I Love My Park Day
Students spent the morning cleaning up the Bayard Cutting Arboretum in Great River.

SCN/Anthony Perrotta

I Love My Park Day


ISLIP TOWN—It was hard to believe that while strolling through the Connetquot River State Park Preserve on Saturday, May 5 (I Love My Park Day), you were within walking distance of Sunrise Highway, since you couldn’t hear the hustle and bustle from New York Route 27 through the trees. 

I Love My Park Day is an annual event that brings together thousands of volunteers to celebrate and enhance New York’s parks, historic sites and public lands. New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation has events at a variety of locations—from trails in the forest preserves to popular campgrounds to urban escapes—providing many opportunities for New Yorkers to help clean up, restore and enhance these special places. 

The state park in Oakdale maintains 3,473 acres of land and water for the protection and propagation of game birds, fish and other animals, according to New York State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. The park also contains the Long Island Environmental Interpretive Center and the Southside Sportsmen’s Club District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. 

Deer and waterfowl are numerous, and rare nesting birds, including the osprey, are present. There are also numerous rare plants and other interesting flora, such as trailing arbutus and pink lady’s slipper in their natural habitats. The preserve also has 50 miles of hiking, horseback riding, cross-country ski and nature trials, as well as fishing (by permit only) on the Connetquot River.

The one-mile Yellow Trail through the Pine Barrens leads you to the trout hatchery. To protect the unique habitat (and avoid ticks), visitors are asked to remain on the trail. 

In 1977, a fire of unknown origin burned 600 acres of woodland along the trail. What stands there now is all new growth since the fire. During a fire, the trunks and branches of oak trees are destroyed. Oaks store a large amount of food in their extensive root systems so that within weeks of a fire, numerous green shoots can be seen at the base of the dead trunks. During very hot fires, however, these underground roots are destroyed, and the oak dies. The oak trees with multiple trunks, scattered around the preserve, are evidence of the fire, according to the various directory signs along the trail.

On Saturday, park employees and volunteers could also be seen working and meandering around the Bayard Cutting Arboretum grounds. The 691-acre state park in Great River includes an arboretum designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted for William Bayard Cutting in 1886, who purchased the property in 1881, as well as a mansion designed by architect Charles C. Haight. 

The Long Island State Park Commission took control of the park—40 years after Cutting’s death. It was opened to the public in 1954 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. 

In 1936, Cutting’s daughter, Olivia James, donated 200 acres of her family’s estate, under the conditions that it be used the way she and her mother envisioned it today. 

The purposes were that Westbrook “shall be an oasis of beauty and of quiet, and that it shall be a source of pleasure, rest and refreshment to those who delight in outdoor beauty”; and “that it shall serve to bring about a greater appreciation and understanding, on the part of both the general public and of those professionally concerned with landscape design, of the value and importance of informal planting, and shall thus be an influence in preserving the amenities of our native landscape.”