In 2016, I initiated “A Park a Day in May” challenge. Since than, every May I have highlighted parks across our Region. I am pleased to once again continue this tradition and challenge you to visit all of the parks I highlight this month. You may discover your new favorite park or parks you never knew existed. Every day this month, I will describe and post photos from a different local park. Take a photo of yourself at the park (preferably in front of the park’s sign, but definitely in a location that makes it obvious where you are).
May is Mental Health Awareness month and with that in mind, I wanted to focus this year’s “A Park A Day in May” series on mindfulness, 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 challenging times. Parks offer relief, refreshment, peace and tranquility. Being outside in nature allows you to spot local wildlife, inhale fresh air, witness spectacular scenic views and even exercise. For more information about local mental health programs during Mental Health Awareness Month go to http://mhamonth.org/.
Stay safe, stay healthy and remember to watch out for ticks and leave no trace while hiking these parks. #APADIM #aparkaday
Today marks the last day of the 2022 “A Park A Day in May” Challenge. May is mental health awareness month and being outside in the fresh air, walking, running, meditating however you choose to be in the present moment alone or with friends can help reduce stress and anxiety. Spending time in our local parks is a great way to put your mind at ease and feel more connected to your surroundings. It has been a true pleasure discovering new parks and revisiting parks I’ve visited in the past. While my May Challenge is over, I challenge you to visit the parks that I have highlighted and find that connection with the natural world around you.
McAllister County Park (Pirate’s Cove) is a special park for me as I remember coming to this cove while growing up in the Three Villages. The cove is a spectacular beach on the North Shore which was previously only accessible to residents who owned a boat or those willing to trek from Port Jefferson Village along the shoreline. With the assistance of the Suffolk County Parks Department, I fought for a small parking lot at the end of Anchorage Road in Belle Terre to ensure that this beautiful beachfront is accessible to all county residents. Pirate’s Cove is a 113 acre park, and visitors walking along the shoreline can enjoy a hike nearing 3 miles. If you are planning to visit this park remember to only park in the designated parking area. The parking spots can fill up quickly so on nice summer days it is best to get there early. Remarkable views and calm waters make this spot perfect for stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking, fishing and hiking to the cove and outer beach area.
The 274 acre Indian Island County Park is where freshwater and saltwater meet between the Peconic River and Flanders Bay. What was formerly the "island" at Indian Island County Park is now connected to the mainland by a causeway composed entirely of white sand. Indian Island County Park has deep roots to our local history as it holds traces of the Native Americans who once called this place home. The site of the Indian Golf Course was once the world’s largest duck farm. Indian Island is home to many different types of animals and a vast amount of recreational activities. Park activities include camping, picnicking, boating, fishing, hiking and bird watching. This afternoon I stopped by the Parks Board of Trustees monthly meeting which was held at Indian Island County Park. The Board made up of representatives from each of the 10 towns help make recommendations on basic parks policies and long term plans for County parks and historic sites.
The Dennis Puleston Warbler Woods Nature Preserve in Yaphank includes 700 acres of pristine pine barren forest. At this park there is a 1.9 mile easy loop trail. The small parking area is located on the east side of Yaphank-Middle Island Road, north of Shannon Boulevard and south of the Middle Island Country Club. This wonderfully serene park is home to many species of birds and is a popular location for those wishing to bird watch. You may even come across a Blackburnian warbler which calls this park home and the reason it is referred to as Warbler Woods. While traversing the trails you will be immersed in the old trees which surround you in this park. Dennis Puleston, the parks namesake, is best known for his advocacy banning the use of DDT first in Suffolk County, then nationwide. In season, this is one of the County's archery hunting parks by permit only. Dogs on leash are allowed.
Frank Melville Memorial Park, includes the home of the last miller in Setauket, a simulated mill house with a working water mill, a circular walking trail around the upper pond, the Setauket Post Office, over 24 acres of winding forest trails, the red barn, and the Bates House. While visiting the park in the spring you are sure to see cygnets swimming in the pond, and on sunny days, the turtles are always out basking in the warm rays. This tranquil park is included on the National Register of Historic Places. The park hosts many events throughout the year including my favorite the Red Barn Music Series every Sunday in the summer starting July 10th. Classes are also offered at the Bates House such as yoga, taichi, meditation, investment group, and writing workshops. To learn more, please visit: http://www.frankmelvillepark.org/.
