Frank Melville Memorial Park

Location: Setauket, NY

Size: 24 acres

Date of hike: Aug. 25, 2017

Frank Melville Memorial Park is the second smallest spot I've hiked on Long Island.  In fact, I was unsure whether I should even blog about it.  It seems like the kind of park that attracts couples going on romantic strolls or families walking with dogs or strollers, as opposed to hardcore hikers.  But it does have a handful of trails (albeit very short), and it's a very pretty park.  So I figured what the heck.  After all, I'd already visited it and taken pics.  Plus, it seems to be a very popular place.

I first heard about Frank Melville Memorial Park last year from a friend who lives nearby and would often swing by to take nature shots.  Apparently, it's a privately-run park surrounding the Melville Mill Pond and is located by the intersection of Old Field Road and Main Street.  The property, which was officially added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2010, was dedicated in 1937 to the memory of Frank Melville, Jr., the father of local philanthropist Ward Melville, according to the park's website.  Today, it is owned and administered by the Frank Melville Memorial Foundation and home to the Three Village Garden Club Arboretum.  The park contains five structures: a Greek revival post office, a simulated grist mill, the last working miller's cottage, a 20th century barn, and a meeting house called the Bates House.  It's also adjacent to Patriot's Rock, which colonial troops used to mount a canon and fire at Tory forces during the Revolution War In addition, the park has some 200 varieties of plants and trees, with paths stretching from Conscience Bay to the Caroline Church of Brookhaven.

Upon arriving, I parked in one of the spaces available along the south side of Old Field Road, just east of Main Street.  It's a busy intersection, so I used the pedestrian crossing to cross the street and enter the park.  Next, I downloaded a park map available on its website under the "our trails" link, just in case I needed it.  But I didn't really need it.  The park is so small that I completely explored it in a half hour.  To start, I walked a paved loop circling the pond, stopping at various benches and openings in the brush to enjoy the views.  Within minutes, I'd seen wildlife ranging from deer to ducks.  Roughly halfway around the pond a nature trail appeared and continued past a red barn and a community garden and into a small preserve, where the path branched off in several different directions.  Being a completist, I started with the right trail and then backtracked when it faded out and took the other trails one at a time.

The highlight of the preserve was probably the beautiful bamboo forest, which was located in the Three Village Garden Club Arboretum.  There were openings in the bamboo that allowed me to walk in and be surrounded by the towering stalks, which is something I'd never done.  It was a neat experience.  The second highlight was a killer view of Conscience Bay along one of the trails near the preserve's northern end.  A few big boulders were also scattered around for those, like myself, who like to climb them.  Next, I retreated to the pond to walk the rest of the paved loop, passing over one of the picturesque stone bridges with Melville's name engraved in the wall.  It amazed me how much beauty was packed into one tiny park.

My music on this day was The Neal Morse Band's two-disc progressive rock concept album, The Similitude of a Dream, which was based on John Bunyan's 1678 allegory, "The Pilgrim's Progress from This World, to That Which Is to Come."  The group's drummer Mike Portnoy called it "THE album" of his career at the time of its release last year, although it is hard to outdo Dream Theater's 1992 breakthrough album, Images and Words. But after seeing the album performed in its entirety earlier in the week, I realized he might be right.  It's magic.

All in all, I'd say Frank Melville Memorial Park is definitely a good spot for a walk in the park.  The park's website also lists many events and activities that take place right on the grounds – ranging from yoga to writing workshops to jazz shows.  However, if you're a distance hiker, this isn't the spot for you.  Then again, even hardcore hikers gotta go for a stroll sometimes.

Video: Frank Melville Memorial Park (360-degree view)


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