Hundreds of water enthusiasts and curious Nassau County residents attended the inaugural South Shore Blueway Festival at Hewlett Point Park in East Rockaway on a sun soaked afternoon last Saturday.
Town of Hempstead officials hosted the event as a way to celebrate the two-year anniversary of the Blueway Trail’s launch and to let attendees enjoy the water and teach them about the ecosystem.
“It was great to see so many first time residents come out on the water to enjoy the great weather and the abundance of wildlife along miles of the Town’s sweeping salt marsh islands, quiet creeks and channels,” Town of Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen said.
The trail opened in June 2016, and includes 22 launches and landings, spanning 50 miles of coastline and encompassing 42,000 acres of waterways from the western border of the Town of Hempstead to the border line of Nassau and Suffolk counties in Oyster Bay. The goal of launching the trail was to reconnect South Shore residents with nature, while also providing safe access to waterways. There are several parks, historical sites, natural areas and attractions along the trail.
The festival’s activities included races and relays, paddling expeditions and guided tours of the South Shore’s back bays, as well as lessons and demonstrations in kayaking, standup paddle boarding and standup paddle board yoga. There were also several booths where experts educated attendees about the trail.
“I think it was a great way to get people out on the water and also let them know about the blueway trail,” said Kyle Rabin, an officer with Friends of the South Shore Blueway. “It’s a really cool experience when you’re sitting on top of the water and experiencing the beauty of the South Shore estuary.”
Rabin serves as the vice president and treasurer of the organization, which has a mission to promote the responsible use, enjoyment and appreciation of the South Shore Blueway Trail and promote it as a recreational, environmental and cultural resource and destination.
At his booth, Rabin educated attendees about the history of the trail, the mission of the friends group and encouraged them to join the organization. He said between 60 and 80 people stopped by his booth, and many of them were learning about the trail for the first time.
After a successful festival, Gillen said, she hopes it will turn into an annual event. “The South Shore is truly a premier destination for these fast growing and beneficial boating activities,” she said. “And my hope is that we can turn this event into an annual summer spectacle, in order to continue promoting the positive effects on our health, our environment, and our home.”