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Dog Parks

By John L. Turner

Spending time amidst the splendor of nature with family and friends at various local parks is a great way to spend a day, especially with the cooler weather of autumn. And because many parks situated throughout Long Island allow dogs, including several specifically established for dogs, you don’t have to leave your four-legged friend at home, eyeing you longingly through the screen door as you head to your car. Grab the leash and bring Fido along — you’ll both benefit from the exercise. 

You already know the benefits to your health from regular exercise — weight control, cardiovascular fitness, strengthening bones and muscles, and boosting your immune system. Well, the same holds true for your dog — regular walking provides a suite of physical health benefits, an important fact considering that 50% of the dogs in America are overweight, according to a national veterinary group.  Walking also provides emotional and mental health benefits to your dog — in fact, there is nothing your dog would rather do (except eating) than join their best buddy on a walk!      

Dog friendly parks can be conveniently broken into two categories depending on your and your pet’s desired experience and interest: Leashed dog parks — those allowing dogs but require them to be leashed, typically larger parks open for other uses such as Blydenburgh County Park, and fenced-in dog parks — parks created exclusively for dogs where they can run and play off-leash and unrestrained within a fenced-in area with other dogs. 

Given all these parks where dogs can roam and romp, there are plenty of places to explore and enjoy the outdoors with your fur-covered friend. Enjoy the time with your pet but don’t forget the leash, poop bags, water and, of course, some dog cookies.  

Leashed Dog Parks

Leashed dogs are permitted in a number of state, county, and town-owned parks as well as several privately-owned parks. Here are some really special ones you and your dog are sure to enjoy.

Arthur Kunz County Park

Landing Avenue, Smithtown 


This is an undeveloped county park on the west side of the Nissequogue River, named in honor of a past Suffolk County Planning Director. The park offers numerous sweeping views of the Nissequogue River. Heavily forested with a few small streams that run through it to the river, it contains an abundance of tulip trees, a straight and tall tree that can grow to majestic proportions. Access is from a small parking area along the road where Landing Avenue performs a sharp turn to the right approximately 1,500 feet from its intersection with St. Johnland Road. Instead of making the sharp right, stay straight and you’ll see a small wooden sign on your left identifying the park. 

Avalon Park & Preserve

200 Harbor Road, Stony Brook


Privately run, this well-attended preserve straddles Shep Jones Lane. Popular features include a labyrinth and the Cartas Al Cielo (Letters to God) stainless ball sculpture by artist Alicia Framis. Ecologically it is quite diverse with numerous fields, well developed forests of beech, hickory, oak, and black birch, and frontage on Stony Brook Mill Pond, where you can see the nests of Double-crested Cormorants adorning the trees. A series of hiking trails meander through both the eastern and western sections of the preserve, rising and falling as the paths traverse the rolling terrain. Parking is either along Harbor Road near the Stony Brook Grist Mill or in the parking lots along Shep Jones Lane. Please note the park is closed on Mondays.

Blydenburgh County Park

Veterans Memorial Highway, Smithtown


This large county park surrounds and includes Stump Pond (also known as Blydenburgh Lake). If you are adventurous, you can walk around the pond and in so doing will pass through some beautiful extensive forests and low lying swampy areas. The Blydenburgh National Historic District, encompassing eight structures, including a grist mill, is situated in the northwestern section of the park. It also has a fenced-in dog park. The northern entrance can be accessed from New Mill Road which intersects with Brooksite Drive. The southern access point is through an entrance road from State Route 347 across from the Hauppauge County Center. 

Chandler Estate Park

233 N. Country Road, Mt. Sinai 


This 40-acre Suffolk County-owned preserve is situated on the southern edge of Mount Sinai Harbor. The park is laced with trails but given its small size you can’t really get lost. Pass through a metal gate and within a short distance will have the choice to at a fork in the trail. If you stay straight it will take you more quickly to the edge of the harbor. The trail to the right leads east and a smaller trail to your left will take you north toward the harbor too. This park is a small gem that is definitely worth getting to know better. Access to the park is gained through the parking lot of the Mt. Sinai Congregational Church situated near the corner of the cemetery.

