Port Washington’s most precious public parks


Although high schoolers unanimously look forward to the annual summer vacation, whines of “there’s nothing to do in this town,” and “I have nowhere to go,” always seem to permeate the school halls and students’ conversations.  While Port Washington is a small town, occupying only 5.6 square miles of the North Shore, there are many parks and recreational areas that are perfect for teens, some of which you may have never heard.

The Sands Point Preserve is one of Port’s largest, and certainly most historic, recreational areas.  It costs $2 per person to enter on foot and $10 per car (a yearly student pass is $35.)  The Preserve is large, and boasts charming views of the remaining castles from the Guggenheim estate, as well as a well-tended garden area and views of the Sound.  The woods alongside the grassy areas have marked hiking trails and cross-country routes, and lead to a beach area, which is rather buggy.  The Preserve is nice for family photoshoots and teen romances, and the Friends of the Sands Point Preserve host many outdoor events there throughout the year.  There are also several educational exhibits including a traditional beekeeper’s zone, and the Preserve is a great place for outdoor exercise without the risks that come along with working out near cars.  The biggest problem with the Preserve seems to be that it is always busy with other visitors.

With some similarities to the Sands Point Preserve but with a much quainter atmosphere, the Leeds Pond Preserve off of N. Plandome Road is a perfect destination for an outdoor family gathering, or a relaxed picnic lunch.  After driving up the wooded entryway and parking in the small lot, parkgoers will find themselves in a sort of secluded oasis, with a charming building in the middle (the science museum, which also functions as the Plandome Manor village hall), views of Leeds Pond over the edges of bushes and shrubs, picnic benches surrounding several tall trees, and a cute community garden and climbing wall at the base of a hill.  Unlike the park in Flower Hill, this one has very little noise pollution, and, thus is perfect for any time of day.  Although there is a small day camp at the museum, the grassy area is large, and others and you will surely be able to find some quiet space of your own.

One of Port Washington’s lesser-known gems is the Flower Hill County Park, with access on Stonytown Road only a few yards off of Port Blvd.  People driving up Stonytown might only notice the small fenced-in jungle gym located directly next to the parking spots along Stonytown, but there is a whole lot more available for visitors.  Once you pass the playground, it is hard to remember that you’re standing right near a main road (if not for the noise of passing cars).  Tall trees, shrubbery, and some fresh stone work completely conceal a large, well-kept, grassy area, perfect for picnics, small gatherings, or just frolicking on a nice day.  There is a small stage of stones and concrete in one corner, which could easily provide a good place for small bands to perform, or for impromptu song and dance performances.  The park also features a beautiful wooded area, which has hiking trails, benches, and complimentary doggy bags for if you would like to bring your dog for a nice outdoor walk.  Although the park is gorgeous, it is probably better suited for recreation in the early evening, when noise pollution due to traffic will have died down.

We all grew up going to Blumenfeld Family Park (adjacent to the Landmark building,) and it really hasn’t changed much since.  The playground is a little small for high schoolers, and there are only two adult-sized swings.  The field is nice for picnics or running around, but there always seem to be families with young children picnicking there, so be sure to keep your activities PG.  Once the weather heats up a little more, the sprinkler area in the back will be functional.  What better way to recapture your youth than by playing on a big sprinkle apparatus in broad daylight?

For a more active park-goer, Manorhaven Beach Park always remains a good option.  Although the $15 parking fee may be prohibitive, there are other lots and street space in the surrounding area.  This park is by no means serene, but it does offer many recreational facilities perfect for summer, including the newly renovated swimming pool (which has an additional entrance fee), several tennis courts, baseball fields, traditional playground equipment, and boat-launching stations.  This park is always lively, but wouldn’t be the best choice for a quiet afternoon on the grass.

Another park with the same hefty fee of $15 to enter, North Hempstead Beach Park (also known as Bar Beach) has one thing going for it: there are barbeques spread all around the greenery.  If you don’t have a barbeque (or a backyard) or if you just want a park where you can cook and have a summer party, Bar Beach is a good choice.  On the other hand, it is pretty far away from anything else in town, and the beach itself isn’t one of the better options on Long Island.

There are three parks in between lower Main St. and the shopping center with Super Stop and Shop: Mill Pond Park, Baxter Pond Park, and the newly renovated Baywwalk Park. Although Mill and Baxter ponds may look picturesque as you whiz by a car, once you get out of the car (which is a challenge since there is no parking and you will probably have to park in front of someone’s home), the smell of murky water, and visions of goose poop will reach your senses. There are a few benches around the ponds, and the water can look nice during twilight, but there is really no justification for going to either of the pond parks once you notice the actual natural body of water (the LI Sound), and the newly renovated Baywalk Park, directly across Shore Rd. The views are unbeatable, and new benches and even a few art and nature exhibits along the shore are very inviting. Baywalk Park serves as one of the best reminders of the blessings of living in a waterside town.

All in all, Port has some great parks and reserves for summer recreation. Each spot has something different to offer, and most of them will not disappoint those looking for a place to relax or play a game with friends or family.