Every year as April Showers give way to May Flowers and the mercury begins to climb, we awaken from our winter hibernation eager to get outside again. This year the annual rebirth of Spring has new meaning. This has been an incredibly difficult time for all of us, friends, family, and neighbors are still struggling with mental health issues related to fear, confusion, exhaustion, boredom, anger, sorrow, loneliness, grief, or loss. It is not just the winter blues that we need to recover from. The sight of flowers and the warmth of sun on our faces bring a promise and hope for what is to come.
With May being Mental Health Awareness month, I wanted to focus my A Park A Day in May series on meditation, reducing the stigma of mental health, and providing opportunities and outlets for people to connect with themselves, with others and with nature. Parks are places of calm and comfort. Parks provide beauty and are a diversion from these challenging times. Parks offer relief, refreshment, peace and tranquility.
Every day during the month of May, I will describe and post photos of a different Park. My challenge to you is to visit each of the parks highlighted sometime this spring or summer. When you get to the park at some point during your visit I challenge you to stop, close your eyes and take a deep breathe in and exhale it out. Notice the smell of the forest, the way the ground feels beneath your feet, any sounds like the grass blowing or birds chirping or the squirrels chittering. Can you feel the sunshine on your face? Is the breeze blowing? Now open your eyes and take a look around. Notice 5 things around you that you might have passed without seeing if you had not stopped. The bird on the branch above you, the buds on the trees, the ant making its way down the path. Maybe you take your shoes off like when you were a child and explore your senses by feeling the grass between your toes. Be here now, in this moment. Explore the feelings of being one with the forest. It only takes a moment but taking that moment to appreciate being in nature can help alleviate stress, help you think more clearly, and boost your mood.
This year, the 6th year of my annual challenge, I am focusing specifically on “Forest Bathing” and Mental Health Awareness, using parks to provide a respite from the stressors of everyday life. Being outside in nature allows you to spot local wildlife, inhale fresh air, witness spectacular scenic views and even exercise. Parks are least likely to be crowded at dawn and just before dusk. If a parking lot appears full or nearby roadways are lined with cars, please be considerate and come back another time.
Stay safe, stay healthy and remember to watch out for ticks and leave no trace while hiking these parks. #APADIM #aparkaday #tools2thrive http://mhamonth.org/.
Sun. May 30, 2021
Prosser Pines Nature Preserve, Middle Island
Come visit one of the oldest surviving White Pine Plantations to exist on the eastern seaboard of the United States! In 1812, William Dayton planted the first white pine seedlings on his farm in Middle Island. Over 200 years later, Prosser Pines Nature Preserve now stands as the only white pine forest on Long Island. Take a stroll through the Prosser Pines Trail and take in this rare and unique habitat. Only about 0.7 miles long, this looped trail is perfect for people of varied abilities and skills. A truly historic location, this preserve is meant to be enjoyed for all generations to come!
Sat. May 29, 2021
David Weld Sanctuary, Nissequogue
Between the rainy periods today it was nice to venture into the David Weld Sanctuary for a few hours. This 125 acre park is owned and maintained by The Nature Conservancy and is open from 9am to 5pm. This local gem is filled with varied terrain starting with the fields, which lead to the edge of the forest. While hiking through the forest you will come across the red maple swamp. Within the park is also a kettle hole and 50 foot bluffs overlooking Long Island Sound. While in the park you can spot various bird species including yellow warblers and red wing black birds. A great respite from the over 2.5 miles of hiking trails is a bench overlooking the crashing waves dedicated to my predecessor at the Legislature, Nora Bredes. A beautiful quote from the bench “As the waves shape themselves symmetrically from the cliff top, but to the swimmer among them are divided by steep gulfs and foaming crests” - Virginia wolf
Fri. May 28, 2021
Makamah County Nature Preserve, Fort Salonga
The Makamah Main Trail is a 2.6 mile moderately trafficked, relatively hilly loop trail that features a great forest setting. It contains dry and wet woodlands, as well as marsh. It has been reported that 94 species of birds have been recorded in and around the property and that the park is prime habitat for owls and woodpeckers. The park contains heavily wooded hills with one rising to 60 feet in its center and others rising to 100 feet. The easterly portion of the park is a valley that drains the surrounding area. This valley includes a main stream that was once dammed to form two ponds and several feeder streams, some spring-fed. The preserve is available for hiking, bird watching, dog walking (on leash).