Cordwood Landing County Park

Landing Avenue, Miller Place


This 70-acre nature preserve located in Miller Place was formerly Camp Barstow, a Girl Scout camp. It was named to reflect the cordwood industry which was an important economic driver in the mid-to-late nineteenth century in Suffolk County. The main path leads to the more than 1000 feet of beach front. If you want a more circuitous walk through this heavily forested preserve dominated by oaks, hickories, birch and beech, there is a trail that meanders through the preserve’s eastern portion before following the top of the bluff that fronts on Long Island Sound. This section of the trail provides breathtaking views of the Sound and shoreline. 

Forsythe Meadow County Park

52 Hollow Road, Stony Brook


A 34-acre preserve that sits above the Stony Brook Village Center, the County’s Forsythe Meadow/Nora Bredes Preserve has a 1.2 mile circular trail that loops through the meadows and woodlands of the preserve. The diversity of habitats makes it a good place to see birds, butterflies, deer and other wildlife. A few breaks in the forest canopy provide views of Stony Brook Harbor in the winter. Access is via a stone lined road, next to the county park sign, off of Hollow Road.  

Frank Melville Memorial Park

1 Old Field Road, Setauket 


The “Central Park” of Setauket, the privately-run 24-acre park was dedicated in 1937 to the memory of Frank Melville Jr., father of local philanthropist Ward Melville. This community treasure consists of forested land adjacent to the southern end of Conscience Bay. The scenic pond, bracketed by two stone bridges, is the central attraction of the park and countless visitors like to walk around the pond on the paved trail that circles it. A simulated grist mill is adjacent to the northern bridge and the vantage point from this bridge offers a panoramic view of the Bay. This park is easily reached either by accessing Bates Road off of Main Street near the village green in Setauket, or park in one of the designated parking spaces on Main Street adjacent to the Setauket Post Office. 

Heckscher Park

2 Prime Ave., Huntington


Heckscher Park, the Town of Huntington’s “Central Park”, of which it appears to represent a small-scale version, is pretty! A small lake, situated in the northwestern portion of the park, provides habitat for turtles and a variety of waterbirds including ducks, swans and geese. A number of paved trails, including one around the lake, are laid out through the park. When tired, you and your pet can rest in the large grassy sections and enjoy manicured gardens. Parking is provided along the south side of Madison Avenue.

Makamah Nature Preserve

Fort Salonga Road, Fort Salonga

631- 854-4949

Another undeveloped, yet beautiful, preserve laced with hiking trails, Makamah Nature Preserve is part of the Crab Meadow watershed and, adjoining the Town of Huntington-owned Crab Meadow Golf Course and marshland area, forms more than 500 acres of contiguous preserved open space. The property, which was acquired by Suffolk County in 1973, is heavily forested, dominated by oaks, several hickory species, black birch,with spicebush growing in the understory. IThe main loop trail that runs around the edge of the preserve (there are quite a few interior trails that can complicate your walk so it’s best to bring a trail map) provides great views of the stream valley to the east which flows into the marsh and at one vantage point offers a panoramic view of the Crab Meadow Marsh. Access to the property is from a parking lot that fronts on State Route 25A, a little bit west of its intersection with Makamah Road. 

Port Jefferson Public Beach

East Broadway, Port Jefferson


Located on the west side of Port Jefferson Harbor, this well-known dog park and beach is a great place for your pet to get some exercise while providing pretty views of the harbor for the enjoyment of the dog’s two-legged companions. It is a bit tricky to get to. It is located north of the main section of Harborfront Park, so drive in the main access road to the park, driving past the Village Center and Bayles Boat Shop and, finally, past the numerous parking spaces on your right. When you reach a fork bear left and go straight and you’ll see the elongated parking lot for the beach. 

Setauket-Port Jefferson Station Greenway Trail 


This 5.1 mile long Setauket to Port Jefferson Station Greenway trail provides a scenic path connecting these two communities together. Along the way, on this slightly undulating paved path, you’ll pass by occasional open areas and fields, as well as dense forests dominated by various oak, hickory and other trees. The trail crosses over numerous roads including Gnarled Hollow Road, Old Town Road, and Sheep Pasture Road, and along your journey you can contemplate how and why they got their names. Access to the Greenway is available from both its ends. The western terminus is accessed through the parking lot situated on Limroy Lane, off of Route 25A while the eastern end at Clifton Place is gained through the elongated parking lot on the west side of State Route 112 across from its intersection with Hallock Lane. 

