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**Short History of a Long Path**
In 1982 the Long Island Greenbelt Trail was completed and given the designation of a National Recreation Trail largely due to the efforts of the Long Island Greenbelt Trail Conference a hiking and environmental activist group formed in 1978.
During the mid 1980’s the first Pine Barrens exploratory hikes were being implemented by the LIGTC. By the winter of 1990, the Pine Barrens Trail ran from Route 25A in Rocky Point to Schultz Road in Manorville. This was eventually to become the western most 45-mile section of the Paumanok Path, Over the next few years the LIGTC would finish building a trail system of 150 miles. This would include the 22-mile Nassau –Suffolk trail, which like the Long Island Greenbelt Trail, was to be designated a National Recreation Trail.
The Southampton Trails Preservation Society (STPS) was formed in 1986 in response to the rapid development occurring in Southampton Town. Primarily organized by a small group of horseback riders, who saw their riding trails disappearing, the group soon included hikers, birders, and other nature enthusiasts. In 1990, with help from then County Legislator Fred Thiele Jr., STPS lobbied for a zoning amendment to recognize trails as a natural resource to be protected and preserved for the future. STPS worked with Southampton Town Parks and Recreation Superintendent, Allyn Jackson, to open public trail systems in Red Creek Park (Hampton Bays), which would ultimately include a section of The Path.
In 1992 Ray Corwin of the LIGTC and now Executive Director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Commission, filed and obtained a National Park Service Technical Assistance Grant to aid in the development of the Paumanok Path.
Then (STPS) in conjunction with Suffolk County Parks and the LIGTC “pushed” the Pine Barrens Trail rapidly through Flanders, Sears Bellows, Hubbard and Red Creek Parks to complete the first half of the Paumanok Path in 1994.
During the 1970s, further east, a group of hiking enthusiasts calling themselves The East Hampton Trails Preservation Society started developing their own trails. The EHTPS was formally established about 1981. The Society was created in reaction to the loss of trails and open space to the development boom, which was swamping the East End by the late 1970's. EHTPS focused its first efforts on pressing the Town Planning Board to preserve trails in subdivisions.
The actual creation of trails by the East HamptonTrails
Preservation Society did not come until much later. The first trail was the Northwest Path, which was also the
first "greenbelt trail" in the Town.
The Northwest Path, was cut and blazed fall-winter of 1987-1988, it runs
six miles from East Hampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike to Cedar Point County Park.
It tied together for the first time a number of Towns preserves in
Northwest Woods, including the Grace Estate.
After the creation of the Northwest Path, an important part of EHTPS' mission became the opening of additional trails, as a way to establish meaningful trail systems within existing public parks ("parkland trails systems") or to link otherwise disconnected parks and preserves ("greenbelt trails"). In the early 1990's, the EHTPS opened the George Sid Miller greenbelt trail in Amagansett, and then the Stephen Talkhouse Path through part of Hither Hills State Park.
From those early efforts came the larger job of linking the greenbelt trails and park system trails themselves, forming the eastern most 45-mile section of the Paumanok Path. That task was officially completed in October 1998.
The town of East Hampton has approximately two hundred miles of trails, including the continuous forty-five mile section of the Paumanok Path stretching from the Southampton-East Hampton town line to the Montauk Lighthouse. The Paumanok Path has become the main artery of the East Hampton trail system, containing numerous linkages to other trails, with more planned. The Path links many state, county and town parklands, but also crosses private land with the cooperation of the landowners.
The Southampton and East Hampton Trails Preservation Societies, Group for the South Fork and other local organizations are now involved in a joint effort to complete the midsection of the Paumanok Path. A 20-mile section of the trail in Southampton Town remains unfinished. 7 miles are designated for trails and being cleared and blazed, and the last 13 miles will have to be secured from willing landowners. It is now projected that the 125-mile path will be completed within the next couple of years. As the Paumanok Path and other paths approach completion in Southampton, you can see the potential for a very lovely trail system emerging.
** In the near future, I would like to see a more comprehensive history replacing this “quick sketch.”
None-the-less I am much indebted to the following people for their help in writing it: Tom Casey, Dai Dayton, Sharone Einhorn, Gene Makl, and Rick Whelan. It never ceases to amaze me that the busiest people are always the ones to give me the most help.
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