The Southampton Town Board gave an informal go-ahead Thursday to a proposed 1.6-mile trail between Flanders Road and the Peconic River in Riverhead.
“I’d say lets move forward, let’s get this done and make it happen,” Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said at the end of Thursday’s discussion. “We have a plan the community supports.”
But officials say they will need to seek out additional grant money for the project, for which a concept plan commissioned by the town estimates will cost $2.6 million. A comfort station would add another $300,000, officials said.
“As soon as we accept these designs I think we should start applying for grants,” Mr. Schneiderman said.
The proposed Riverside Maritime Trail Park would consist of an east-to-west walking trail that starts at the crosswalk on Flanders Road and heads east to the end of the property line.
The project has been championed by the Flanders, Riverside, and Northampton Community Association, which has helped obtain $200,000 in grants for it.
The town is officially taking the lead, although the wooded 14-acre property it would be on is owned by Suffolk County.
The site was originally proposed for a hotel and conference center several years ago, but it never got town approvals, and was eventually sold to the county for open space.
While the east-west trail — which has several north-south off-shoots and loops that lead to the water — is the main feature, other proposals for the trail are opening up views from Flanders Road, removing nonnative plants, creating pedestrian access, establishing a small permeable parking area, creating a kayak launch, exercise stations, designing a “great lawn” and building a performance stage, according to town officials.
The town and Araiys Design of Southampton, the landscape architects hired by the town for this project, held three public meetings on the proposal to gain public feedback on what types of amenities residents wanted to see in the trail.
“We look at this park as a catalyst, a really important part of the revitalization of the community,” said Steve Nieroda of Araiys Design.
In those meetings, the community ranked a walking trail as its highest priority, followed by a boardwalk, rest stations and park amenities, kayak launch areas and a bike path.
Several years ago, Southampton Town considered building a pedestrian bridge from Riverside to downtown Riverhead, but the estimated cost of the bridge was much higher than expected due to Riverhead’s insistence on the height of the bridge and that it not impede boat traffic, officials said. Southampton officials argued that the river isn’t even deep enough at that point to require the added height.
But the bridge, should money come available in the future, could still be an option, officials said. Another idea would be to have a pontoon boat going back and forth between Riverhead and Riverside.
The cost of the comfort station could depend on whether a proposed sewage treatment system the town is planning in Riverhead is online.
“We’re very excited that it’s moved so quickly,” said former FRNCA president Vince Taldone, who has been active in the park proposal and in obtaining grants for it.
He said they have received about $200,000 in grants toward the project.
“We’ve gotten enormous support from the state, because the environmental justice grant is exactly for this kind of thing, for communities that have been neglected,” he said.
The next step in the process will be for the town to submit a request for proposals for design and construction documents, according to Mr. Schneiderman.