August 5, 2008

Planned Ocean Parkway Bike Path Meets Opposition

By Danny Teigman, Newsday, Melville, N.Y.

Aug. 5--A long-planned 14-mile bike path along Ocean Parkway, stretching from Wantagh Parkway to the Robert Moses Causeway, has met opposition from barrier island residents concerned about its potential effect on the area's natural environment.

The path, proposed in 1993, would run along the north side of the parkway. It is still more than a year away from the bidding process and three years from anticipated completion, according to the state Department of Transportation.

Residents of Gilgo Beach and West Gilgo Beach have formed Friends of the Barrier Beaches to guarantee the bike path doesn't have a negative impact on the environment. They also want the DOT to file an environmental-impact statement with the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

"They're talking about major construction here, the biggest thing since they put in the Ocean Parkway," said the group's co-chairman, John Howell, 75, a 39-year Gilgo Beach resident. " ... It's a fragile landscape out here."

A June DOT report favored the route over several alternatives and said "primary users would include bicyclists, walkers, runners, and in-line skaters." It estimated 500 daily weekday users and 1,000 users per day on weekends.

DEC spokeswoman Aphrodite Montalvo said construction projects must comply with the State Environmental Quality Review Act. Depending on what the DOT's own review finds, an environmental impact statement may be required.

Montalvo said if the path comes within 100 feet of wetlands, additional permits would be necessary. She said the DOT has not yet filed any documents with the DEC.

Richard Moore, 70, a retired IBM engineer and a summertime West Gilgo Beach resident, said he and others are also concerned that hundreds of trees the state planted 10 years ago would be uprooted. Moore does not belong to the residents' group.

He also cited the absence of public restrooms along the route. Gilgo Beach and Tobay Beach have public restrooms, he said, but are open only half the year.

The bidding process for the $12.6 million project is slated to begin in the winter of 2009-10. Completion is expected in the spring of 2011.

The DOT has scheduled a public meeting next Tuesday from 3 to 8 p.m. at the Jones Beach Theodore Roosevelt Nature Center. Issues including restrooms, loss of trees and the path's ultimate route are expected to be addressed.

Eileen Peters, a DOT spokeswoman, said it is common for projects to take many years. "We are in the preliminary design stage for this project," she said. "Therefore we are looking to the public to help shape the project."


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