Thomas Muratore Park at Farmingville Hills

501 Horseblock Road, Farmingville


This heavily wooded undeveloped 105-acre park was purchased by the county in the 1980s as a part of the Open Space Preservation Act. The 105-acre park officially opened to the public in May of 2010 and was renamed in memory of Leg. Tom Muratore in April of this year. Approximately 1.2 miles of hiking trails, consisting of two loops, weave among the forest that is rolling in nature, containing elevations that reach as high as 270 feet above sea level. Two historic structures managed by the Farmingville Historical Society — the 1850 Greek Revival School House and the Terry House, built in 1823 — are found in the southeastern section of the park. There is parking for about a dozen vehicles. 

West Hills County Park 

181 Sweet Hollow Road, Huntington 


This is a large park situated on the highest section of the Ronkonkoma Moraine, the row of hills formed by the third of four glaciers that advanced during the Ice Age which shaped and created Long Island. In fact, Jayne’s Hill, the highest point on Long Island, topping out at the nose-bleed elevation of 401 feet (actually the height has never been precisely determined with heights as low as 383 feet and high as 414 feet being stated), is situated in the northeastern corner of the park. On top there is a boulder containing a plaque in which Walt Whitman’s well-known piece “Paumanok” is inscribed, a poem which in such a distilled way captures the essence of Long Island. The Walt Whitman Trail, a loop which connects Whitman’s birthplace with the county park and Jayne’s Hill, is about 3.6 miles long — a nice hike for a morning or afternoon. Jayne’s Hill is reached off of Reservoir Road while additional access is off of Sweet Hollow Road and High Hold Drive. 

Fenced-in Parks

There are several smaller, fenced-in parks where your dog can romp off-leash, socializing and playing with other dogs. The Town of Brookhaven, for example, has established several dog parks, the two closest fenced-in parks being the Middle Island Dog Park, 1075 Middle Country Road, Middle Island and the Selden Dog Park, 100 Boyle Road, Selden. A Pooch Pass  from the town is required. Likewise, the Town of Smithtown has a fenced-in dog park at Charles P. Toner Park, 148 Smithtown Blvd. in Nesconset. 

Suffolk County maintains several established, fenced-in dog parks too, situated within larger county parks located in the northern half of Suffolk County. Two popular ones are the dog parks at West Hills and Blydenburgh County Parks

A resident of Setauket, author John Turner is conservation chair of the Four Harbors Audubon Society, author of “Exploring the Other Island: A Seasonal Nature Guide to Long Island,” president of Alula Birding & Natural History Tours and pens a monthly column for TBR News Media titled Nature Matters.

This article originally appeared in TBR News Media’s 2022 Harvest Times supplement.



Tree graffiti damages trees in Avalon Park. Photo by Donna Deedy

When Avalon Park & Preserve on Harbor Road in St. James and Stony Brook first opened in 2001, it welcomed on average 50 to 550 people each week. Today, during the peak seasons of spring and fall, an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 people frequent the 140-acre preserve on a weekly basis, and its popularity has become the source of a problem: protecting the integrity of the place. 

Ducklings found in Avalon park. Photo by Donna Deedy

People are carving initials into trees, walking off trails and otherwise damaging habitats.

The park is trying to find ways to instill lessons on park etiquette without becoming too obtrusive. The task, though, according to Park Director Katharine Griffiths, has become more complicated with the rising popularity of Instagram and its geo-location features. 

Foot traffic has spiked over the last five to seven years, Griffiths said, just as the phone app’s use has increased.

“We don’t do publicity or have a social media presence,” she said. People are sharing photos of themselves at the park and certain social media posts, she noticed, seem to invite trouble.

After people climbed on top an art installation on site, she said, in violation of one of the preserve’s only posted rules, other people saw the image and tried the same antic. 

In talking with other park directors, Griffiths has found that they are experiencing similar concerns with social media.

To address the problem, Griffiths is looking at the efforts of a nationwide campaign called Leave No Trace, developed by the Center for Outdoor Ethics, a nonprofit organization that is raising public awareness on how to preserve and enjoy the outdoors. 

Nine out of 10 people are uninformed about the impact they have on their environment, the center’s website states. The organization has developed seven principles that people should adopt to minimize their impact. The guidelines were founded for back-country excursions, but the center states that the approaches can be easily adapted to any park setting. Griffiths agrees.

The ideas are mainly common sense:  Properly dispose of waste, respect wildlife, be considerate of other visitors. Other principles are more nuanced and need to be more widely practiced.

