The blueway plan will map the town's coastline for use by...

The blueway plan will map the town's coastline for use by paddlers and other nonmotorized watercraft. Credit: Barry Sloan

Huntington Town officials said they have resurrected a plan to create a water-based trail guide, which maps the town's shoreline from the head of Cold Spring Harbor through the Huntington-Northport Bay complex, ending at the mouth of Fresh Pond in Smithtown Bay.

The town is seeking public comment on the Blueway Draft Plan until Dec. 15.

The guide maps the town’s 61 miles of coastline for use by paddlers and other nonmotorized watercraft. It will offer suggested routes, access points, amenities and natural and cultural heritage points.

“This will get more people outside and on the water, and it gives them more access to the waterfront,” Town Supervisor Ed Smyth said, adding after the public comment period is closed the committee overseeing the plan will review the comments. The plan would then have to be voted on by the town board, likely early in 2024.

The Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County is partnering with the town on the project.

Carolyn Sukowski, a natural resource education specialist with the cooperative who works in the marineprogram, said in an email the blueway plan is meant to be a guidebook, so those who use the waterfront to paddle, fish and even hike are the people best informed to help in its creation. She encouraged people to offer their input.

“Additionally, engaging the public in this process will promote stewardship of this precious resource,” she said in an email.

In 2017, Huntington Town received a $76,000 grant from the New York State Environmental Protection Fund’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Program to create its own educational blueway.

A committee comprised of town and cooperative representatives was established then, but the plan lay dormant until this year, Smyth said. 

The cooperative also will provide technical expertise to manage the project, field research, education and marine habitat restoration. Smyth said the grant money will go toward signage, printing of guides and software for apps.

Jackie Martin, executive officer of the Greater Huntington Boating Council, a group that represents 21 boating-related clubs and organizations, said she had not heard anything about the plan for about six years. While the group is not opposed to a trail, Martin said, safety is a major concern.

She thinks parameters should be set on how far a person can go on the trail in a day, so people don’t over-challenge themselves, adding that it would also be a plus if they took classes on kayaking, paddle boarding and safe boating.

“It’s very difficult to see folks in kayaks and on paddle boards if you’re in a large boat,” Martin said. “These folks get out there for recreation and they don’t know who has the right of way and they don’t understand that boats don’t have brakes.”

Joe Parisi, president of JK Kayak & SUP in Cold...

Joe Parisi, president of JK Kayak & SUP in Cold Spring Harbor, said the Huntington Blueway Plan will offer a level of reassurance for those who want to go out on the water on their own. Credit: Rick Kopstein

Smyth said safety is a priority but that no additional restrictions will be placed on nonmotorized water vessel users.

“We can’t bar people from the waterways,” he said. “But kayakers and paddle boards, we certainly encourage them to stay out of channels and stay as close to the shoreline as reasonable.”

Joe Parisi, 63, president of JK Kayak & SUP, has offered guided tours on kayaks and stand-up paddle boards out of Cold Spring Harbor for 12 seasons. He said he was pleased to hear the blueway plan had not been abandoned. He said it will offer a level of reassurance for those who want to go out on their own.

“A guide backed by the town would ease people’s minds a little bit and let them know it’s safe,” he said.

Navigating through Huntington

The Town of Huntington is accepting comments on the Huntington Blueway Draft Plan through Dec. 15.

All public review documents can be found here:

https://huntingtonblueway.weebly.com/public-review-documents.html

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