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David A. Sarnoff Preserve

AMC’s Blue Loop in Sarnoff 

 

 

The NYS DEC has done a wonderful job in creating a network of trails and ample parking to access them at the David A. Sarnoff Pine Barrens Preserve.  From the parking area, a hiker can walk two yellow access trails; a blue DEC and a red DEC loop trail, or the Paumanok Path (PP).

The corridor for the PP and a DEC yellow trail travels along the perimeter of the CR 104 parking area.  Step over the wooden rail in the parking lot, then across the foundation of a leveled structure following the painted white rectangular blazes of the PP in an easterly direction.  Turn to the right and follow a lovely segment of trail that runs parallel and then shortly leads across CR 104. 

On the other side, the trail becomes a 15-foot wide “boulevard” into the woods.  Watch your step here; there are many small stumps and roots in this newly expanded corridor. The Nature Conservancy is partnering with other land managers to reintroduce fire to the ecology of the Pine Barrens through prescribed fires.  A prescribed fire is a controlled application of fire to wildlands confined to a predetermined area to reduce the risk of wildfire in the future.  The trail is now free of all organic matter; even the thick soft duff once carpeting the trail has been removed down to sandy soil.  Along the trail, the forest understory has been chopped-up so that the controlled fire will stay low, away from the tree canopy.  If fire reached the canopy, it could run out of control.  The trail here is being used as a fire control line; a barrier for the fire and a road for fire trucks.  Follow the recently restored white blazes of the Paumanok Path.  The original blazed-trees were cut down when the trails were widened. After about a quarter mile, reach the intersection, bear left on the yellow DEC trail.  You won’t see any blazes, but it’s easy to follow the “boulevard” to where it intersects the blue DEC trail. The Adirondack Mountain Club, in cooperation with NYS DEC, had built this exceptionally well-engineered 2-mile long loop trail.  I used to take hikers here to show the proper building of a foot trail, but now much has changed; the graceful turns, the ingenious way the trail was squeezed between large trees, the way it turned to drop water, the trees arching overhead, and the thick pine needle duff underfoot are all gone along with the blue plastic blazes.  The blazes may be replaced by the time you read this, but it will take 25 years of careful stewardship to bring this trail back to its earlier splendor. 

For many years, the fires in the Pine Barrens have been aggressively suppressed.  This has allowed an unusually large fuel load (leaves and branches) to accumulate on the forest floor.  We need only to look back to the fire of 1995 to understand one obvious impact of this unnaturally abundant fuel load.  The other impact is less obvious; the acidic soil of the Pine Barrens causes dead plants to decay slowly, hence the build-up of fuels and the slow release of nutrients to the soil.  Fire is part of the Barrens ecosystem.  Periodic, naturally-occurring fires release nutrients into the soil and allow seeds to be released from pine cones for germination.  Experimenting with controlled fires makes sense; more will be learned about this unique environment by studying these results.

When I hiked this trail several weeks ago, I thought its width would offer some relief from tick exposure, but after a short distance, the fire control line veers away from the loop trail corridor, and parallel to it; then the brush closes in again.  Be alert for the red blazes, and they will lead you around the remainder of the loop. 

The path becomes a small winding woods trail until it cuts across a woods road.  Here the trail was chewed-up by illegal ATV traffic issuing from the dirt road leading from a residential area.  Since the ATV Mitigation Project the trail is firming up and it is more comfortable to walk.  The next segment of the loop is straight, sandy, and wide, much like the woods road just crossed.  Be alert; after about a quarter-mile, there are two blue DEC blazes, one on top of the other, indicating a right turn.  Turn from the woods road onto a woods trail, pass by wetlands to the left.  The trail here is nearly closed by the fast growing brush.

At the end of the loop, follow the fire control line back to CR 104 and the DEC parking area.

David Sarnoff Preserve, DEC parking area in Riverhead is a dirt lot on the west side of C.R. 104 midway between C.R. 105 to the north, and C.R. 31 to the south.  From the Riverhead circle, take C.R. 104 south approximately 2 miles.  From Sunrise Highway take Exit 63 (C.R. 31 North) to C.R. 104 North. Short distance to entrance on left.
 

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Long Island Trail Lovers Coalition

Ken Kindler
Open Space & Trails Advocate
Post Office Box 1466
Sayville NY 11782
ken@litlc.org

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