Leave what you find/avoid damaging trees and plants

A major concern at Avalon centers on bark damage caused by people carving their names or initials into trees. Trees along the boardwalk at the park’s main entrance on Harbor Road in St. James at the Stony Brook Mill Pond are badly scarred. Some tree species are now suffering from disease. Griffiths said it is unlikely that the tree graffiti caused the problem. 

“But it certainly stresses trees and doesn’t help,” she said.

The park has hired park rangers 24/7, which has helped curb the issue. The problem, however, continues. 

Many of the couples who have carved their initials in hearts, Griffiths notes, are likely no longer together. The tree damage, she said, is permanent.

Stay on trails 

Avalon has carefully created meandering trails through five different wildlife habitats populated entirely with native fauna. The trails are an important part of its successful land management strategy. Straying off those trails damages vegetation or disturbs communities of organisms beyond recovery. Wildlife ecosystems are often interdependent, and when you harm one species it can cause a chain reaction. 

A Black Egret found in Avalon park. Photo by Donna Deedy

Avalon has had to incorporate fencing to rope off the nesting areas of woodland ducks, for instance, because people were venturing off its boardwalk at the park’s main entrance into the pond’s edge. Griffiths said that the park’s managers prefer to leave nature unobstructed, but the fence became essential to protect the habitat.

Dogs are welcomed at Avalon, but dog owners need to be mindful of picking up waste and keeping the animals on a leash. Frank Melville Memorial Park in Setauket, another privately owned public parkland, asks dog owners to be diligent. 

“People like that we allow pets, but its a constant challenge,” said Robert Reuter, president of Frank Melville Memorial Park. 

Respect wildlife

The center states that people should quietly observe wildlife from a distance. Do not disturb animals or plants, they say, “just to get a better look.”

Tree graffiti damages trees in Avalon Park. Photo by Donna Deedy

Lucille Betti-Nash from Four Harbors Audubon Society recommends investing in binoculars or a super-zoom camera, sometimes called a bridge camera, if people want close-up views of wildlife.

Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service park in Shirley, is dealing with similar issues. Park Director Ann Marie Chapman said that she is also trying to better educate the public. 

“The wildlife on Long Island have very few places left to go,” she said. “We should keep these public parklands pristine.”

Like Griffiths, she hopes people adopt good outdoor habits.

Carry in, carry out

“Remember we are guests,” Chapman said. “Just like when you’re visiting someone else’s home, you need to respect the surroundings when you visit parkland.” 

Suffolk County Legislator Robert Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) said that he visits and walks through Avalon once a month and has never seen a speck of garbage.

“I love the fact that there’s no garbage cans,” he said. “It forces people to carry out any trash they bring in.”

He’s looking forward to the park’s 70-acre expansion. When completed sometime next year, the park’s trails will extend to the Long Island Sound waterfront. 

“The place is heaven on earth,” Trotta said. 

County officials at Cordwood Landing County Park in Miller Place announce free park access. Photo by Kyle Barr

Suffolk County legislators announced April 16 all county residents will have free access to all county parks April 20 through April 28.

Parks Appreciation Week will coincide with National Parks Week, which promotes free access to all federally-owned parks.

Normally residents require the county parks Green Key Card, which charges $30 for a three-year pass; otherwise they would have to pay a parking fee. During the week the county will have no admission required.

“We have this luscious, beautiful woodland that we can enjoy,” said legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai).

During the week, Suffolk officials are also promoting a number of programs in many county parks.

For more information, go to Suffolk County’s parks website at https://www.suffolkcountyny.gov/Departments/Parks  or call Suffolk County Parks Department at 631-854-4949.

