W.S. Commerdinger, Jr. County Park

Location: Nesconset, NY
Size: 100 acres
Date of hike: Aug. 22, 2015
I thought I'd visited all of the parks and trails in the vicinity of Lake Ronkonkoma until I came across W.S. Commerdinger, Jr. County Park.  I was driving around the residential roads north of Smithtown Boulevard trying to find an alternate entrance to Lily Pond County Park, which is one of my favorite local parks, when I saw the Commerdinger sign by the corner of Edgewood Avenue and Audubon Street in Nesconset.  Needless to say, curiosity called me and my foot instinctively stomped on the brakes faster than you could say "Commerdinger."

Before exploring, I did some pre-hike research to learn about the park's history and habitats.  Apparently, Walter S. Commerdinger, Jr. settled in the area during the early 1900s when his father bought land along Lake Avenue, according to the Suffolk County Parks Department's website.  "Walter S. Commerdinger, Jr., like his father, was very active in local government and community affairs," the website said.  "As a charter member for various organizations, he was instrumental in their growths into significant community factions."  After serving in World War I, he then purchased the Nesconset General Store and Post Office, becoming Nesconset's second postmaster in 1926.  As for the property itself, Commerdinger family members still lived on a 5.7-acre parcel of the preserve up until recently, the website said.  Coordinated efforts by the family and the county secured the parcel's preservation in 2006, with stewardship duties being handled today by the Suffolk County Parks Department and the W.S. Commerdinger, Jr. County Park Preservation Society, which was founded in 2008.
After parking, I stopped at a kiosk by the entrance that displayed a map of the park's trails, and I snapped a quick pic with my phone.  You never know when a map will come in handy, and I did refer to it several times throughout the hike.  Better to have a map and not need it, than need a map and not have it, I've learned.  Upon entering, I was faced with the choice of taking a trail straight into the heart of the park or right along the park's outskirts.  I went right, aka west.  The westbound trail quickly turned south leading me to a secluded spot bordering one of Lily Pond's ponds, as evidenced by the incredible abundance of lily pads.  It was one of my favorite spots I'd visited all yearI then headed east, stopping to admire a few graffiti-filled trees as well as numerous openings in the high grass that allowed me to get close to the water again.  Although I like to hike, locations like this make me wish I owned a kayak.

I followed the unmarked trails until they eventually led me to an abandoned two-story house surrounded by yellow caution tape.  My research later revealed this is a historic homestead, built in 1810, once owned by some renowned Long Island families: the Smiths, the Hallocks, the McCormicks, and most recently the Commerdingers.  The preservation society is in the midst of restoring the house, according to their website, which said they had been awarded several county grants in recent years to assist in applying for status on the New York State and National Registers of Historic Places.  They also want to run water to the park to aid in adopting a collaborative gardening project with Cornell Cooperative Extension, the site said.
I decided to explore Commerdinger a second time since the entire hike only lasted an hour.  Then I set my iPod to play the debut album from a UK-based progressive metal band named Voices From the Fuselage.  It's the band of former Tesseract vocalist Ashe O'Hara, who has become one of my favorite singers and lyricists.  The debut album, Odyssey: The Destroyer of Worlds, is a truly beautiful work and I hope the band receives the recognition it deserves.  Fingers crossed that by the time you're reading this they'll already be a household name!
Overall, I enjoyed W.S. Commerdinger, Jr. County Park, but that's probably because I adore Lily Pond County Park – so I already had a bias going into the hike.  I wouldn't travel a long distance to hike Commerdinger, but if you live within 20 minutes of the park, it's worth a trip.  And, of course, make sure to visit the lovely Lily Pond County Park while you're in the area.

(Updated: Aug. 10, 2018)

Video: W.S. Commerdinger Jr. County Park (360-degree view)  

1 comment:

  1. As a boy I lived on Audubon Street back in the 60's and I spent a great many days hiking about in Commerdingers woods. I hunted frogs and fished in the ponds. It was my favorite place to be. I knew the Commerdigers only as the people who lived in the big house that still stands there and every once in a while their dogs would get loose and I'd bring them back to them.