Finally, visitors to the Hallock State Park Preserve will be able to park and hike to the rare rock formations known as “hoodoos” by summer.
Since the 220-acre park in Riverhead and Southold was carved out of farmland in the early 2000s, people who wanted to enjoy the North Fork park’s sweeping views of the Long Island Sound have had to walk or bike their way in.
Once completed, the new parking field, though it might sound commonplace, will be a boon for a wide range of outdoor enthusiasts, from snowshoers to kayakers to geology buffs.
“This will be great for the North Fork of Long Island; it really is a natural oasis, where you will also be able to do recreational activities,” said George Gorman, Long Island deputy regional director of the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.
The new parking lot will allow for a much broader range of activities at the park, potentially including cross-country skiing, surfing, kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding, fishing, horseback riding and picnicking.
The parking field, construction of the new visitors center and a hiking trail were all part of the park’s 2008 master plan, before the Great Recession triggered budget cuts.
Gorman said work on the projects, expected to cost about $4.5 million, began last February and should finish by the late spring or early summer of this year.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s $900 million, 10-year program of capital improvements is footing the bill.
In addition to its bluffs overlooking the Sound, Hallock’s notable features include “a rare coastal plain pool” and “hoodoos,” which are geological formations not often found in this part of the country, according to the master plan and other documents.
Hoodoos are “tall, skinny spires of rock” formed through erosion over thousands of years by water, ice and wind, according to the National Park Service.
These unusual geological outcroppings are a main attraction at Utah’s Bryce Canyon National Park and are also called “fairy chimneys,” “earth pyramids” and “tent rocks,” according to the Mother Nature Network. At Bryce, some are as high as an average person, while others are taller than a 10-story building, the National Park Service website says.
Hallock State Park Preserve is also home to a battle site from the War of 1812.
Two centuries ago, local farmers helped the American Revenue Cutter Service defend its ship, the Eagle, when it was driven ashore by a trio of British ships, historians say.
In the 1814 battle, which lasted from Oct. 11 to 13, “the farmers joined the American sailors and held off the British using cannons (that they had dragged up the bluffs from the beach) and rifles,” according to the Hallockville Museum Farm’s website.
“Despite their best efforts, the British succeeded in capturing the Eagle and towing it off to Plum Island, where they were stationed during the war,” it says.