Hiking Trail in Mohegan Lake Approved by Parks & Recreation Commission

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By Examiner Media Staff

The Yorktown Parks and Recreation Commission last week unanimously approved a short hiking trail in Mohegan Lake on town-owned parkland. The one-mile proposed trail has been named Tall Timber Park, occupying the former 1940-70 site of the Tall Timber summer camp and bungalow colony. The park is bordered by Scofield Road on the south, Ivy Road on the east, Crossways Road on the north, and Heyward Street on the West.

The Tall Timber Park trail was proposed last spring by the Tall Timber Park Committee, a volunteer group of Mohegan Lake residents who have marked and mapped out the trail and who will clear a path through brush and fallen trees and mark the final trail.

The proposal has met with strong opposition since July when residents on Ivy and Crossways Roads claimed the trail was a security threat because it ran too close to their homes. A Parks and Recreation Commission public meeting in July became openly contentious with demands for the trail to be either eliminated or severely shortened. Responding to those concerns, the Tall Timber Park Committee cut out the Crossways Road trail entrance and moved the proposed trail route further away from both Crossways and Ivy Roads.

The Tall Timber Park committee has since revised the trail five times in response to nearby residents. Each revision pinched in the trail’s loop moving it as far to the center of the park and away from any homes. Many neighbors then requested the trail be one path where hikers would walk up and back. Questions were raised by those opposing the trail about advertising the trail on websites and in trail publications.

At last week’s meeting, about 30 people showed up to the Yorktown Parks and Recreation Commission public hearing to either voice support or opposition. The majority of those attending were in support of the trail. Many claimed streets around Mohegan Lake were not safe to walk or bike with children because cars sped through as a cut-through from Route 6 to Route 202. Proponents claimed the short, 45-minute hike was welcomed as a place to enjoy nature on a designated trail. All comments were limited to two minutes and Patrick Cumiskey, Vice Chairman of the commission, cautioned folks to be civil when speaking.

Updating the commission on the trail was Mohegan Lake Improvement District president Ken Belfer. “We’ve made this trail more neighbor-friendly,” said Belfer, pointing at the trail map projected on a screen. “We intend to clearly mark any crossings, particularly at the top of Jones’ Hill so that people stay on the trail.’

Jones Hill, where town water tanks are located, offers a vista of the Hudson Valley in the wintertime. Those who have opposed that part of the trail requested it be cut off entirely.

Parks and Recreation Commissioner Christine Dunne offered a solution to make both sides agree by doing away with the turnaround point at Jones Hill. “Wouldn’t cutting off this small piece, wouldn’t it make everybody happy?” Dunne asked Belfer.

“If you cut it off you lose any views at all and it would drastically change the character of the trail,” Belfer told her. “This very wide summit is the furthest summit away from Ivy Road. If you cut if off it creates a greater temptation [for hikers] to wander off the trail to see a view.”

Although the argument was made that marked trails keep hikers on the trail and off private property, Ivy Road resident Mike Dratch said the trail still poses serious privacy issues. “If one explores and wanders slightly off the trail, residents’ privacy will be violated,” Dratch said.

Ivy Road resident Ralph Scannapieco, a vocal opponent of the trail, pressed for a shorter single path and asked the commission to again walk the trail without any trail proponents or opponents. “If you can go look at that trail without anybody else and take your best judgement on the situation, that would be good enough for me,” said Scannapieco.

Cumiskey said the commission had already taken two organized walks on the property which were advertised as part of the formal process when considering a new trail or park.

Other Ivy Road residents complained that the trail would drive out any wildlife, such as the bald eagle and owls.

Tall Timber Park Committee volunteer Felicity Arengo, a professional conservation biologist and Mohegan Lake resident for more than 16 years, said wildlife people claimed were no longer visible are indeed thriving in the suburbs. “Many of these species are active at dusk and at night when most walkers will not be on the trail,” said Arengo.

The trail will be built under the guidance of Jane and Walt Daniels of the NY NJ Trail Conference. The Daniels have already reviewed the trail route and had an environmental study done which ensured the trail would not disturb any endangered species. The Daniels were at the meeting to support the trail.

By the end of the meeting the volunteer committee agreed to not publicizing the Tall Timber Trail on websites or other trail information sites. Since the commission had approved the trail, it will come under a Memorandum of Understanding between Yorktown and the Trail Conference. The Tall Timber Park Committee seeks to have the trail completed by summer 2022.

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