Caumsett State Historic Park Preserve, in Llyod Neck sits atop 1,520-acre with scenic grounds and paths that lead to the Long Island Sound. While visiting this park be sure to stop and contemplate the beauty of nature in the picturesque gardens and watch the horses at the equestrian barn on your way through the woods winding down to the blue waters of the Long Island Sound. Caumsett State Park, named after the Matinecock Native American term, Caumsett which means “place by a sharp rock”; was acquired in 1961 and when it was developed in the 1920s had facilities for every sport except golf. This park is a must visit for anyone looking to get away for a while. Even the winding road to the Park has wonderful views of the Sound. The park is open year round from sunrise to sunset 7 days a week but during high season there is a vehicle entrance fee. No pets are allowed.
This 1,815 acre park is a land of transitions complimented by beach grass extending under pine tree canopy and prairie grasses abutting salt marsh. While enjoying the beautiful sights of the park, you also find yourself enveloped in a land with a 10,000 year heritage. The park starts with the Native American Shinnecock Nation and extends to the Town of Southampton. 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. The park includes an easy 2.6 mile lightly trafficked out and back, 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. Hubbard County Park allows fishing at freshwater Penny Pond, hunting, hiking, as well as canoeing & kayaking.
This morning I joined Maureen Calamia local author of Creating Luminous Spaces for a Mindfulness Forest-Bathing walk through Sweetbriar Nature Center is located in Smithtown. These monthly walks hosted by Sweetbriar leave you feeling connected to nature and the world around you. Sweetbriar Nature Center is a not-for-profit, park and wildlife rehabilitation center which provides educational programs across Long Island engaging both the young and young at heart with information about the natural world around us. Sweetbriar Nature Center is situated on 54 acres containing gardens, woodland, fields and wetland habitats on the Nissequogue River. I encourage you to visit the park and their website to find out about the many programs hosted at this wonderful facility. To learn more information about Sweetbriar, please visit: http://sweetbriarnc.org/.
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. The park includes meandering trails through the the oak and maple trees that line this woodland. The 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.
Summer isn’t complete without at least one relaxing picnic along with your loved ones and Belmont Lake State Park provides the perfect opportunity for that! You can picnic with your family, celebrate a birthday outdoors, or even go on a hike alongside the scenic and peaceful Belmont Lake. You may even want to get out on the lake on the many pedal boats and kayaks that are available to rent. The park has activities available for all regardless of the time of year. You can go fishing in the summer, watch the Great Jack-O-Lantern Sail event in the fall, or attend the Holiday Tree Lighting in the winter. Belmont Lake State Park is the perfect place to spend the day relaxing with your family and getting that extra boost of Oxytocin that goes a long way for your mental well-being. I hope to see you out there over the summer!
The Flax Pond Tidal Wetland Area (https://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/112697.html) offers a short accessible 0.3-mile trail which leads from the parking area and into the wetland, following along a boardwalk across the water with breathtaking views of Flax Pond. A narrow footpath winds across the marsh at low tides to the white pebbled beach on the Long Island Sound with a spectacular view of the Old Field Lighthouse and Connecticut in the distance. Fishing is allowed in Flax Pond and on the beach. Look for winter flounder, bluefish and striped bass. Paddling is allowed but the water level is affected by the tide stages, making the inlet impassable at times. There is no dedicated boat launch but canoes and kayaks can be launched by hand from the water's edge. The property is an example of a mature maritime forest, a rare ecosystem in New York State.
The Flax Pond Tidal Wetland Area was acquired by New York state in 1966 under the joint jurisdiction of the DEC and Stony Brook University. This 152-acre property includes the majority of Flax Pond and wetlands (128.2 acres) and adjacent upland (24 acres), as well as Childs Mansion and the Flax Pond Marine Lab. DEC manages the acreage for habitat protection and nature enjoyment by the public, while the university manages primarily for research and education. Please note: a free seasonal access permit, that is available from https://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/7815.html, is required for using this property.
If you’re looking to get away for a day and immerse yourself in the majestic outdoors, then Blydenburgh County Park is just the place for you! Whether you want to go hiking through a rich, green forest, go fishing for local fish, or go canoeing on Stump Pond, Blydenburgh has it all and more. 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. You’ll find yourself in awe of the beautiful, scenic park where the trees are leafy and provide ample shade and the blue skies reflect in the clear lake. There are also small and large dog runs and leashed dogs are welcome on the trails, as well as horseback riders. The Long Island Greenbelt Trail Conference (http://www.ligreenbelt.org/index.php) even has its office within Blydenburgh County Park. Anyone can access Blydenburgh County Park, which is a great place to listen to nature or practice mindfulness, however, if it is during the summer there is a fee to park.
Shorefront Park in the Village of Patchogue is a great location to visit for the whole family. The park includes 3 baseball diamonds, basketball courts, playground, hiking/biking trails, and a bandshell. The park is ADA accessible and has restrooms available for the public. The site also hosts one of the largest music festivals in Suffolk County, - the Great South Bay Music Festival (https://www.greatsouthbaymusicfestival.com/). This park is certainly worth a visit.