Wed. May 26, 2021
Located in the heart of Smithtown, Caleb Smith State Park Preserve is one of four state nature preserves on Long Island. Expanding over 543-acres, this park offers visitors picturesque views of local plant and wildlife populations. Take a trip and stroll through the meandering hiking trails and look for rare plants such Pink Lady Slipper, Trailing Arbutus, and Indian Pipe. Or go birdwatching for species like Prothonotary Warblers, Virginia Rails and Osprey. During the months of May and June, Caleb Smith State Park will be hosting a variety of nature programs such as nature strolls, educational presentations on wildlife, and tours for adults, children, and families!
To find out more about the May/June nature programs and to register, click on the link: https://parks.ny.gov/documents/regions/MayJuneNaturePrograms.pdf
Mon. May 24, 2021
Cathedral Pines County Park, Middle Island
Cathedral Pines County in Middle Island is a 320-acre site is situated along the headwaters of the Carmans River and a great place for visitors to enjoy a day in nature! Praised for its biking trails, Cathedral Pines is also home to campsites for youth group camping, club camping and family camping, picnic sites, and the George Broome Memorial activity building. Just adjacent of the park, visitors can enjoy the views of Prosser Pines Nature Preserve, featuring majestic stands of white pines planted in 1812.
Sun. May 23, 2021
Forsythe Meadow County Park, Stony Brook
Forsythe Meadow County Park means so much to me. I remember as a child many adventures in the woods that make up this 34-acre preserve. Nestled in Stony Brook Village, Forsythe Meadow County Park’s unspoiled forest protects a variety of wildlife and serves as a critical watershed to Stony Brook Harbor. This park features two loop trails the longer of which is about 1.25 miles. Disconnect from your electronics and take a stroll across the field, and through the woods. Great for people of varied abilities and skills!
Sat. May 22, 2021
Sears Bellow County Park, Hampton Bays
Sears Bellow County Park is located in Hampton Bays nestled within the extensive domain of the Long Island Pine Barrens. Visitors can enjoy a multitude of outdoor recreational activities such as camping, hiking through the vast trail system, and horseback riding on the bridle paths. A sportsman’s paradise, visitors can also enjoy a day of freshwater fishing for bluegill, bass, perch, and pickerel! This 979-acre park is a great place to take your family on an afternoon getaway and bask in the scenery of the outdoors.
Fri. May 21, 2021
Robert Cushman Murphy County Park, Manorville
Robert Cushman Murphy County Park located in Calverton/Manorville is a 2,200-acre parkland and part of the Peconic River Watershed. Named after Robert Cushman Murphy, who was an ornithologist and bird curator at the American Museum of Natural History, this park was the first natural park in Suffolk County. Visitors can come and enjoy the rare coastal plain pondshore habitat, forested hiking trails, and wildlife and waters for boating & fishing.
Thur. May 20, 2021
Ashley Schiff Park Preserve, Stony Brook
This 26 acre preserve is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Ashley Schiff, a popular Associate Professor of Political Science and avowed naturalist who taught during the early days of Stony Brook University. During his time at Stony Brook University, Dr. Schiff would often walk among the oak and maple trees that lined this woodland. Now this preserve located on the Stony Brook University Campus serves as a memorial to Dr. Schiff and a reminder to those in the community of the value of preservation.
Wed. May 19, 2021
Connetquot River State Park, Oakdale
The Connetquot River State Park Preserve is a 3,473-acre state park and conservation area for the protection and propagation of game birds, fish, and animals. This park offers a variety of amenities such as equestrian trails, hiking trails, and fishing. Additionally, Connetquot River State Park offers youth programs, nature programs for adults, children, and families, and hosts I Love My Park days where visitors can register to volunteer in different clean-up projects. Home to the Long Island Environmental Interpretive Center, schools, youth organizations and special interest groups can plan with the Regional Environmental Education Team to participate in interpretive programs and hikes.
