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For Release: Thursday, September 22, 2016

New DEC Access Trail Hub Creates New Outdoor Opportunities for Long Islanders

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) held a ribbon cutting today celebrating the completion of one of the centerpieces of the Rocky Point Pine Barrens State Forest Multi-Use Trail Hub Project. The completion of this project marks a milestone in the effort to connect trail systems across several Suffolk County communities.

"The completion of this trail hub is an instrumental step in the effort to connect Long Island's trail systems," said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. "The multiple features of this hub will allow local residents and visitors, young and old, and of any ability, to take advantage of Long Island's stunning natural diversity."

The new hub, located on the south end of the Rocky Point Pine Barrens State Forest, is expected to be one of the central public access spots for the new trail system. It features a car and horse trailer parking lot, a newly built half-mile ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessible hiking trail, an accessible horse mounting platform, and a half-mile connector to an existing horse and hiking trail.

The project began in October 2014, with funding from NY Works, and was completed in June for a total cost of $460,000. The trail hub is located on the former Lustgarden Nursery in Ridge, NY. In April, DEC worked with Students Taking Action for Tomorrow's Environment (S.T.A.T.E) in an Arbor Day reforestation effort. The student volunteers planted 250 seedlings of native New York tree species.

The Trail Hub system will connect several communities as it passes through the hamlets of Rocky Point, Ridge, Yaphank, and Shirley. The proposed trail system will also pass through DEC's Rocky Point Pine Barrens State Forest, Suffolk County parkland, Town of Brookhaven parkland, and end in the Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge, connecting several habitat types.

The new trail hub can be found on the north side of Middle Country Road in Ridge between Wading River Road and Woodlot Road.

DEC acquired the 274-acre Former Lustgarten Nursery in 1996 from Baier Lustgarten. It was the site of Baier Lustgarten Farms and Nursery, which used the acreage to plant nursery stock, including native and non-native trees, shrubs and ornamentals. Several neglected structures were razed from the property, including a house, a barn, greenhouses, and cottages for farm hands.

NYS Senator Ken LaValle said, "I am fortunate to represent one of the most beautiful regions of New York State. As the sponsor of the legislation that created the Pine Barrens Preserve, I am pleased that we are creating an opportunity for more individuals to access the trails. Additionally, the ADA accessibility will enable those will mobility issues to enjoy more of Long Island's natural beauty firsthand."

NYS Assemblyman Steve Englebright said "The new Trail Hub is about connecting people with nature and making it easier to get out and explore Long Island's treasure of trails and the beautiful wildlands they traverse. Thank you to the NYSDEC for helping to make our natural areas accessible to people of all abilities."

Dean Murray, NYS Assemblyman, 3rd District and Ranking Minority Member of the Tourism, Parks, Arts and Sports Development Committee said, "In addition to the benefits this project brings to our Long Island residents, this also allows us to showcase all of our natural wonders, to visitors who will come from near and far to enjoy the trails. I applaud the Governor and the DEC for committing the money, time and resources needed to make this Multi-Use Trail Hub a reality."

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker said, "The new multi-use trail hub is a wonderful community centerpiece that gives residents greater access to enjoy the beautiful Rocky Point Pine Barrens," said Legislator Anker. "The new hub connects several communities and allows for hiking, horseback riding, and bike riding. The DEC has done a wonderful job in creating this very important greenway park that will truly make a difference as we experience our spectacular outdoor environment."

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine said, "I commend the DEC for their efforts to make the trails in Brookhaven Town more accessible, especially for people with disabilities. It's very important that all residents get the opportunity to share in the natural beauty that surrounds us and we must do whatever we can to preserve it for generations to come."

NY's Open for Fishing and Hunting
Under the 2016-17 budget, Governor Cuomo's NY Open for Fishing and Hunting Initiative provides $3 million for State land access projects and $4 million for hunting and fishing infrastructure. The 2015-16 budget also created a new capital account, which, along with federal Pittman-Robertson funds, will be used to manage, protect and restore fish and wildlife habitat and will improve and develop public access for fish and wildlife-related recreation. This year's commitment builds on the previous $6 million in funding for 50 new projects to provide access to approximately 380,000 acres of existing State lands for recreation, including boat launches, bird-watching areas, trails and hunting blinds, and $8 million for upgrades and improvements to fish hatcheries statewide.

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