Editorial: Brakes on bike path is the right call

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Riverhead Town's planned bike path would run south from Route 25 along Line Road (above) before reaching an area near River Road.
Line Road (above) at EPCAL became a subject for debate during a bike path discussion at Town Hall. (Credit, Tim Gannon, file)

A discussion at Town Hall last week about a proposed nine-mile bike loop at Enterprise Park at Calverton showed that, at least for the moment, it will remain incomplete. That’s probably a good thing. Here’s why: 

While making a pitch to finish the eastern loop, former councilman George Bartunek reminded the Town Board that efforts to create the bike path at EPCAL began eight years ago. Sadly, one major effort has lagged far behind: the development of the property itself. For nearly 20 years, town leaders have grappled with how to create high-paying, sustainable jobs at the 2,900-acre property it was gifted in 1998 after the Grumman defense contractor left town.

But now, more than at any time in recent memory, it seems the town has a truly thorough plan that casts a wide net as it tries to sell land.

Certainly, no promises are in store for what the next 20 years hold. And while residents are lucky to have someone like Mr. Bartunek lobbying for a healthy way they can spend their time (not to mention complete a project the town already started), we fear that talks about extending it while the town is in the midst of trying to sell the land is a distraction from the goals ahead: selling the land, creating jobs, providing relief to taxpayers and investing in Riverhead’s future.

Let’s not forget that $3.2 million was recently spent to develop a bike path from Calverton to Northville. And while the existing three-mile bike path at EPCAL cost a relatively modest $100,000, options for bicyclists remain around town. At worst, roads can still be shared by cars and bikes.

Creating an EPCAL subdivision to market to developers has required a lengthy back-and-forth with the Department of Environmental Conservation and other involved parties. Completing it — and starting to sell those parcels — should be the town’s main concern. A $4 million structural deficit looms large at Town Hall.