Work on the Kings Park Hike and Bike Trail extension is moving along and is set to be completed by May 2014, according to a local foundation and town representatives.
John McQuaid, chairman of the Nissequogue River State Park Foundation, said the extension, which began construction Nov. 12, will connect the park with downtown Kings Park, giving people access to the state park, river and Main Street by foot or bicycle.
The current hike-and-bike trail runs 1.5 miles, between Old Dock Road at Church Street in Kings Park, along the former Kings Park State Hospital old railroad spur and to Nissequogue River State Park. The plan is to extend the trail from its current end at Old Dock Road south along the park to Main Street.
“The current trail is frequently used and is very popular,” said McQuaid, who has lived locally for nine years and often frequents the park. “It’s nice to have a state park accessible from downtown Kings Park. I really do think it will add value to the community.”
Mike Rosato, former chairman and current board member of the foundation, said the 300-foot trail extension will connect 2,000 acres of parkland with downtown Kings Park.
“It’s been a long process, but the trail should be complete in the next week or so,” said Rosato, 48. “One of the reasons why it took so long to finally get the work underway was because it was somewhat of a complex project, being that there was a lot of paperwork and easements that had to be agreed to in order for the project to move forward.”
The trail was originally created with help of a "Rails to Trails" federal grant in 2004. Five years later, Suffolk County Legis. Lynne Nowick (R-St. James) sponsored a $17,000 downtown revitalization grant for the project. At that time, the foundation donated $2,500 and the Kings Park Chamber of Commerce donated fences and podiums for the trail.
McQuaid said the foundation donated $8,500 toward the extension after initial contractor bids submitted to the Town of Smithtown came in over the project’s budget. The donation paid for 64 Eastern red cedar, holly, arborvitae and other tree species to create a buffer between the trail and neighboring houses in Kings Park.
The Town of Smithtown had also worked with the foundation to cut costs by having town employees plant the trees and shrubbery instead of hiring a landscaper.
Dave Flynn, assistant planning director for the Smithtown Planning Department, said depending on the weather, five inches of concrete will be laid by late this month and the parks department has just about finished planting the trees and shrubs. By spring the town will have dressed up an entrance with a sign, benches and an informational kiosk.
“They’ve been working on it every day,” said Flynn, of Kings Park. “The tricky part is whether they’ll be able to pave the extended trail before the ground freezes.”