A new footbridge in Village of the Branch is part...

A new footbridge in Village of the Branch is part of a project that has been years in the making to turn a section of old Route 111 into a smooth hiking and shopping access path. Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

Village of the Branch officials said a yearslong effort to transform an abandoned section of old Route 111 into a smooth hiking and shopping access path has taken a big step forward. 

A new footbridge on the pathway — which connects neighborhoods near the southern part of Mount Pleasant Road to the Village Center shopping center on Route 111 — was installed Saturday, according to Mayor Mark Delaney. 

Work on the pathway started in 2018, with the COVID-19 pandemic causing delays in the effort to upgrade the path, whose midpoint will form a trailhead for the Long Island Greenbelt Trail.

The trail stretches about 32 miles and runs from Sunken Meadow State Park to Heckscher State Park following the Connetquot and Nissequogue rivers, according to state officials.

Hikers often use the village trailhead during summer weekends, according to David Reisfeld, president of the nonprofit Long Island Greenbelt Trail Conference.

The state previously awarded the village $231,000 in grant funding to revamp the path. The mayor said the work was broken into five stages: clearing debris left over from Superstorm Sandy from the sides of the path, installing LED light poles for increased visibility at night, replacing the old footbridge, paving the path and installing security measures.

The last two stages remain pending, with village officials expecting the paving to be completed by fall.

When it comes to security, Delaney said they're planning to apply for state and federal grants to fund the installation of surveillance cameras and safety bollards. The latter will be placed near Mount Pleasant and Woodhollow roads in an effort to prevent motorized vehicles from entering the environmentally sensitive area.

The security work should be finished by spring, according to village officials.

Village trustee Roger Botto said he welcomes the transformation. He said his son Douglas Botto, now 28, installed benches and helped clean the area for his Eagle Scout project more than a decade ago.

Roger Botto said the path — which is about a half-mile from The Smithtown Library branch on North Country Road — is popular in the summer and improvements have been needed for a long time.

“Years ago, it was kind of scary to walk there at night,” the trustee said. “It's a nice part of the Greenbelt Trail, and in the summer when bands are playing at the library, a lot of people like going there, so it serves a lot of people.”

New York State had abandoned the path in 1967, Newsday previously reported. The path fell into disrepair over time, becoming cracked and dark while thick foliage obscured it from the modern Route 111, which was built nearby. Local  residents in previous years had asked the village to make the path safer for people to use, especially at night.

Reisfeld, a Smithtown resident, said the path was very different years ago, with the old bridge appearing unstable for hikers and runners while trash and litter was strewed around the area.

“We used to have volunteers who would go clean that particular area of the trail up, and they would come out with two to three large garbage bags every few weeks,” Reisfeld said. “It wasn’t as nice as walking through the woods.”

Reisfeld said the recent work has increased the aesthetic and safety of the area “incredibly.”

Path of improvement

  • Efforts to upgrade a path on old Route 111 in Village of the Branch have been ongoing since 2018.
  • The state awarded $231,000 in grant funding for the project.
  • The replacement of a footbridge on the path, a key element, recently was completed.
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