Saturday, February 7, 2009

Salt Marsh At Sunken Meadow

Maybe everyone was watching football. The massive, 1200 acre Al Smith/Sunken Meadow State Park was practically empty when I visited on a Sunday morning in January. I too, had plans to watch the playoff games, but kickoff was not until around 4PM, and a return visit seemed like a good idea. Previously, I had walked along the boardwalk that lines the beach here, and learned of a salt marsh that is on the eastern end of the park. At the base of the glacial moraine that rises to the south, is the Sunken Meadow Creek that works its way east, and meets the Nissequoque River, before flowing into Smithtown Bay. The tidal flats and marshes that are north of the creek, form the sunken meadow that provides the park with its name. This is a transitional zone between the freshwater landscape of the inland areas, and the saltwater tides of the Sound. It is a rare day, to not come across another soul at a state park, in the western portion of Long Island. Sunken Meadow is designed to accommodate large masses of visitors. But this particular Sunday allowed me to fully appreciate Walt Whitman's words about "the long, bare, unfrequented shore that I had all to myself." A few birds hiding in the cordgrass, and a rabbit that went scooting by, were the only other visitors I saw. Salt marshes were once harvested for their hay, but in the early 20th century, they were viewed as undesirable land. Before we understood the role these marshes play in the ecological health of our waters, we had filled in a good portion of them. Many of the state parks and beaches are no exception; Sherwood Island, Orchard Beach, and Sunken Meadow were all created by filling in large marshes along the shoreline. Fortunately at Sunken Meadow, this remaining marshland did not become another parking lot, playground, or golf course.

6 comments:

Kallen305 said...

Amen on your last sentence! We have too many of those as it is. Let's start giving things back to the environment! I love the third photo. It sounds like a wonderful time, especially since you had all that beuaty to yourself.

E. Thai said...

When I lived up north, I never went to a state park in the winter. Was there snow on the ground? Is it safe to walk around?

matthew houskeeper said...

Thanks Kallen,
I guess the point I was trying to make is that it isn't just a conflict between public space versus development. There is also the conflict over what to do with the public space. I am not positive, but I bet at one time, this was a proposed area to be filled in for additional parking lots, baseball fields, or whatever.
Only in recent years has a "swamp" been appreciated for what it is.

matthew houskeeper said...

E. Thai,
Yes there was snow on the ground. if you click the photos above, you will see the snow cover.
"Is it safe to walk around?"
You have to be careful and make sure you are on solid ground, and not walking on a thin sheet of ice covering the water.
The most dangerous part of my day was the drive on the Long Island Expressway.

Vita Stunder said...

I totally agree with your last words!

Again, beautiful photographs :)
I hope you have a nice sunday!

matthew houskeeper said...

Thanks Vita!!!!