Betty Allen Twin Ponds Nature Park and Phragmites Park

Location: Centerport, NY

Size: 28 acres

Date of hike: Oct. 21, 2017

This is the first time I've included two separate parks in one blog entry, but it felt like the right thing to do in the case of Betty Allen Twin Ponds Nature Park and Phragmites Park.  For starters, the two tiny parks share a parking lot.  Secondly, Betty Allen Nature Park is also known as Twin Ponds South, while Phragmites Park is also known as Twin Ponds North, according to trail guides posted on the Town of Huntington's website.  So, since there's a clear connection between the two, it makes sense to hike and write about the small parcels as one.  A double dose of nature!

Before getting into the meat and potatoes of the hike, I should note I initially intended to visit Edwin and Gertrude Grace Nature Preserve in Greenlawn, but I couldn't locate any entrance.  The Town of Huntington's online trail guide indicated parking for Grace Nature Preserve is on Arbutus Road just east of Grace Court, but I only saw residential homes.  Determined not to give up, I proceeded to follow the trail guide map to a second entrance on Fort Salonga Road (NY Route 25A) just east of the intersection with Centerport Road.  But once again, no signs for Grace Nature Preserve.  Luckily though, as I continued going east on Fort Salonga Road, I saw a sign for "Twin Ponds Nature Park" on the road's north side and a sign for "Betty Allen Nature Park" on the road's south side.  A dirt patch big enough to fit over a dozen cars could be found on the road's north side beyond the Twin Ponds sign.  Instead of wasting more time, I decided to hike there.  I didn't see a sign for "Phragmites Park," but the Town of Huntington and Google Maps both identify the land along the north side as Phragmites.  Confused yet?

After parking, I crossed busy Fort Salonga Road for the entrance of Betty Allen Twin Ponds Nature Park, aka Twin Ponds South.  Unfortunately, there was no crosswalk despite a bend in the road in both directions that made it difficult to see oncoming traffic.  I griped about the lack of a crosswalk to a nearby hiker who humorously replied: "There is, it's called dodging."  Before exploring the trails, I pulled out my phone to research the park's history and habitats.  The nine-acre parcel is named for Betty Allen, the Huntington Audubon Society's co-founder, and was originally used by Native Americans who created it by damming adjacent streams.  The Town of Huntington bought the land in 1972 and a dam and fish ladder were installed to allow alewives to travel into the pond and spawn in 2011, according to the town's trail guide.  The pond water flows north under Fort Salonga Road and discharges into Northport Harbor, with wildlife that ranges from ring-necked ducks to painted turtles to pumpkinseed sunfish.

I must say, Betty Allen Nature Park was quite a nice surprise.  I hiked a quarter-mile south until the pond appeared in all its majesty bordered by bright red, orange and yellow foliage'Twas an awesome autumn sight.  I decided to eat my lunch on a little bench by the water and marveled at everything around me.  I was still close enough to hear the cars pass on Fort Salonga Road, but I barely noticed due to the beauty.  Next, I headed right on a loop trail that circled the pond, with bridges and boardwalks helping me cross certain sections.  On the far side of the pond, a brilliant lookout spot left me mesmerized for a second time.  Then I finished the rest of the loop, passing a man and woman fishing near the trail's end.  They were blocking the fish ladder, so I didn't get to look at that, but in total it took 15-20 minutes to explore the entire park.  Then I headed back across the street to Phragmites.

The land that is now Phragmites Park, aka Twin Ponds North, was created primarily by the deposition of dredge spoil, which resulted from dredging Northport Harbor during the 1960s, according to the town's trail guide.  This is evidenced by the park's many sandy pathways.  After hiking north for 10 minutes, the trail opens up and offers sweeping views of Northport Harbor and Bird Island, which was also created from dredge spoil.  Gorgeous homes could be seen along the opposite side of the harbor, and a couple boats floated by just a stone's throw away from me.  The park's plant life ranges from black willows to white mulberries to prickly pear cactus, and wildlife ranges from song sparrows to yellow warblers to great blue herons.  I should also note the town apparently approved an on-leash dog trail here in 2015.

My music of choice was The Contortionist's Clairvoyant album, which came out last month.  Although I have a bunch of new albums to catch up on, I've continued to listen to the new disc from this Indianapolis-based progressive metal band.  It's an emotional collection of songs filled with addictive riffs, atmospheric keyboards and introspective lyrics.  If you're unfamiliar with the band, I recommend the song "Return to Earth," which is probably my favorite track from the album.  I must've listened to it at least once a day since its release.

All in all, I'd say Betty Allen Twin Ponds Nature Park and Phragmites Park are worth a visit, especially if you live in the area.  Even though they're both small, the parks are absolutely packed with beauty.  Just be careful crossing the road.  It's a real-life game a "Frogger." 

(Updated: March 11, 2018) 

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