Take me out to the ball game, or the playground or the unpaved walking trail which are all part of this 8 acre Town of Brookhaven park located on the northwest corner of Howe Road and Hawkins Path in Coram (https://www.brookhavenny.gov/Facilities/Facility/Details/Tanglewood-Park-105).
Nestled in Greenport Village is this great Skate Park. The park is open year round from dawn to dusk weather permitting. The facility is 20,000 square feet and includes a half-pipe, street course, and mini-ramps. This skate park is for skateboarders and rollerbladers only. Those wishing to test out the site should wear a helmet, pads, and safety gear. This summer at the park the Village of Greenport is hosting the Sound and Skate Festival. One of the events at the festival will be a graffiti/mural artist competition. Of those who enter the competition 25 finalist will be selected to compete during the festival. There will be 3 winners chosen who will receive cash prizes. For more information visit: https://www.greenportskatepark.org/skatepark-festival.
Today, I am spotlighting Southaven County Park in Yaphank which boasts over a thousand acres of rich, green forest split by the Carmans River. Here, you can enjoy a day of hunting, fishing, renting a canoe or rowboat, and camp at one of over 100 campsites. At this dog friendly park there is a playground, a family picnic area, and a peace pole which was installed by the South Country Peace Group. Did you also know that Southaven County Park became one of the first County Parks when it was opened to the public in the 1960s? Now that should convince you to take a trip out to Yaphank and visit a majestic piece of Suffolk County’s history.
Today, I visited the Peconic Riverfront Park and walked along the boardwalk which runs along the Peconic River. Along the boardwalk are benches and a gazebo. In the summertime the boardwalk is a great spot to see fireworks on the 4th of July. after walking the boardwalk, I crossed Peconic Avenue into the Milton L Burns Park. This park was named after former Riverhead Town Supervisor and Veteran Milton L Burns. Formerly known as Grangebel Park, Riverhead Town has put a lot of effort into making this park into a community space. From the many art installations, to the fish ladder this park is a really cute park to take a stroll through. About once a month in the summer the town and BID host Reflexations Riverhead which is an art and light interactive exhibit at this park (https://reflextionsriverhead.com).
Captree State Park is a 340 acre State Park located at the eastern end of Jones Beach. Those looking for a great fishing spot there are two piers are located here for fishing or crabbing. After a long day of excursions, you may want to lay back and take in the breathtaking views of Fire Island while eating the best chili dogs you’ll ever taste. Leave your furry friends at home as pets are not allowed.
The Thomas Muratore Park at Farmingville Hills County Park, in Farmingville, was purchased by the county in the 1980's as a part of the Open Space Preservation Act. In May of 2010, this 105 acre park officially opened to the public as a place where the community could come together. The Farmingville Historical Society act as stewards of the park, hosting events on the property throughout the year. This park provides a large open area of grass and 1.64 miles of well marked hiking trails with some pretty steep hills and sandy soil. Once you step onto the trails at this park you are transported into a dense forest with sounds of chirping birds and chittering squirrels all around; making you instantly forget that this park is right off of Horseblock Road. Pet Friendly.
Last year, the Suffolk County Legislature renamed this park in honor of our colleague Tom Muratore. I had the pleasure of working with, and sitting next to Tom at the Legislative horseshoe for nearly 8 years before his untimely passing in 2020. Tom was a kind man who cared enormously about his community and the residents he served. His presence at the Legislature has been greatly missed but this park stands as a testament to his life’s work
Terrell River County Park is 263 acres of beautiful woodlands, marshes, and views of Moriches Bay. The main park trail is (nearly) a 3 mile loop and the beach is over 1.25 miles down the trail. These trails are great for all skill levels! If you expect to lounge by the beach, with your beach towels and cooler plan for a bit of a workout to get to the beach. There are picnic tables that off the trails and next to the marshes. This is formerly known as the Havens Estate and was purchased by Suffolk County in 1986. The Moriches Bay Audubon Society was designated as the park steward in 2001. Dogs on leashes are welcome at this County Park.
The Quogue Wildlife Refuge is operated by the Southampton Township Wildfowl Association (STWA), a non-profit which maintains the 300 acre nature preserve founded in 1934. At the preserve you can learn about local wildlife native to New York who, because of injury, are permanently housed in the Outdoor Wildlife Complex or enjoy over seven miles of trails. The Charles Banks Belt Nature Center offers visitors a view of the Old Ice Pond and houses wildlife exhibits, live animals, a nature library, and gift shop. The Wildlife Refuge offers regular programs like weekly yoga classes, full moon walks, and educational events with the rehabbed animals housed at the complex. Dogs are not permitted (https://quoguewildliferefuge.org).