Tues. May 18, 2021
Cedar Point County Park, East Hampton
Cedar Point County Park is a 607-acre park located in East Hampton with astounding views of Gardiner’s Bay. Settled in 1651, Cedar Point was once a busy port for shipping farm goods, fish, and timber from Sag Harbor. Now, it is well-known for its decommissioned lighthouse built in 1860. Its beacon served to guide whaling ships in and out of Sag Harbor during its heyday as a major port. Visitors can enjoy a variety of amenities such as fishing, hiking, picnicking, camping, playground, rowboat rentals, bicycling, saltwater fishing, scuba diving, hunting, and outer beach access.
Mon. May 17, 2021
Brookhaven State Park, Wading River
Brookhaven State Park located in Wading River, once home to property of Brookhaven National Laboratory and former military installation called Camp Upton, is 1,638-acres and part of the central core of the Long Island Pine Barrens. This park features the Brookhaven Trail, a 3.9 mile loop trail ideal for moderately skilled hikers. Visitors can take a nature walk through the park and enjoy the scenic views of oak-pine habitats, scattered wetlands, coastal plain ponds, and foliage such as flowering dogwood, wild geranium, Christmas fern and pitch pine.
Sun. May 16, 2021
Rocky Point Pine Barrens State Forest, Rocky Point
The Rocky Point Pine Barrens State Forest is home to nearly 6,000 acres of Pine Barrens and open lands. Featuring five distinct hiking trails ranging from 0.5 miles to 5.4 miles, this state forest offers an excellent variety of hiking opportunities for people of varied abilities and skills. Also included in its amenities are beginner, intermediate and advanced biking trails in addition to equestrian trails for horseback riders. Take your loved ones on a walk and go wildlife watching for woodpeckers, painted turtles, and white-tailed deer! Access by seasonal permit Jan. 2 - Oct. 31. Permits are free.
Sat. May 15, 2021
Sunken Meadow State Park, Kings Park
Sunken Meadow State Park is home to the Sunken Meadow Trail, a 3.7 mile looped trail that is good for people of varied abilities and skill levels. Open to the public year-round, this park has hosted millions of visitors every year. With stunning views of the Long Island Sound, three bridges stretching over Sunken Meadow Creek, and a golf course, this park offers a multitude of experiences that cater to your perfect trip. During the months of May and June, Sunken Meadow State Park will be hosting a variety of nature programs such as nature strolls, educational presentations on wildlife, and tours for adults, children, and families!
To find out more about the May/June nature programs and to register, click on the link: https://parks.ny.gov/documents/regions/MayJuneNaturePrograms.pdf.
Photos from Wikimedia Commons
Fri. May 14, 2021
Manorville Hills County Park, Manorville
Manorville Hills County Park located in Manorville features a 7.7 mile looped walking trail ideal for moderately skilled hikers. Consisting of large and hilly woodlands, this location boasts the longest expanse of roadless land on Long Island. This park is situated at the core of the Long Island Central Pine Barrens and offers a handful of marked trails for people with varied interests such as hiking, biking, or horseback riding. This is a great place for visitors to enjoy a day of solitude in nature and take the opportunity to practice mindfulness in the woods.
Thur. May 13, 2021
Terrell River County Park, Center Moriches
Terrell River County Park is a passive park and preserve located south of Montauk Highway in Center Moriches. Formerly known as the Havens Estate, this 263-acre preserve was purchased by Suffolk County in 1986. In 2001, the Moriches Bay Audubon Society was designated as the park steward. This location is home to the 2.6-mile Terrell River Trail and is a great place for visitors to enjoy scenic views, observe the diverse species of plants and trees, and visit the local beach. Trails are moderately trafficked, good for all skill levels, and leashed dogs are welcome!
Wed. May 12, 2021
Lakeland County Park, Islandia
Lakeland County Park located in Islandia is a 70-acre piece of land fully accessible park. This park includes a nature trail-boardwalk over the head-waters of the Connetquot River, affording unique views of wetlands, vegetation, waterfowl and wildlife. Miles of improved and unimproved trails including two sensory trails. Follow the signs to Honeysuckle Pond and the boardwalk leads to an observation deck with vistas of the water. Lakeland Park offers a variety of amenities such as a picnic area with a gazebo, boardwalks, an accessible playground, shuffleboard, & basketball courts. Families can take nature walks an enjoy the unique views of wetlands, vegetation, waterfowl, and wildlife!
