Location: Dix Hills, NY
Size: 11 acres
Date of hike: Sept. 25, 2018
DeForest Nature Park is officially the new smallest spot I've hiked on Long Island, taking the title from the 21-acre Millers Pond County Park in Smithtown. I selected DeForest because I was looking for quick hike on my lunch break, and it's only about 10 minutes from my job. Unfortunately, the park is nothing like it's described by the Town of Huntington. And that's putting it nicely.
DeForest Nature Park is a "small but wonderful oasis with a quiet pond and diverse wetland vegetation," according to the Town of Huntington's online trail guide. It was acquired by the town in 1967 as the result of two "subdivision set-asides," the guide said. The trailhead is located on Buttonwood Drive east of DeForest Road, and the parcel features a small pond surrounded by flora and fauna. The trail guide didn't say why the park is called "DeForest," but my research found it's likely named after Robert DeForest, a lawyer and philanthropist who died in 1931. He had apparently dedicated 50 acres in West Hills and Dix Hills to the state's Northern State Parkway project, according to a 1928 article in The New York Times.
There isn't a parking lot for DeForest. Instead, I parked on the roadside behind two cars and opposite some residential homes. The pond is just a stone's throw from the park's trailhead, and I soon learned the cars belonged to two teenagers who were chilling on a piece of wood by the water and smoking pot. "Good morning, sir," one of them to me said when I walked past them. I must've startled them, because a few minutes later they were gone. Anyway, the trail guide indicated the trail loops around the pond and said there are several benches, but the westbound trail faded out after only a few steps and there wasn't a bench in sight.
My biggest issue with the park was the volume of litter. For starters, a red hockey net was sticking out of the middle of the pond, likely having been used by neighborhood kids in the winter and falling through when the ice melted. There was also a patio set that had been carried into the park and dozens of empty bottles and cans scattered throughout the area. The only redeeming part of the park was the short eastbound trail that only lasted about a quarter-mile and ended at another access point on Buttonwood Drive. I wish it were longer.
With regard to trees, you'll see everything from black birch to pignut hickory to sugar maple. Birds include American crows, blue jays, and belted kingfishers, with other wildlife including mice, raccoons and eastern gray squirrels, according to the trail guide. My music of choice was Riverside's 2015 album Love, Fear and the Time Machine, which I'd been listening to in preparation for the band's upcoming album, Wasteland. Their music always hits the spot.
All in all, I can't say that I'd really recommend DeForest Nature Park. It's a little too tiny for my liking and the litter issue pretty much ruined my overall enjoyment. It certainly has the potential to be a nice little hike, but the town has some work to do first for that to happen.