In honor of the New York State “I Love My Park Day” (https://www.ptny.org/events/i-love-my-park-day), I chose to highlight Connetquot River State Park Preserve located in Oakdale. There were several volunteer opportunities across Long Island to help cleanup local State Parks today between 8:30am and 2pm, including at Connetquot River State Park. This Park and Preserve contains nearly 3,500 acres of sandy Pine Barrens, wetlands, ponds and woodlands situated along the Connetquot River; including 50 miles of hiking, horseback riding, 4.4 miles of the LI Greenbelt Trail, cross-country skiing, nature trails and river trout fishing (by permit only). The park, maintained by NYS Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and The Friends of Connetquot, offers nature programs for all ages. Dogs are NOT allowed at this State Park (https://parks.ny.gov/parks/connetquotriver).
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 there is 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 below dedicated to a predecessor of mine at the Legislature, Nora Bredes. A beautiful quote from the bench not shown in the photo “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
Sans Souci County Park is a 316 acre Nature Preserve located in Sayville, adjacent to the Suffolk County Girl Scout’s Camp Edey. Sans Souci is the French phrase for "without worry.” While hiking in this pristine preserve you will be able truly understand the meaning of this phrase. The winding well marked and easy to follow 3 miles of trails in this preserve offer shade from the sun, wind through hills in the northern section and show glimpses of the string of lakes in the southern section. Until the mid-1800s the lakes surrounding Sans Souci County Park were continuous; locals built small dams sectioning off the lake to turn the area into cranberry bogs. For those looking for a good geocaching site look no further; the preserve also has trail markers informing visitors about everything from plants to pollution, and water levels to fire damage. Leashed dogs are allowed at this county park.
Gardiner County Park, located in Bayshore, has beautiful views of the Great South Bay. This 231 acre park was previously owned by the Gardiner Family and that is how the park received its name. Leashed dogs are welcome on the trails. There is a small and large dog run and a dog obstacle course located near the parking lot. There is also a playground and picnic tables. The trails are well groomed mostly packed sand and stroller and wheel chair accessible. At the end of the main trail there are stunning views of the bridge to the Robert Moses Causeway. A great spot to take a moment and listen to the water, and smell the salt air. There are many birds who call this park home, such as the red winged blackbird. See how many you can identify while visiting the park! Since this park is located near the marsh it can get buggy so remember to wear mosquito repellent and check for ticks if walking through high grass.
Today I am highlighting the Setauket-Port Jefferson Station Greenway Trail. This is the perfect local trail for the runners and biking enthusiasts in our community. Both picturesque and well-maintained, the Greenway Trail is ideal for winding down after a long day or week and taking in some much-needed fresh air and greenery. It cannot be said enough just how beneficial a quick walk through a nature trail is to our overall wellness and this trail is great for people who aren’t avid hikers and need a nature escape. While it is hilly, the trail is both well-paved and safe for beginners. The Greenway Trail is maintained by The Friends of the Greenway (https://www.threevillagecommunitytrust.org/greenway/), a volunteer organization who host regular cleanups and beautification projects along the trail.
To kick off APADIM I am starting with Old Field Farm County Park. The 0.4 of a mile crushed gravel multiuse trail provides visitors with stunning views of this historic 13 acre equestrian show ground and of West Meadow Creek. Take a moment to sit on one of the benches (installed by a local boy scout) to enjoy the sunshine, and take in views of the creek, the Osprey’s flying overhead, and the wildlife that calls the marsh home. The western end of the park contains a small parking area which links to both West Meadow Beach and nearly two mile (down and back) paved trail maintained by the Town of Brookhaven.
The Farm is adjacent to 88 acres of protected wetlands overlooking Long Island Sound on the north and the West Meadow Creek wetlands to the south -- an area which has been designated “outstanding natural coastal area” (ONCA) by New York State. Long Island artists have found inspiration for their award-winning works in the Farm’s remarkable combination of man-made and natural beauty.
Long Island philanthropist Ward Melville built Old Field Farm, originally known as the North Shore Horse Show Grounds, in 1931. Melville commissioned architect Richard Haviland Smythe to create a unique equestrian facility located on a distinctive waterfront setting on Long Island’s North Shore. The stable complex is composed a Main Barn and courtyard, numerous free-standing stables and a large Old Fashioned wooden grandstand, all designed in the Colonial Revival style.
Equestrian and community activities are annually sponsored by Old Field Farm, Ltd., a nonprofit organization specifically created to restore and operate Old Field Farm County Park (https://longislandhorseshows.com).