On a beautiful, warm, sunny morning, dozens of kayakers and paddle boarders took a short trip from Bay County Park to Hewlett Point Beach and back last Saturday for the inaugural launch of the South Shore Blueway Trail, a route made up of 22 launches and landings that provide safe, easily reached water access for human-powered boaters to explore the western bays of the South Shore.
In conjunction with National Trails Day, Mangano, Hempstead Town Supervisor Anthony Santino, Hempstead Councilman Anthony D’Esposito, State Senator Todd Kaminsky and members of Going Coastal (an all-volunteer organization that helps education families about New York’s waterfront areas and teaches about its ecology and conservation) announced the official opening of the trail with an official ribbon cutting by the shore.
“More than 1,000 residents collaborated in the planning process to develop this beautiful South Shore Blueway Trail stretching across the entire south shore of Nassau County,” Mangano said. “The trail offers residents and visitors a new and exciting recreational opportunity to explore our waterways while also promoting a healthy lifestyle.”
The project was approved as part of the 2006 Nassau County Environmental Bond Act Program. In 2008, the Village of Freeport joined with Nassau County and obtained matching funds from a Local Waterfront Revitalization Program (LWRP) Grant from the New York State Department of State under Title 11 of the Environmental Protection Fund.
“I’m thrilled that this trail is finally opening,” said Michael Fehling, owner of Empire Kayaks of Island Park, which sponsored the inaugural kayak voyage itself. “People can now realize that here on the South Shore of Long Island there’s beautiful kayaking — and there’s no need to travel out of state.” The event, including kayak rentals, was a free to the public.
“We are at the epicenter of something great,” said State Senator Todd Kaminsky, “of really bringing exposure to the beauty of what we’ve always known is down here — and giving people access to that … the more people come to East Rockaway and Freeport and Long Beach, the more they’ll really bring attention to the lovely environment we have here. It’s governments job to allow that to happen, and to protect that environment.”
Avid local paddlers are already excited about the possibilities that the Blueway holds. Baldwin resident Rhonda Moziy, a member of many paddling clubs including Long Island Paddlers, usually goes out to Suffolk County to paddle. “Now that this is so close, we’ll definitely be taking advantage of it.” She added that she hopes this trail will bring more people to the sport that she loves.
Charles Parisi, of East Rockaway, brought his children along for their maiden kayaking voyage. Olivia, 8, and Nicholas, 11, enjoyed finding a new way to cool off, and their dad enjoyed introducing them to the sport of kayaking. “This is our backyard, this is our home,” said Parisi, gesturing toward the bay. “It’s a great thing to expose them to fishing, and the political side of it — they see where the money comes from.”
Later in the day, the more hearty kayakers and paddlers traveled to the South Shore Estuary Reserve, witnessing the abundant wildlife, salt marsh islands and channels where migratory shorebirds nest, harbor seals haul out and tiny bay houses of shell fishers stand on stilts above the wetlands.
To learn more about South Shore Blueway, view maps and learn how to participate in Long Island paddle sports, visit www.southshoreblueway.com.