Tues. May 11, 2021
Arthur Kunz County Park, Smithtown
Arthur H Kunz County Park located in Smithtown is a 93-acre forested property great for hiking. This park features tidal creeks, a lush, mixed deciduous forest, rolling hills and valleys, and quaint hidden ponds for all visitors to enjoy. Situated on the western bank of the Nissequogue River, the trail system in the park provides a scenic link in a section of the Long Island Greenbelt Trail. This section stretches for about 3.1 miles and is an out-and-back trail good for varied abilities and skills.
Mon. May 10, 2021
Alexander G. McKay Preserve at Cranberry Hill Fuchs Pond County Park, Fort Salonga
The Alexander McKay Preserve, at Cranberry Hill Fuchs Pond, in Fort Salonga is a 21-acre park home to a spring-fed freshwater pond, freshwater marsh, upland slope forest, and a high plateau area. This land was acquired by the Town and County in 2003, and renamed in honor of Alexander G. McKay, who served as the town's representative for the Suffolk County Department of Parks, Recreation and Conservation's Board of Trustees for more than 40 years. This hidden oasis offers a brief 0.5-mile trail for visitors to observe and enjoy wildlife such as the American Black Duck, Great Horned Owl, and the Eastern Box Turtle!
Sun. May 9, 2021
Hubbard County Park, Hampton Bays
Hubbard County Park located in Hampton Bays is an 1,815-acre park includes an easy, 5.75 mile hike, a 2.6 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail, and other trails which will take visitors on a tour of salt flats, marshes, beach, and woods to enjoy many species of migratory birds, as well as unique flowers and plants. The flat nature of the trail makes it accessible to people of varied skill levels and abilities and ends at the shoreland of Flanders Bay. Take your loved ones or your pet on a walk through beach grass extending under pine tree canopy and prairie grasses abutting salt marsh. Home to the "Ghost Forest," along the shoreline at Flanders Bay there are a series of sunken tree stumps that once stood as full Atlantic White Cedar trees before sea level rise. Go wildlife watching and catch sights of clams, scallops, blue heron, osprey, and a variety of turtles and reptiles, or go freshwater fishing at Penny Pond!
Sat. May 8, 2021
West Hills County Park, Melville
Picturesque, well-groomed nature trails, including the historic Walt Whitman Trail to Jayne's Hill (Long Island's highest peak, at an elevation of 400 feet), wind through this highly popular, mixed-deciduous forested park. West Hills flora and fauna include wild Mountain Laurel, Moccasin Flower, several fern species, salamanders, turtles, chipmunk, squirrel and red fox. Hiking, youth group camping, picnicking, playground, equestrian Center and stables, bridle paths (horseback riding permit is required) and a dog run are available. Camping at West Hills is offered to organized youth groups only. Campsites, lean-tos, and primitive shelters are available year-round. Reservations are required. Sweet Hollow Road Entrance has the large dog park and there is a small dog park located at the Round Swamp Road Entrance.
Fri. May 7, 2021
North Fork Preserve County Park, Riverhead
As soon as your step off the dirt parking lot and onto the trail at North Fork Preserve County Park the cacophony of bird songs surrounds you. This 300 acre preserve was acquired in 2011 with the northern 126 acres of the park preserved for passive recreation such as hiking and birdwatching. The network of trails contains vernal or seasonal wetlands, which can serve as breeding grounds for a variety of amphibians such as frogs and salamanders. The preserve is great for hiking and birdwatching. While walking through this park I spotted a flock of Turkeys, two Osprey, and a Red-Bellied Woodpecker. The trails in this park are wide, grassy, and unmarked so remember to check for ticks after hiking. The park's entrance is located on the north side of Sound Avenue just east of Church Lane, with a long road leading to the heart of the park. This is a great park I even took a moment to stop and smell the wild honeysuckles while being serenaded by the chorus of bird overhead.
