Plans for the revitalization of the Riverside and Flanders area continue to take shape.
The Suffolk County Downtown Revitalization Citizens Advisory Panel recently recommended a $15,000 grant toward the construction of a walking trail through county parkland from Flanders Road, or State Route 24, to the Peconic River.
The 5.5-foot wide, 1000-foot long, walking trail would be created using permeable natural stone material.
The trail will end at the shore of the Peconic River across from the Riverhead Aquarium.
The ADA compliant trail will allow residents and visitors to access the Riverside waterfront for recreational uses.
In addition, a small sitting area with two benches will be installed to encourage passive enjoyment of the scenic surroundings along the waterfront.
To encourage green transportation, a bike rack will be installed at the Flanders Road trailhead to facilitate use of the park.
The trail will connect directly to the existing sidewalk along Flanders Road; a small ground level sign at the Flanders Road trailhead will identify the trail entrance.
The trail will lead pedestrians through a wooded 14-acre waterfront park purchased by Suffolk County in 2011 for $2.4 million.
A separate grant has been submitted to New York State to fund the construction of a pedestrian bridge to connect the trail end to the Riverhead business district.
“I am happy to see we are moving forward with this very important grant from Suffolk County,” said Vince Taldone, president of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association.
“Along with substantial financial support from Southampton Town, this Suffolk County money will fund the construction of the first phase of the town's long planned Riverside Maritime Trail. That trail is the first step in developing a waterfront park and revitalized commercial center in Riverside.”
Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said the grant was welcome news. “The Town has partnered with FRNCA on a number of grant opportunities in pursuit of improvements for the area,” said Throne-Holst. “It is terrific news that the county is poised to make this grant award. Hopefully there is more good news to come."
The Suffolk County Legislature must still approve the grant recommendation.
“The trail will encourage park use by providing access to the scenic Peconic River,” said Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman. “It is part of a broader vision to revitalize the blighted Riverside community.”
Upon signing of a county-town intermunicipal agreement, the trail project could be completed within nine months. The IMA will commit Southampton to the maintenance of the trail.
In other news, Taldone reported recently that the application filing deadline was met "just in time," for a grant that would facilitate the construction of a pedestrian bridge from the Riverside/Flanders area to Riverhead.
The application was completed with the help of a professional grant writer, officials and staff from both towns and Suffolk County,as well as volunteers from FRNCA, Taldone said.
The town's application requests a $1.145 million grant to build the pedestrian bridge, which is part of its overall plan to improve public access to the waterfront and to revitalize the economy of Riverside with a little "boost" for downtown Riverhead, Taldone said.
If awarded, the hope is to engage in a design competition that could include the Peconic Chapter of the AIA, as well as a worldwide outreach for creative approaches and concepts. and also reach around the world for creative approaches to the site.
"The biggest challenge for bridge designers is to fit the access ramp or steps into the downtown Riverhead parking lot without reducing parking or creating unsightly shadows or obstacles," Taldone said. "It is a challenging location but I have no doubt that bridge engineers and other design professionals can create the access we want as well as design a structural of great beauty. The design of such an important addition to the downtown riverfront is not to be taken lightly.This is a rare opportunity to build a landmark for tomorrow; one we will be proud of for generations to come."
He added, "I simply can't wait for this exciting design adventure to begin."
In July, Suffolk County passed a resolution authorizing the grant application for the project by a unanimous 16 to 0.
Schneiderman said the pedestrian bridge and trail are two parts of an overall plan to revitalize the area.