Edgewood Oak Brush Plains Preserve

Location: Deer Park, NY
 
Size: 831 acres

Date of hike: April 12, 2015

I thought I'd hiked all of the larger parks and preserves within 15 minutes of my home until I heard of Edgewood Oak Brush Plains Preserve.  I rarely travel on Commack Road, so I don't recall passing it previously.  It was brought to my attention by a Facebook friend who stumbled across a list of local nature preserves on the website LongIsland.com.  Once I saw the listing for Edgewood, I knew I had to visit it soon.  And there was no better time than the first beautiful weekend of spring.

Prior to the hike, I did a little reading online to help familiarize myself with Edgewood OakIt's located within three different towns Babylon, Huntington and Islip and was previously part of a larger property acquired for the construction of psychiatric hospital facilities by New York State during the 1930s, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) website.  In 1983, the state's Office of Mental Health (OMH) transferred 632 surplus acres to the DEC, which then acquired an adjacent 100 acres in the mid 1990s, followed by the OMH transferring another 81 acres to the DEC in 1999.  It boasts pitch-pine scrub oaks barrens, a rare occurrence characterized by dense shrub thickets found in only three places on Long Island and six spots in New York.  It is also peppered with stands of bigtooth aspen as well as grasslands that have emerged on formerly developed sections.

The preserve entrance is located on the east side of Commack Road with a roadside nook accommodating enough parking for roughly 20 cars.  The first thing I saw was dog walkers, mountain bikers, and a collection of elderly gentlemen flying model planes in an open fieldTheir aircrafts soared and looped against the backdrop of a blue sky.  The overhead hums grew increasingly quieter the further east I walked.  Before long, I hit Old Commack Road, which is a paved street running the length of the preserve from north to south.  Apparently, this was a real road at one time, from what I read online.  After walking the whole road to assess the preserve's size, I vanished into a trail.  The blue markers were a little hard to follow at times though, as they didn't indicate which direction to turn at some junctures.

The challenging part about the foot trail is that it frequently intersects with the biking trails – both the official biking trails and smaller makeshift paths likely made by more adventurous pedallers.  Tiny trails seemed to shoot off constantly.  I did my best to stay on the foot trail until it looped around and connected with Old Commack Road.  Then, I found the advanced biking trail, which ended up being a highlight for me.  That trail was very narrow with lots of ups and downs.  At one point, it took me atop old railroad tracks that had been there for so long that thick trees had grown through the beams.  I'd never seen anything like that before.

While on the biking trail, I made sure to lower my iPod's volume so I could hear approaching bikers.  My plan worked, because two times I heard them try to get my attention from behind – one with a whistle, and another calling out: "Biker up!"  My music on this day was Leprous' 2011 album Bilateral.  I'd purchased the album years earlier at the recommendation of a prog pal, but I never sunk my teeth into it.  The band's circus-esque instrumental passages sound like a combination of Dream Theater and Mr. Bungle.  I need to listen to this band a lot more.

After straying from the bike path, I found myself on the eastern boundary of the preserve just a stone's throw from some commercial buildings.  It was in that area that I came across my favorite part of the preserve: an old abandoned handball court in the middle of the wilderness enveloped in overgrowth and covered in colorful graffiti.  It looked like a big art canvas in the woods.  I couldn't help but wonder how many preserve visitors don't even know it's in there.

Oddly, I didn't spot any deer in the preserve or other animals for that matter.  However, I later read on the DEC website that the preserve is home to populations of many common species – including warblers, red-tailed hawks, red fox and hognose snakes.  My only other criticism is that there were no streams or ponds, which I generally like to incorporate into my hikes.

Unfortunately, I had a hard time finding my way back to the entrance even with my compass, so I ducked through an opening at nearby Long Island Avenue and walked a mile-and-a-half back to the preserve's entrance on Commack Road.  A lesson learned for my future visits.

Video: Edgewood Oak Brush Plains Preserve (360-degree view)


4 comments:

  1. Got any pics of the tennis courts?

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  2. Sweet. I go to this preserve preset often and I haven't come across the handball court...great find. I've been looking for info on the old tunnels... Have you come across anything on them?

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  3. wow - I'm there often and never knew about the handball court! Gonna check that out

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  4. The tennis courts are right next to the handball courts, you have to look close to see them though. Also the sign is incorrect regarding Hognose snakes, none have been seen there for decades. Plenty of Fowler's Toads are here though, strangely enough this toad is the favorite food of the Hognose. This preserve was massively awesome before someone thoughtlessly lopped off about 25% of it to make room for an industrial park, back in the early 2000's. Still a great place to visit.

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