Long Island Trail Lovers Coalition

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David A. Sarnoff Preserve

Sarnoff Blue Loop, Yellow Access Trail, DEC Permit,
and Long Island Pine Barrens Protection Act

 

 

The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation parking lot located on CR 104, 2 miles south of the Riverhead roundabout, between CR 105 to the north and CR 31 to the south is an excellent place to access the trails that run through the Pine Barrens.  The 2,749-acre Sarnoff Preserve in Riverhead straddles County Road 104, north of Sunrise Highway.  Hampton Hills and Manorville Hills County Parks extend to the west of the preserve, the Flanders section to the east, and to its south lies a large tract of recently preserved dwarf pines, totaling over 17,000 acres of contiguous natural open space. Saturday, December 3, I met a group of volunteers in this parking area and participated in a reroute of the Paumanok Path in the Sarnoff Preserve.  The work party was comprised of supporters of the Pine Barrens Society (www.pinebarrens.org).  The Long Island Pine Barrens Society is largely responsible for the grassroots initiative during the late 1980s and early 1990s that led to the implementation of the Long Island Pine Barrens Protection Act.

The Long Island Central Pine Barrens is an area of over 100,000 acres within the central and eastern portions of Suffolk County.  This area is a mosaic of pitch pine and pine-oak forests, coastal plain ponds, marshes and streams.  Far from being barren, this region contains one of the greatest concentrations of endangered, threatened, and special concern plant and animal species in New York.  The Central Pine Barrens overlies a portion of Long Island’s federally designated source drinking water aquifer.  This deep recharge area must be protected to guarantee that the Island’s sole source of potable water will be secure for our future.  In 1993, New York State’s Long Island Pine Barrens Protection Act defined the boundaries of this region. It includes portions of Brookhaven, Southampton, and Riverhead.  The Act led to the creation of the 5-member Central Pine Barrens Joint Planning and Policy Commission (http://pb.state.ny.us), representing NY State, Suffolk County, and the towns of Brookhaven, Southampton, and Riverhead. The Sarnoff Preserve is part of the 55,000-acre Core Preservation Area that the Commission strenuously protects from adverse impacts; the other 47,500-acres, the Compatible Growth Area, allows for controlled development that must adhere to the land use restrictions in the 1995 Pine Barrens Plan.

The work party rerouted a section of the Paumanok Path that runs from the parking lot, continues along CR 104 and then loops around a kettlehole.  We utilized an existing DEC access trail to bypass this section of trail.  Yellow disks mark all DEC access trails, so this portion of the Paumanok Path is now marked with white rectangles and yellow disks.  The old section of trail is still open and blazed with white rectangles, so if you follow the white blazes to the left at the end of the re-route you will end up back at the DEC parking area.  This 2-mile loop hike supplies some lovely views of a kettlehole.

A couple of weeks after the Pine Barrens Society outing, I returned with my friend John to refresh the Paumanok Path’s blazing east of the reroute.  We reblazed the trail skirting the parking area that takes you across CR 104.  After we crossed CR104, John and I were amazed to find that most of the trees that had originally held blazes were cut down.  We now found ourselves walking on a 15-foot wide boulevard.  This portion of the Paumanok Path was originally a woods road, but had over the years grown back to the point where it offered a trail-like experience.  After walking about a half-mile on this widened road we came to a DEC yellow access trail.  This trail was also widened.  I knew that if we followed this trail for a short distance it would take us to a beautiful 2 mile long loop trail.  Instead of continuing east along the Paumanok Path, I started to race along the now devastated access trail to the blue loop; a gem of a trail maintained by the Long Island chapter of the Adirondack Mountain Club (www.adkli.org). The first quarter mile of this once exceptionally well-engineered trail is now widened and straightened.  So far the rest of the loop is still very nice. I was later to learn that this section of trail is to become a “Long Island Central Pine Barrens Fuel Reduction and Ecological Restoration Demonstration Site”

In preparation for these hikes (on DEC managed land) I suggest that you call the DEC at (631) 444-0273 for the permit application needed to hike on their lands.  The permit is free and it is good for three years.  This permit is meant to facilitate a means of communication between the trail users and the DEC.  I would also suggest purchasing the map of the Long Island Pine Barrens Trail, Central and Eastern section; call the Long Island Greenbelt Trail Conference 631-360-0753.

 

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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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