Empire Kayaks, owned by Michael and Gabrielle Fehling of Island Park, has been in business for 14 years. Before he let us in a boat, Michael Fehling, 54, a former bartender, gave us a quick tutorial on how to hold the paddle and turn our kayaks. And, without saying a word, he demonstrated how to look cool in sunglasses.
Then we were off across Middle Bay. After we got a feel for our kayaks, we navigated through a series of narrow canals, which, according to Fehling, will form the basis for the system of blue trails that will connect bays and inlets across the South Shore.
Fehling, who has kayaked for 30 years, and Kyle Rabin of Woodmere submitted separate proposals for blue trails in response to the 2006 Nassau County Environmental Bond Act Program, which allocated $150 million to preserve open space and increase outdoor recreational opportunities for residents. The two proposals each focused on creating water trails across Nassau County’s South Shore and were consolidated into one plan, and the Nassau County Environmental Program Bond Act Advisory Committee ultimately selected the proposal. Rabin, a director with a nonprofit organization that focuses on environmental issues dealing with food, water and energy systems, now serves as the South Shore Blueway Trail Project Advisory Committee chairman.
The Nassau County Bond act and a New York State Department of State grant each provided $50,000 for the South Shore Blueway Trail Project, with additional funds coming from the Village of Freeport.
Going Coastal, Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to connecting people to coastal resources, was hired by the South Shore Blueway Trail Project Advisory Committee in September, and is now collecting feedback from South Shore kayakers to determine the best routes for the blue trails.