The cool spring breeze smelled of salt as it carried the sounds of horses’ hooves clopping through the Nissequogue River State Park Saturday.
Horse and wagon tours of the park grounds were hosted by the Nissequogue River State Park Foundation as a fun way to show people everything the park has to offer, as well as raise money toward its beautification and enhancement.
“I’ve visited the park to walk around but this was really great.” said Ann Foggia, of Commack. “Sometimes you don’t realize what you have, even living only five miles away.”
Each tour was led by Carolyn Flynn, a forest biologist and 32-year-resident of Kings Park, who provided passengers with historical facts about the area, its environment and wildlife.
“It was a lot of fun on the wagon,” said Patti Page, of East Northport. “And it was a great day for it.”
Page came to the park with her daughter Patti Fox, 48, and granddaughter Emily Fox, 19, as a fun outing for the three generations of women.
“We saw it in the paper and thought it would be fun,” Patti Fox said. “It’s beautiful here and mom loves horses.”
But the park has much more to offer than its beauty.
As the former site of the Kings Parks Psychiatric Center and also a veterans hospital after World War I, the park has a unique history. Peppered throughout the grounds are remnants of these facilities. There are currently 56 structures still standing that need to be restored or removed.
That is the concern of the Nissequogue River State Park Foundation and its members.
“These things need to be taken care of because this park is a vital resource for this community,” said Jack Hessel, a member of the foundation board and a Kings Park resident. “When people come here, be it for recreation or anything, it helps out the area economically.”
Currently, the park is slated to undergo a beautification effort, which will start at the end of May and continue for 18 months.
Mike Rosato, chairman of the Nissequogue River State Park Foundation said there is a lot of work to be done, but there will be a lot to gain from preserving this area.
“There is a tremendous amount of potential here because this park is an asset to this community,” Rosato said. “It has so much potential for recreational, cultural and historical uses.”