Bike Trail Expansion Not A Priority at EPCAL

The bike path near the main gate at EPCAL
The bike path near the main gate at EPCAL

Inside the fence at the old Grumman property in Calverton is a short jaunt of an asphalt-paved bike path, which leads from the ball fields just west and across Route 25 from the Calverton National Cemetery, along the perimeter of the old barbed wire-topped fence that for years was a symbol of the secretive work being done by Grumman at the site, which was owned by the Navy before it was given to Riverhead Town’s Industrial Development Agency in 1998.

The 3-mile trail runs east, past the Bean & Bagel Café, past Miloski’s Turkey Farm, through grasslands and pine barrens and then in behind sod fields and a sand mine, where it abruptly ends, trailing off into the high grass and the mystery of the wilderness in a tiny, forgotten corner of the 2,900-acre property.

The end of the line.
The end of the line.

The town is in the midst of completing a proposal for a 50-lot subdivision of the property, but members of Riverhead’s Alternative Transportation Committee are hoping an expansion of the bike path could be part of the equation.

After they met with the Riverhead Town Board at a work session Thursday morning, that seems unlikely.

Alternative Transportation Committee member George Bartunek and Wading River resident Don Hawkins, who originally proposed the path to the town in 2006, outlined a two-phase plan at the work session to expand the bike path.

The first phase, they said, would extend the existing path by 3.4 to 5 miles, continuing along the perimeter of the property southward toward River Road and Grumman Boulevard, and then heading back north along the now-dirt Line Road, which runs north from Grumman Boulevard between a soccer field and the Isaac Dog Park, back to the start of the bike path.

Line Road bisects Lot 36 of the subdivision, which Town Supervisor Sean Walter said is worth about $2 million, and he said he doesn’t want bicyclists using that road once the subdivision is complete and the lots are on the market.

The second phase, they said, would extend the path by 2.4 miles into the core of the Pine Barrens.

But Mr. Walter said he’d already heard their request six months ago, and he’s not interested in doing anything while the town both has no money to complete the path and while the town is about to submit the subdivision to its planning board.

“This is the same conversation we had six months ago. I don’t know why we’re here,” he said. “I know we want to build a bike path. I know there’s no money to build a bike path.”

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said the town may be eligible for more federal Transportation Enhancement Program grants after it finishes work on projects through TEP’s Safe Routes to School Program.

She said the Alternative Transportation Committee wants to be able to apply for permits from the DEC, the Navy and the state Department of Transportation so that, when funding becomes available, the project will be shovel-ready.

But Mr. Walter didn’t even want to discuss the possibility.

“I’m not having a conversation with you about lines on this map. It took a year of my life and staff’s time and $100,000 to get this done. It’s not changing,” he said.

Mr. Bartunek said he might go to the DEC himself to see about changing the subdivision map. He added that the bicyclists could be re-routed when or if the lot is sold, which could be as much as a decade away.

“You are not authorized to go to the DEC,” said Mr. Walter, who added that Mr. Bartunek should have commented during the preparation of town’s environmental impact statement for the subdivision last summer, not now.

“I don’t work for you, Sean,” said Mr. Bartunek, who said he would approach the DEC as a private citizen, not as a representative of the town. He added that he might object to the subdivision before the planning board.

But when asked what influence the planning board would have on the subdivision, Mr. Walter answered with his usual frankness:

“None,” he said. “For the moment, we went down a path, and we’re going to continue down that path.”

Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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