Here are some of the events going on during the week:
  • St. James General Store –New Spring Displays and old fashioned items available at the store. The St. James General Store is an historic and is a National Historic Landmark has been in continuous operation since it was built in 1857 by Ebenezer Smith. It held St James’ first post office. It is considered to be the most authentic general store in the United States.
  • Long Island Maritime Museum is hosting fun Spring Break Classes for Children April 22-26
  • The Seatuck Environmental Association (550 South Bay Ave Islip, New York 11751)  is hosting their The 10th Annual Eco-Carnival Saturday, April 27, 2019 A full day of educational family fun featuring nature programs , live animals, music, art and food to celebrate Earth Day 2019
  • Vanderbilt Museum will be hosting its annual Bunny Fest, located at 80 Little Neck Road in Centerport Saturday, April 20
  • The Vanderbilt Museum’s Spring Creative Workshops for Children (180 Little Neck Road) Centerport, April 22-26 offering a different program each day
  • Versatile Steel Silk Band Returns to Planetarium (180 Little Neck Road) April 27 @ 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm
  • North Fork Environmental Council  is hosting a 5K Walk/Run –  Help “Save What’s Left” April 28. Indian Island Proceeds will be used to fund the 2019 NFEC Scholarship Fund. This fund will give two scholarships to high school seniors that plan to pursue environmental.
  • DEC Free Fishing at Southaven Park April 23 10am-12pm. In this fishing event participants can fish for free, where they supply all bait, rods, and tackle for free, no freshwater fishing license necessary. In addition to fishing, participants can learn about fish identification, fishing equipment and techniques, angling ethics and aquatic ecology.
  • Long Island Greenbelt is holding its STUMP POND CIRCULAR “CHOCOLATE” HIKE April 25 at 9:00 AM – 5.7 miles – moderate – varied – Info Nancy B., 631-682-0035. Hike around the 120-acre pond in Blydenburgh Park: bring drinks and snack: rain or shine, although extreme weather cancels; meet at the south entrance of Blydenburgh County Park, opposite the County Offices on NY 347 in the parking lot just east (above) the entrance booth; enjoy a chocolate snack when over.
  • Long Island Greenbelt LAKELAND County Park TO WESTBROOK: April 27 9:00 AM – 6 miles – moderate – flat – Info: Tom or Sherri, 631-567-9484. See Honeysuckle Pond, the Connetquot River, historic hatchery and mill and more on a walk-through Lakeland County Park and Connetquot River State Park Preserve; rain cancels; bring water; meet at Westbrook sports complex; from So. St. Pkwy. Exit 45E, follow Montauk Hwy. east over LIRR bridge to an immediate left onto Wheeler Rd.; park at bottom of hill.
  • Long Island Greenbelt San Souci Stroll April 28 10:00 AM – 4 miles – moderate – mostly flat – Info: Kathie, 631-682-5133.    We will explore two trails in the pine barrens of this county park in Sayville; heavy rain cancels; meet at park entrance on Broadway Avenue turn left to park; parking is limited; overflow parking on Broadway Ave. or side street opposite entrance.
  • Long Island Beach Buggy Association Beach clean-up of Smith Point County Park on April 27
  • Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center at Munns County Park Nanny Class. Learn how to assist our hospital staff in feeding the orphaned babies this Spring in this class. No experience necessary. We will train you. Commit to a minimum of 3 hours per week. Ages 16 and over. Call 631-728-WILD(9453) to register
  • North Fork Audubon-Earth Day and Get To Know Your Local County Park Saturday April 20 at 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. Inlet Pond County Park 64795 County Rd 48 Greenport Celebrate Earth Day and “Get To Know Your Local County Park Day” with The North Fork Audubon Society at Inlet Pond County Park.  The Nature Center will be open and there will 2 guided nature walks at 10 AM and 12 PM respectively. This is a family fun day, so adults and children are welcome. Come discover Inlet Pond County Park and learn about the North fork Audubon Society as well. For more information contact Tom Damiani at (631)-275-3202
  • Sagtikos Manor Earth Day Clean-up Monday April 22 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. 677 Montauk Highway West Bay Shore Bring your gardening gloves and weeding tools and we will provide the rest.
  • Nissequogue River and Kayak Rentals open for Paul T. Given County Park, Smithtown call for tide and rental information 631-979-8422.
  • Scout Stewardship Day at SCMELC Mon 4/22/19 Hours 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. Calling all scout troops. Join us for a celebration of Earth Day to learn about and get directly involved with the restoration and stewardship efforts of CCE’s Marine Program. Projects will include eelgrass restoration, shellfish population enhancement, a beach clean-up and more!
  • This program is intended for scouts ages 6-18 with their leaders. All children must be accompanied by an adult, this is not a drop-off event. Advanced registration REQUIRED via Eventbrite Fee $10/person
  • Blydenburgh Rowboat rentals available daily 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.
  • Southaven Rowboat rentals available daily 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Jeannean Mercuri, vice president of the Nassau-Suffolk Horsemen’s Association, mounts Cricket the horse on the new trail hub in the Rocky Point Pine Barrens. Photo from DEC

By Desirée Keegan

A day when Montauk and New York City are connected across Long Island by trails might not be too far off.

