27East.com - Full Article
Mar 25, 2016 5:10 PM
By Alisha Steindecker
As Dai Dayton trekked a winding, wooded hiking trail in Sag Harbor on a warm March day, twigs crunching beneath her feet, she absentmindedly cleared the path as she went, throwing loose branches to the side—pausing to breathe in the serenity.“Do you hear that?” she asks as she gestures toward a kettlehole a few feet away. “Those are the peepers.”
Ms. Dayton’s singular appreciation for the natural environment, her dedication to it, and how she has inspired others have enabled the Southampton Trails Preservation Society, of which she is a founding member, to continue to flourish in its 30th year. It is why the peepers, tiny frogs that are a key part of a South Fork spring, remain safe from harm, their peeps audible despite the loud sounds of skeet shooting or hunting just a few miles away.
For its 30th anniversary, the volunteer organization is celebrating 300 miles of trails—spread literally throughout North Sea, Bridgehampton, Sag Harbor, Hampton Bays, Noyac, Sagaponack and elsewhere in Southampton Town and beyond—the accumulation of which its more than 300 members have worked tirelessly to achieve. They have saved wildlife, prevented development, fought the influx of all-terrain vehicles and, of course, preserved more and more land.
“Towns don’t do this for us—that is what is so amazing,” said founding member Pingree Louchheim, a Sagaponack resident. “All of that is done by private people, and I don’t think there are many places that they can say they have a trails system 100-percent maintained and created by private people.”
The Southampton Trails Preservation Society was actually founded by a group of equestrians who realized that they were losing the trails they rode in the Long Pond Greenbelt to rapid development. The existence of the trails goes back to colonial times, and they are historic features, Ms. Dayton explained, adding that they need to be preserved in their natural state.
Indeed they have, and members have led hikes on South Fork trails every weekend for the past three decades.
A program within the organization, called Horses On Trails, or HOT, is flourishing. Board member Leslie Lowery, who leads the program, along with trail rides once every month, explained that horses have historically been a natural part of the environment. “We try to maintain a horse presence in the trail system, otherwise people forget that horses are permitted and encouraged, and not detrimental to the environment,” she said. “It is a passive use of the environment and it’s beautiful...”
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