Shelter Island is full of hiking trails, but beyond the trail system at Mashomack Preserve, the location of many of the other public trails that dot the Island is not common knowledge.
Which is why Joseph Denny is setting out to change that.
Mr. Denny is a founding member of the Shelter Island Group for Trails Preservation (SIGTP) that advocates for trail creation and protection across the Island and also spearheads trail maintenance and marking.
“The first real trail we made was at Sylvester Manor, and the first blue blaze is at the Quaker cemetery,” said Mr. Denny, who will lead the first organized hike for the SIGTP this Saturday, October 28 as part of he annual South Fork Trails Weekend.
He hopes that guided hikes soon become a regular feature of the SIGTP, just as they have for the other East End hiking organizations.
“We need more help — I need retirees,” he said, referring to the typical volunteers who make most trail groups a success.
Saturday’s hike begins at noon behind the Shelter Island Craft Brewery in the Center. The three mile loop will traverse the trails of Sachem’s Woods, Sylvester Manor Educational Farm and the Nursery Woodlands Annex before returning to the brewery.
Afterwards, at 2 p.m., all are invited back to the brewery for hors d’oeuvres and a viewing of “Point to Point,” a film shot by Mr. Denny during his thru-hike of the Paumanok Path in the summer of 2016.
“I will playing the soundtrack to the film live on guitar,” Mr. Denny said.
When it comes to creating new trails on the East End, organizations like the Southampton Trails Preservation Society (SHTPS) play a major role in working with town boards to map new trails and publicize the public’s right to access them.
“It’s crucial, otherwise the town will be buying the properties, but no one will know they’re there to use,” Mr. Denny said. “A group like mine is very important for land buying so we can get in there and make sure there is public access, it is visible and there is a marked trail and signage.”
Fortunately, Mr. Denny is also a member of the Island’s Community Preservation Fund Advisory Board, so he weighs in on what parcels can be purchased in order to link public lands and expand on the Island’s existing trail system.
Mr. Denny hopes that one day, there will be enough interconnected trails to allow hikers to traverse much of the Island without having to walk on the roads or use a car.
“Hiking has always been my thing. I played in the woods where I grew up in Sag Harbor,” he said. “My view is that nature should be accessible within walking distance for everybody, rather than having to drive to a place.”
“It would be nice to have an option to walk anywhere, from the Center to the Heights, that is more natural,” he said. “I foresee trails in Hay Beach heading to Ram Island, or trails in the Cackle Hill Preserve area.”
In the meantime, Mr. Denny said he will be speaking to members of the East Hampton Trails Preservation Society about offering more hikes in the future and is focusing on new ideas.
“It’s about keeping the public aware,” he said. “People are excited and interested in it. We keep getting new members and requests from our Facebook site.”
To take part in the inaugural hike of the Shelter Island Group for Trails Preservation this Saturday, October 28, meet at noon at the Shelter Island Craft Brewery, 55 North Ferry Road. Mr. Denny’s film follows at the brewery at 2 p.m.