Sunday, 18 January 2009

The Boardwalk At Sunken Meadow

After a week or so of temperatures in the teens, yesterday's thermometer reaching 30 degrees seemed like a warm spell. I took advantage of the "heat wave" by visiting Al Smith/Sunken Meadow State Park in Smithtown. This is a LARGE park, both in acreage and waterfront.
It originally opened as a 520 acre park in 1930, and has expanded to over 1,200 acres through the acquisition of adjacent properties. In 1992, the name of the park was changed to honor former Governor Alfred E. Smith, who played a vital role in the creation of many New York metropolitan area parks.
I focused my visit on the three-mile beach area which includes a boardwalk that lines a portion of the beach. Despite the morning snowfall, there were a considerable number of people walking the 3/4-mile deck that was free of snow and ice. Smithtown Bay was silent, with barely a ripple on the surface. The sky had a low, gray layer that thwarted any long distance visibility. The only landmark I could see was a foggy and blurry Crane Neck, several miles to the northeast. A few gulls used their beaks as icepicks, digging through the snow and ice to reach the shells and sand below. Several Canadian Geese got some much needed rest and relaxation, after a busy week of sabotaging departing jets at LaGuardia Airport.
Like many state parks, there is a certain generic quality to the architecture here. Most of the buildings and structures are nearly identical to those found at other state parks in the Adirondacks and Hudson Valley. Even the railings along the boardwalk looked familiar. This however, is really a small complaint that rests more in a quirky pet-peeve of mine, than in any legitimate criticism. The state park system is so extensive that creating and maintaining unique, locally influenced structures would not be cost effective. In the end, it is the park itself that matters, not the refreshment stands.
I reached the end of the boardwalk, and continued walking westward along the beach. At this point, there were no footprints in the snow, and everything seemed silent. The glacier-formed bluffs rose in the distance, blocking from sight the four stacks of the Keyspan Power Station in Northport. I have seen those stacks from as far away as New Haven, CT, and Westchester County, NY. I found it amazing to be so close to them, yet unable to see them. Sometimes, "not seeing the forest for the trees" is an admirable quality.
I reached an area of the beach that was quite icy and dangerous, so I turned around, and made my way back. I came upon a friendly couple who were taking a break from their cross-country skiing. They were quite familiar with the park, and were able to describe some trails, and a marshland area that I was not aware of. This is the type of park where one can visit many times, and still find new places to explore. There is too much here to discover on one Sunday afternoon in January.


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