‘These trails are a sanctuary and are sort of an outdoor gym.’
Michael Vitti, Glen Head
“I never dreamed that mountain biking — and protecting and expanding our trails on Long Island — would become my passion. Indeed, I only got into mountain biking to stay in shape for surfing. But I fell in love with the natural views it provided away from the concrete jungle.
“In the 1980s, my friends and I bought the first mountain bikes ever offered for sale in local bike shops. In 1990, they started a nonprofit to advocate for new trails. We built new ones, maintained them and offered group rides. In 1997, I noticed erosion problems, and since I studied landscape design and horticulture at Farmingdale College, and owned a landscape design and construction firm, I thought I could do something about it. And I did.
I feel great about the work I have done, especially when I see people enjoying the trails that I helped build or advocate for.
“Sustainable trails resist the forces of erosion and use. Our volunteers went to work, and we stopped the erosion. These trails are a sanctuary and are sort of an outdoor gym. You get exercise, but you are having fun, too. I’ve met with politicians and other elected officials to support our projects, and today we have over 200 miles of mountain bike trails across Long Island. I also advocate for paved paths, which keep people separated from traffic. I am most proud of extending the Wantagh Parkway bike path all the way to Captree and Jones Beach West End 2 (previously you had to lock up your bike about three-quarters of a mile from the beach).
“Our group has also helped get a bike path built alongside Oyster Bay on Shore Road that connects Oyster Bay to Bayville. And, finally, we advocated for the Port Jefferson to Wading River trail. Currently, I’m helping the Trust for Public Land create a bike path through the middle of Long Island that will eventually connect Manhattan to Montauk.
“In addition to riding, it’s been fun to get down in the dirt. Over the years, I’ve found lots of glass marbles, inkwells, a glass bottle of swamp fever cure, a pocketknife from the 1939 World’s Fair, a cannonball from the Revolutionary War, and a dead body rolled up in a carpet. I still like to surf, but I feel great about the work I have done, especially when I see people enjoying the trails that I helped build or advocate for. I feel happy and satisfied!”
Interviewed by Saul Schachter