On Sept. 22, the Department of Environmental Conservation celebrated the completion of a piece of the Rocky Point Pine Barrens State Forest Multi-Use Trail Hub Project. The project is an effort to connect trail systems across Rocky Point, Ridge, Yaphank and Shirley. The entire trail system when completed will pass through the DEC’s Pine Barrens, Suffolk County and Town of Brookhaven parkland, and end in the Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge.

The new trail hub can be found on the north side of Middle Country Road in Ridge, between Wading River Road and Woodlot Road.

“The completion of this trail hub is an instrumental step in the effort to connect Long Island’s trail systems,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said. “The multiple features of this hub will allow local residents and visitors, young and old, and of any ability, to take advantage of Long Island’s stunning natural diversity.”

The new hub, located on the south end of the Rocky Point Pine Barrens State Forest, is expected to be one of the central public access spots for the new trail system. It features a car and horse trailer parking lot, a newly built half-mile Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible hiking trail, an accessible horse mounting platform, and a half-mile connector to an existing horse and hiking trail.

Carrie Meek Gallagher, New York State's Department of Environmental Conservation's Regional Director, speaking during the grand opening of the new trail hub in the Rocky Point Pine Barrens. Photo from DEC
Carrie Meek Gallagher, New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation’s Regional Director, speaking during the grand opening of the new trail hub in the Rocky Point Pine Barrens. Photo from DEC

“I am fortunate to represent one of the most beautiful regions of New York State,” Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) said. “As the sponsor of the legislation that created the Pine Barrens Preserve, I am pleased that we are creating an opportunity for more individuals to access the trails. The ADA accessibility will enable those with mobility issues to enjoy more of Long Island’s natural beauty firsthand.”

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) also commended the DEC for its work with the ADA.

“It’s very important that all residents get the opportunity to share in the natural beauty that surrounds us and we must do whatever we can to preserve it for generations to come,” he said.

The project began in October 2014, with funding from NY Works, and was completed in June for a total cost of $460,000. The trail hub is located on the property of the former Lustgarden Nursery in Ridge. In April, the DEC worked with Students Taking Action for Tomorrow’s Environment in an Arbor Day reforestation effort. The student volunteers planted 250 seedlings of native New York tree species.

“The new trail hub is about connecting people with nature and making it easier to get out and explore Long Island’s treasure of trails and the beautiful wildlands they traverse,” Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) said.

The DEC acquired the 274-acre site in 1996 from Baier Lustgarten. It was the site of Baier Lustgarten Farms and Nursery, which used the acreage to plant nursery stock, including native and non-native trees, shrubs and ornamentals. Several neglected structures were razed from the property, including a house, a barn, greenhouses and cottages for farm hands.

“The new multi-use trail hub is a wonderful community centerpiece that gives residents greater access to enjoy the beautiful Rocky Point Pine Barrens,” Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) said. “The new hub connects several communities and allows for hiking, horseback riding and bike riding. The DEC has done a wonderful job in creating this very important greenway park that will truly make a difference as we experience our spectacular outdoor environment.”

Kara Hahn, center, officially opens Forsythe Meadow Count Park/Nora Bredes Preserve’s new walking trail during ribbon cutting ceremony Monday. Photo by Giselle Barkley

The sun appeared just in time for Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn’s (D-Setauket) ribbon cutting ceremony that marked the official opening of Forsythe Meadow County Park/Nora Bredes Preserve’s walking trail.

The ceremony took place Monday afternoon at 52 Hollow Rd. in Stony Brook. More than 50 people were in attendance including Hahn; former legislator Vivian Viloria-Fisher; Cynthia Barnes, president of the Board of Trustees Three Village; and Louise Harrison. Barnes and Harrison were both co-chairs of the Coalition for the Future of Stony Brook Village.

Once Hahn cut the ribbon, those who attended the ceremony were invited to hike the trail.

Coalition members wore pink ribbons, which the group selected upon their  outrage that developers wanted to turn the property into a 40-house subdivision.

For these members, the trail is a symbol of success in an effort to preserve this approximate 36-acre property. But according to Jeffrey Weissman, scoutmaster of Troop 377 for the Three Village Boy Scouts, the trail will not be the last improvement made to the property. Weissman wants to have more benches in the area among other improvements.

