Alexander G. McKay Preserve at Cranberry Hill County Park

Location: Northport, NY

Size: 21 acres

Date of hike: Sept. 4, 2016

Alexander G. McKay Preserve at Cranberry Hill County Park, also known as Fuchs Pond Preserve, is a tiny hiking spot with a picturesque pond.  I've seen it described elsewhere online as a "hidden oasis," and I couldn't agree more.  I noticed it last year when I hiked nearby Makamah Nature Preserve, and it's been on my list of places to visit since then.  Well, with blue skies out despite the approach of Hurricane Hermine, I finally decided to stop by.  And it was a terrific decision.

Prior to hiking, I did some research to familiarize myself with the park's history and habitats.  The top result was a Town of Huntington trail guide that said the land consists of a five-acre spring-fed freshwater pond, freshwater marsh, upland slope forest, and a high plateau area.   A Crab Meadow News blog said recorded activity around the pond goes back to the 1650s.  "Post-revolutionary settlements by farmers occupied most of the Waterside Avenue area," the website stated, adding that cranberry bogs remained in operation there into the 1930s.  In 1920, a man named Rudolph Reimer tried to develop a freshwater lake as a trout pond, which is the current site of Fuchs Pond, and the land was later purchased by Sophie and Betram Fuchs.  The Town of Huntington and Suffolk County acquired the property in 2003, the guide said, and in 2018 it was re-named after Alexander G. McKay, who served as the town's representative on the Board of Trustees for the Suffolk County Department of Parks, Recreation and Conservation for 41 yearsMcKay passed away of natural causes in 2017.

The small preserve, which sits just south of the Crab Meadow Golf Course, is bordered by Seaside Court and Waterside Avenue and within a stone's throw of three nearby preserves: Makamah Nature Preserve, Henry Ingraham Nature Preserve and Jerome Ambro Memorial Wetlands Preserve The best entrance for Alexander G. McKay is probably along the east side of Seaside Court, just north of its intersection with Waterside Avenue.  It's a dirt patch big enough for three or four cars with a second dirt patch on the opposite side of of the road.  Strangely, there's no sign at that entrance.  Instead, the sign is around the corner along the more heavily-trafficked Waterside Avenue.  I should note you can also access the preserve from Makamah Nature Preserve's parking lot by taking a straight westbound trail that runs parallel to the golf course.  Since I was in the mood for a long walk, that's just what I did. 
 
It took me approximately 15 minutes from the Makamah entrance to reach a fork in the trail, which told me I was close to Alexander G. McKay Preserve, and I used my geocaching app to verify my proximity.  The fork's right trail led to the little parking area along Seaside Court.  Then I backtracked for the left fork, which led to the heart of Alexander G. McKay Preserve.  The trails were all unmarked, so I wandered around and took whatever path caught my eye.  After all, the preserve is pretty darn small and surrounded by a series of homes and roads, so there's no fear of getting lost.  I explored almost every trail over the course of two hours.  The park's highlight was surely the pond itself, which on this day attracted a few fisherman.

With regard to wildlife, I read online that the preserve is home to eastern box, painted and snapping turtles, although I didn't see anyOther wildlife ranges from meadow voles to red fox to southern flying squirrels, while bird life ranges from ring-necked pheasants to eastern screech owls to red-tailed hawks, according to the town's trail guide.  I also spotted a deer.  Another sweet sight was a handful of colorful eyes painted on some trees and rocks in the preserve's southwestern section.  I couldn't help but initiate a staring contest, which I lost.    

My music of choice was a mixture of progressive metal including songs from Transatlantic's 2009 concept album, The Whirlwind.  "We got caught in the whirlwind torn by the storms of our lives; And just when we thought we had something, it turned to dust in our eyes," sang vocalist Neal Morse.  You can't help but respect and admire such inspirational songwriting.

Overall, Alexander G. McKay is so small I can't suggest traveling long distances to hike it.  But if you reside in or near the Town of Huntington and are craving a quick trip into nature, this will fit the bill.  It's a hidden oasis, indeed.  And I'll definitely be thirsty for more soon!

(Updated: Feb. 17, 2019)

Video: Alexander G. McKay Preserve at Cranberry Hill County Park (360-degree view) 


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