State crews are building a new accessible hiking trail in Kings Park that officials said will accommodate wheelchairs, scooters and strollers, and help deter damaging all-terrain vehicles or people dumping trash.
The trail, to open in mid-August, begins off Meadow Road, south of the Long Island Rail Road tracks and west of Lawrence Road on state land known as the Kings Park Natural Resource Area. It stretches a quarter-mile south and connects to other footpaths.
Made of crushed stone and sand, the trail drops 1 foot in elevation for every 20 feet in length, an easy gradient for wheelchairs, scooters and strollers, workers at the site said.
"The need for all-accessible trails is systemic . . . across Long Island," said Therese Brzezinski, director of advocacy and community policy at the Long Island Center for Independent Living, a nonprofit that serves people with disabilities. "Recreational programs and parks departments historically have not been keeping up with providing equal access."
The Kings Park trail is the second accessible state trail on Long Island, DEC officials said. It joins the Randall Pond trail in Ridge, which opened in 2012.
"It's a big plus for our community," DEC Regional Citizen Participation Specialist Bill Fonda said of the new trail.
The $55,000 project is part of a program instituted by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to create more outdoor access in New York.
In addition to providing accessibility, officials said they hope the Kings Park trail will lessen illegal ATV use and dumping, which Fonda said has been an issue for regional forest rangers who have "issued several summonses" in the past year.
The Kings Park Civic Association received dozens of complaints from locals about loud four-wheel vehicles "ripping up" the area until construction began, Fonda said.
"The effect is twofold -- it lets the community enjoy the property, and there's more legitimate use of the property," said Linda Henninger, vice president of the Kings Park Civic Association.
State Environmental Conservation Officer Ronald Gross said that while he doesn't think the new path will discourage ATV activity, increased trail traffic could lead to more reports of illegal use and additional enforcement.
Smithtown Town Councilman Robert Creighton said he expected the trail to get a lot of use.
"I would hope that this would be equally as positive for the elimination of illegal activity, and from an environmental standpoint," he said. "I know people will take advantage of it."
Stella Baker, a member of the Long Island Greenbelt Trail Conference, said people with disabilities find ways to use trails and outdoor areas around Long Island even if they are not truly accessible.
"Manorville's trails are not technically handicap-accessible, but people take wheelchairs on it anyway," Baker said.
The Mattituck Waterway Access, the Oyster Bay Waterway Access and the Moriches Waterway Access provide accessible sites for camping, fishing and bird watching, but do not have specific disability-friendly trails, according to the New York State parks website.
Mountain bike and hunting options, as well as possible trail expansion, are being considered as future projects for the Kings Park area, Fonda said.
"Currently, DEC staff are evaluating several options for this property," he said.