectator behavior. NewsdayTV's Carissa Kellman reports. Credit: Newsday Staff

'Why am I giving up my Friday night to listen to this?' A Newsday analysis shows the number of referees and umpires has declined 25.2% in Nassau and 18.1% in Suffolk since 2011-12. Officials and administrators say the main reason is spectator behavior. NewsdayTV's Carissa Kellman reports.

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