Thur. May 6, 2021
Mashomack Preserve, Shelter Island
Mashomack Preserve located on Shelter Island is a 2,039-acre preserve once inhabited by the Native Manhansets. Today, this land dubbed the “Jewel of the Peconic” is considered one of the richest habitats in the Northeast. Extending over 1/3rdof Shelter Island, this land is covered with tidal creeks, oak woodlands, fields, and freshwater marshes. Visitors of varied abilities can come to Mashomack and hike through the extensive selection of trails covering 11 miles, walk along the coast of Gardiner’s Bay, and go wildlife viewing in the meadows and by the ponds. Open to the public 7 days a week, this is a great way for everyone to go and enjoy a day out in nature! Please note, the Visitor Center and Restrooms are temporarily closed.
Wed. May, 5, 2021
Rassapeague County Park, Nissequogue
Rassapeague County Park located in Nissequogue is a hidden gem, located along Long Beach Road this park offers a half mile, marked out-and-back trail. The trail is hilly but well-marked with hiking logos. The trail leads visitors through the forest, around multiple vernal pools, and end with a small boardwalk area by Stony Brook Harbor. While hiking this trail take a moment to enjoy the views of the forest floor while traversing up and down the hills. The vibrant greens of the trees budding and the plants blooming was just magnificent today. While walking keep your eyes to the ground, you may even find a geocache if you are diligent. Boy Scout Troop 888 of Smithtown adopted this park and helped install a small parking lot, marked the trail, and cleaned up more than 1,000 pounds of debris from the site.
Tues. May 4, 2021
Cordwood Landing County Park, Miller Place
Located in the historic district of Miller Place, this former Girl Scout Camp is now home to extensive walking trails and alluring views of the Long Island Sound! A beautiful nature hike through heavily wooded forests leading to a breathtaking bluff overlooking the sound, there is plenty of scenic landscape for visitors to enjoy. Venture further down and engage in a guided meditation to clear your head of bothersome thoughts and bask in the sounds, sights, and smells of the beach!
Mon. May 3, 2021
Blydenburgh County Park, Smithtown
Take a casual stroll through rich forests and valleys, go rowing on Stump Pond, or go freshwater fishing for local fish. Blydenburgh County Park offers a diverse array of experiences that caters to all seeking a day out in nature. Open year-round to all Suffolk County residents, this location is a great place to work on one’s mental wellbeing by connecting with the extensive wildlife present on the property. Bring your loved ones and take a walk through the Blydenburgh Farm and New Mill Historic District, which features a grist mill; or visit the Blydenburgh Dog Park and spend the day with your furry friend!
Sun. May 2, 2021
Southaven County Park, Yaphank
Southaven County Park includes over 1,356 acres of pine-oak forest; the forest is split by the Carmans River. At Southaven visitors can rent a canoe or rowboat, camp at one of over 100 campsites, or enjoy a family picnic in its popular picnic area. There are many recreational activities offered within the many acres of this park including freshwater fishing, hunting and Cross-country skiing (weather permitting). In the ‘60s, Southaven became one of the first County Park’s opened to the public. Located off of Sunrise Highway (Route 27) and west of William Floyd Parkway, visitors to the park can find the entrance off of Victory Avenue (Suffolk CR 56/North Sunrise Service Road). Today in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month the Association for Mental Health and Wellness hosted a mindful walk through Southaven park with Deputy Director Anne Marie Montijo. For more Mental Health Awareness Month events go to http://mhamonth.org/.
Sat. May 1, 2021
Avalon Nature Preserve, Stony Brook
Today I visited Avalon Nature Preserve which includes newly renovated boardwalk along the Stony Brook Duck Pond and 140 acres of woodlands, forests, meadows and ponds located at 200 Harbor Road in Stony Brook Village. In celebration of Arbor Day the Preserve in collaboration with the Village of Head of the Harbor hosted an event to honor trees. Attendees were given native tree saplings to plant and learned of the importance of native trees for our community including all species such as insects, birds and wildlife. Avalon Nature Preserve is a perfect location for visitors to get in touch with nature. With six distinct trails situated between freshwater ponds, lush meadows, large glacial boulders, and an abundance of flora and fauna, Avalon Preserve offers opportunities for individuals of varied abilities to unplug from everyday challenges and practice much needed self-care. Avalon is closed on Mondays and has restricted hours, find out more or register for yoga and mindfulness programs at https://avalonnaturepreserve.org/Consistent with this month’s theme of forest bathing, Avalon inspires everyone to embrace their ties to the environment and practice mindfulness when exploring this sanctuary!