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Plan to complete EPCAL bike path gets state approval

The EPCAL bike path as it winds past the Grumman F-14 memorial. Tim Gannon photo.
The EPCAL bike path as it winds past the Grumman F-14 memorial. Tim Gannon photo.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation has granted a permit for Riverhead Town’s proposal to extend its bike and recreation path at the Enterprise Park at Calverton to the southern portion of the property. 

The permit was issued Oct. 31 and is good for five years. It authorized the town “to construct a paved path for non-motorized vehicles at the EPCAL property.”

“It’s been a long time getting to this point,” said former town councilman George Bartunek, who is now a member of the town’s alternative transportation advisory committee, which has pushed for the path. “The DEC permit, that’s been in review for quite a while.”

Mr. Bartunek said work on extending the path, which was first proposed in 2006 by Don Hawkins of Wading River, who is also a member of the committee, can be started by spring 2017.

Town parks and recreation superintendent Ray Coyne has frequently said the bike path is one of the town’s most popular recreation facilities.

State approval was needed because parts of the southern portion of the path are within the boundaries of the state’s Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers Act, which limits development along the Peconic River.

The trail, which is fenced in on the EPCAL site, was once a Grumman perimeter path used for security vehicles when the company leased the property from the Navy for close to 50 years.

The town has owned the EPCAL land since 1998 but the Navy still owns some parcels on which it is cleaning up groundwater pollution that occurred when Grumman used the land to make and test fighter planes.

Currently, only about three acres of the path are paved, beginning near the EPCAL dog park and running east parallel to Route 25, then running south of the Calverton Enterprises sand mine, where the pavement stops.

Officials hope to pave the rest of the trail and have it loop around the perimeter of EPCAL for a total of nearly nine miles.

Back in July, the Town Board submitted the bike path application separate from the rest of the EPCAL application to the DEC. This was done following a board debate as to whether to do so separately or to submit those plans with the rest of the town’s EPCAL plans.

The DEC permit says the completed path will be 8.8 miles, although Councilwoman Jodi Giglio, who is the liaison to the alternative transportation committee, says the long-range plan will be to have the path go around the entire 13-mile perimeter of the EPCAL site, which stretches as far west as Wading River-Manor Road.

Ms. Giglio said County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco has offered to have some of the prisoners in his Sheriff’s Labor Assistance Program work to clear the paths along the western portion of the property, which have become overgrown.

Ms. Giglio said County Legislator Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue) was instrumental in obtaining $200,000 in county grant money to complete the path, and State Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) had also secured $100,000 in state funding prior to that and pledged another $150,000.

An additional $150,000 in grant money has been applied for, she said.

The plan calls for the path to head south near the point where the paving stops, and then from Burman Boulevard, which is the southern entrance to EPCAL, to Line Road. The path will be outside the fence on Grumman Boulevard, Mr. Bartunek said.

It will then head north on Line Road and return to where it started. There is one 20-acre lot in the proposed EPCAL subdivision map the Town Board created that will obstruct the path, Ms. Giglio said. The path will have to be altered to go around that lot, she said.

Any tree-clearing work on the path will be prohibited between April 1 and Oct. 31, according to the state permit.

This is done to avoid conflicts with the long-eared bat, a federally threatened species.

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