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Editorial: New trail a step forward for life in Suffolk

Suffolk County officials and others announce an agreement

Suffolk County officials and others announce an agreement that will allow next steps to be taken for creation of a foot and bike path from Port Jefferson to Wading River. (Aug. 14, 2013) Photo Credit: Ed Betz

The hardest part about cycling? Pavement. That cheap joke is a frustrating reality for Suffolk County's decade-long effort to develop a bike and pedestrian path between Port Jefferson and Wading River.

The county cleared a major hurdle last week to begin design of the 10- to 13-mile route. The Rails to Trails path will eventually follow a Long Island Power Authority right-of-way for power lines, roughly parallel to Route 25A. The 30-foot-wide tract was once a Long Island Rail Road route.

Suffolk's 25-year, no-fee lease of the land from LIPA came after almost a decade of haggling over maintenance costs and liability. The county will assume both. More important, it will pay for alterations to the route if LIPA must repair power lines or service the customers with adjacent backyards. That -- a key to unlocking $6.5 million in federal grant money for the project -- is a fair compromise for use of the land.

No designs have been put forward yet. But the trail's first three-mile phase will stretch from Wading River-Manor Road in Wading River to Shoreham's Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe, slated to become a museum and education hub dedicated to inventor Nikola Tesla. Subsequent portions will work their way west. Though residential areas will border the path for miles, let's be clear: This is a cycling and walking trail, not a strip mall or a highway.

Private citizens originally proposed the idea years ago as an accessible, safe path for exercise and recreation on an idle strip of land. And the more alternatives to surfaced roads for cyclists, joggers and skaters, the better. The route will also be a walkable connection between local recreational areas, schools, athletic fields and a golf course along the trail.

It's hard to believe such a no-brainer could have taken a decade to negotiate. The project is a simple concept, and such simple improvements can make life on Long Island a whole lot better.