Residents on the bike path this morning after the ribbon cutting. Photo: Denise Civiletti

Local officials, cycling enthusiasts and veterans gathered today to celebrate the opening of the extended Vietnam Veterans Memorial Recreation Trail at the Calverton Enterprise Park.

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio, the town board’s liaison to the alternative transportation committee since its inception in 2012, thanked the committee for its hard work to create a continuous 10-mile loop using the security road around the perimeter of the former Grumman facility in Calverton.

“There were many hurdles along the way,” Giglio said, including obtaining an easement from the Navy, railroad crossings, NYSDEC approval through the Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers corridor… potential archeological studies and several versions of plans in order to accommodate the town’s desire to bring economic development to this property.”

State Sen. Ken LaValle, Assemblymember Anthony Palumbo and County Legislator Al Krupski all worked to secure crucial funding for the trail, Giglio said.

LaValle said he’s been a jogger most of his life and was interested in the trail project because of his love of jogging.

“This will be a great project for the community,” LaValle said. “It will be great to see people and families out on the trail getting good, healthy exercise.”

The trail project got underway in 2008 when the first 3.2 miles were built with the assistance of a $100,000 grant obtained by LaValle, Giglio said. The extension began a year ago with a groundbreaking ceremony.

“It’s been a few years but it’s been well worth the wait,” Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith said.

Both Giglio and the supervisor thanked town staff members who worked on the project and the members of the alternative transportation committee. Giglio singled out the town engineering department, especially Drew Dillingham and Ernesto Rossini, for their hard work overseeing and managing the project.

Brian X. Foley of the N.Y. State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, which provided a $500,000 environmental protection fund grant, said the state agency is “thrilled to be a part of this overall effort.” He thanked former councilman and alternative transportation committee member George Bartunek for his tireless efforts advocating for the trail.

“People come from all over to use this trail,” Krupski said. “It’s a great place to ride or jog safely, off the road,” he said.

“This trail is a gem, not just for the Town of Riverhead but for the entire region,” Councilwoman Catherine Kent agreed.

Riverhead Veterans Advisory Committee member Mike Pankowski urged everyone to remember the Vietnam veterans to whom the trail is dedicated.

“We didn’t treat them very well when they came back from Vietnam, so let’s remember them now” as we walk, jog and bike the trail, Pankowski said.

See related story: The ‘elephant in the room’ at ribbon-cutting for EPCAL rec trail: Triple Five’s plans for site

RiverheadLOCAL photos by Denise Civiletti

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.