Hahn, as well as Viloria-Fisher, Barnes, Harrison and Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) thanked the individuals who helped create the trail. They also thanked those who attended the ribbon cutting ceremony for their support and effort to save “Stony Brook’s last forest.”

“It is this group standing here today that saved this forest,” Harrison said. “Someday we’ll have access from the village center.”

Forsythe Meadow County Park’s new walking trail will officially open on Monday, July 27, at 3:30 p.m. Photo by Alyssa Turano

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) will finally cut the ribbon and officially open a new walking trail created in the Forsythe Meadow County Park and Nora Bredes Preserve on Monday, July 27.

Park visitors can walk and hike the trail, which spans around 1.2 miles according to Hahn. However, fires, camping and hunting are not permitted at the park, which will be open from dawn until dusk.

The county and Three Village Boy Scouts led by Jeffrey Weissman, scoutmaster of Troop 377, have made several improvements to the property in addition to the walking trail. The county parks department created a parking lot located in close proximity to the trail.

Weissman and his team, however, established the gated entranceway for the trail. They also set up fence posts and directional signs where the trail diverges to help visitors follow the trail.

People walking or hiking the trail can use hiking sticks, which are placed in holders at the entrance and exit of the trail. Visitors can also see signs throughout the trail that provide information on ticks, poison ivy and the bamboo forest, which the trail goes through, Weissman said.

“It’s nice to know this area of land preserved by Suffolk County [is] to remain a meadow and forest area and not be bulldozed and built up,” Weissman said.

In 1999, the Coalition for the Future of Stony Brook Village was created to push for the preservation of Forsythe Meadow after developmental pressures jeopardized the woodland area with a 40-lot home subdivision. The adjoining Smoke Run Farm was threatened, too.

According to Louise Harrison, who was the co-chair of the coalition, the homes would have disrupted the ambiance of the area as the woodland wraps around the farm.

In order to prevent the farm’s disappearance after the owner Joan Johnson died, the county and Brookhaven Town bought the development rights, which prevented future building on the property.

Not only did the county and town want to preserve the farm but community members realized the park was the last forest in Stony Brook. The coalition, which was around 2,000 members strong at the time, according to Harrison, banded together and fought to save the property. The county purchased the 36-acre Forsythe Meadow in 1999 to help preserve the area.

While members of the coalition celebrated the preservation of the property, Harrison said, they were not able to officially use the property until recently with the creation of the walking trail.

“It’s a real success story,” Harrison said in a phone interview. “It’s a wonderful joy to know that we can enjoy the fruits of our labor.”

The late county Legislator Nora Bredes also advocated for the area between 1992 and 1998 followed by her legislative successor, Vivian Viloria-Fisher. In April 2012, the park’s preserve was renamed to honor Bredes’ memory.

While the new trail is one of the most recent improvements, Weissman said there is more to come.

He wants to establish rest areas along the trail as well as kiosks, among other projects. Because Eagle Scouts take the lead on executing these plans according to their availability, it may take until next spring to make these plans a reality.

In regards to the walking trail residents can attend the ribbon-cutting ceremony, which will take place Monday at 52 Hollow Road in Stony Brook at 3:30 p.m. Hahn said the trail and the park alike are for local residents to use and enjoy.

“It has a healthy recreation aspect when you walk and hike the trail,” Hahn said. “It’s also good for your emotional well-being to get out and enjoy nature and put away electronics and just experience what we have here. It’s a beautiful addition to our parks in the area.”

The Greenway Trail runs between Port Jefferson Station and East Setauket. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

With the summer in full bloom, the Friends of the Greenway will mow, prune, clip and beautify the Greenway Trail — and the group would like community help.

Volunteers for the event, this Saturday, July 25, from 8 to 10 a.m., should bring gloves, trash bags, clippers, mowers, brooms or shovels along with any gardening tools. They can choose an area on the hiking and biking trail to clean or report to a trailhead for an assigned task.

The Greenway Trail, which opened in 2009, runs from Limroy Lane in East Setauket to the New York State Department of Transportation parking lot in Port Jefferson Station, close to Route 112.

A monthly effort to clean the trail will help maintain the community connection. Volunteers who cannot make the Greenway’s monthly beautification schedule can contact Charlie McAteer from Friends of the Greenway at [email protected] to find out other ways to help.