Friends of Connetquot officially presented with grant

Long Island Greenbelt Trail Conference also awarded

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It was a beautiful day on Wednesday, June 29, for a small group gathered at Connetquot State Park’s hatchery to watch the Friends of Connetquot State Park Preserve receive a $41,000 matching grant from the New York State Environmental Protection Fund’s Park and Trail Partnership Grants program.

Janet Marie Soley, the president of the Friends of Connetquot, noted that the grant will be used to create an Educational Interpretive Center at the historic Connetquot trout hatchery.

“The educational displays planned for the hatchery will be a wonderful addition to the facility,” Soley said. “It will help our visitors understand the tradition of trout propagation that is accomplished here.”

2022 marks the 25th anniversary of Friends of Connetquot, and the group has already accomplished an incredible amount in the past year. Soley said the group planted over 2,000 daffodils for the spring, enhanced their social media presence, became members of the Long Island Library Resource Council, trained volunteers on how to handle antiquities, and finished cataloging the Islip Vanderbilt collection, which is now safely residing at the Vanderbilt Museum in Centerport.

Jonathan Duda, the grant coordinator for Parks & Trails New York, said the organization considers itself the leading statewide advocates for parks and trails throughout New York.

“Since 1985, we have been dedicated to improving our health and economy and quality of life with the use and enjoyment of green space for all,” Duda said. “The primary way that we do all this is through Friends groups, these grassroots groups that are extremely dedicated. Most of these groups are full volunteer groups… so it really is from the hearts, from their dedication and their commitment to these places, that this work gets done.”

The Park and Trail Partnership Grant program is a $2 million program funded through the Environmental Protection Fund in partnership with the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

“The whole point of the grant is to increase an organization’s capacity, effectiveness, the ability to raise funds, and their volunteer efforts,” Duda said. “All of this increases outdoor recreation, leading to better economic benefits and healthier, more sustainable communities.”

The program, which began in 2015, started with $500,000 in grant money to give out, and after receiving an influx of applications the amount was bumped up to $1 million. This past year, the program received $2 million. This past round awarded 27 grants statewide totaling $900,000. Overall, the program has provided $4.5 million through 168 grants that leveraged nearly $2 million in investments, Duda said.

In addition to the Friends of Connetquot, the Long Island Greenbelt Trail Conference also received a matching grant from the program totaling $25,670. LIGTC plans to use the grant money to improve its administrative operations and to upgrade outdated technology. Since its foundation 44 years ago, the LIGTC has helped create long-distance trails across Nassau and Suffolk County. The 32 miles of the trail through Suffolk County take it through six state parks: Sunken Meadow, Nissequogue River, Caleb Smith, Bayard Cutting and Connetquot River State Park.

State Sen. Phil Boyle, who was on hand at the event, said grants such as these allow organizations to “get to the next level.”

“This is such a special place,” Boyle said. “I’ve had the opportunity to be here now a number of times for grant proposals, but this is a very generous one, and we thank you.”

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