Editorial: Take a tour of EPCAL’s woodlands

We’ve driven on the outskirts of the Enterprise Park at Calverton along Route 25 numerous times. We’ve listened to proposal after proposal about development of the land, which was gifted to Riverhead Town in 1998 by the U.S. Navy. We’ve debated the merits of the proposals at countless Town Board meetings.

But how many of us have actually explored EPCAL’s vast woodlands on foot and experienced firsthand the beauty tucked away between two main roads?

On Sunday, a group of about 30 local residents did just that. And what better day than Earth Day to breathe in the fresh air and hike through an area that’s often talked about, but rarely visited.

As the town moves forward in vetting Calverton Aviation & Technology on the proposed sale of 1,600 acres for $40 million, concerned residents who gathered Sunday said they hope the land currently designated as undevelopable — surrounding the 600 acres where development is permitted — will remain that way. They worry about what could happen should the CAT sale go through. Would that acreage remain pristine in the future, in five or 10 years? What guarantees are there that this untouched forestland will remain?

The group began their hike by parking at the Stony Brook Incubator in Calverton. A path leads down to a kettle lake, one of many in the area, and also into the woods, where, about 300 yards in, hikers will find a large opening in the trees that was designed as a fire break. When Grumman owned the property, it was largely vacant farmland until the company hired contractors to plant the trees, which now soar high toward the sky. Not far from the fire break, on the western side, the trees end and EPCAL’s eastern runway begins.

We encourage residents to take a morning or afternoon to explore this area. It’ll be worth your time.

Residents can already enjoy the EPCAL bicycle path/Vietnam Memorial Trail that lines the perimeter of the property. Earlier this year, parks and recreation superintendent Ray Coyne said the trail is one of the town’s most popular recreation facilities. It’s easy to see why. Its first three miles were completed in 2008 and the town is still seeking a contractor to complete another mile.

So when bicycling around the perimeter, remember to explore a little further, and experience the beauty within — before it’s too late.