Heckscher State Park
Heckscher Parkway Southern State Parkway east to south end of Heckscher Parkway East Islip, NY 631-581-2100
Heckscher Park is known as "the home of the white-tailed deer" because these deer are famous throughout the park. The best part of the park is that it attracts all sorts of different people with various ethnic backgroungs.
What you'll find: The 1,469 acres park allows visitors to fish in Great South Bay (7 a.m. to sunset), take full advantage of the campground with tent and trailer sites, and cross-country skiing in the winter. There are lifeguards on duty at the two beaches until Sept. 6, but the park's swimming pool is closed for the 2010 season. Also, easily accessible restrooms are scattered all over the place, a fairly large concession stand is available, and unlike most places, there are outside showers to rinse and a bathhouse.
For leisure, people can use the five softball fields, biking and walking paths along the water (4.5 miles), boat ramp (no fee; day use only). Also, you can use the four joint basketball courts near the beach and several benches distributed throughout the park among wide open grass areas. And even though the park is rather large, there is plenty of parking. Twenty miles of trails attract hikers and bicyclists and there are several picnic areas, a boat launch ramp, playing fields, playground and 69 campsites. Keep in mind that three pavilions are available by permit only. In the winter, cross country skiing permitted during normal park hours when the park is open. No equipment rentals.
Dogs: Pets are not allowed in buildings or on walkways. Dogs must be on a leash, but are not allowed in camping, bathing and picnic areas.
A 32-mile Long Island Greenbelt Trail passes through the park. It's important to keep in mind that only vehicles below 11 feet high can come into the campgrounds.
What people are doing: About 300 members belong to the Long Island chapter of the society of Cosmetic Chemists, and on June 26, they rented a gazebo and put together a picnic in a secluded location in the park.
A member of the society, Gary Lockwood, 54, of Huntington, said that this year's theme is dinosaurs. The group rented a blown up bouncer with a slide to keep the kids busy. Lockwood said that their event is not only educational for children, but allows ample time for adults and teenagers to mingle.
"The same people come each year and the kids get older and older," he said.
On the other side of the park, with a towel draped over her hair, Doreen Williams, 38, of Brooklyn, sat on the bench after walking from her campsite and to the beach to spend time with her family.
"It's so spacious and we camp here for three days at a time," she said.
Another visitor was enjoying the park. Maria Correa, 42, of the Bronx. Correa and her family camp down the road and came to the beach to "have some fun in the sun."
Her brother, Miguel Correa, 43, flies his two kites for most of the day. They have been coming to the park each summer for three years.
"It's a nice park to come to because of the clean and flat lands," he said. "And you can meet all sorts of friendly people from all over the place."