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Walks in the Woods: Betty Allen Nature Preserve

Outdoors by: Joanne Kountourakis, July 31, 2022

The view of Twin Ponds South from the Betty Allen Nature Preserve in Centerport.

It’s been hot. And I’ve been tired and a bit lazy this summer. Luckily, some plans that fell through in the early morning last weekend forced me to find something to do while I waited for the local bakeshop to open. A pre-8am hike sounded nice, and I knew one nearby that was quick and manageable. I headed a short distance away, to the Betty Allen Nature Preserve, also known as Twin Ponds South, where I could ease back into our Walks in the Woods column.

The preserve was named for Betty Beckwith Allen; a sign on the property describes Betty as an environmentalist and co-founder of the Huntington Audubon Society, a bird lover, civic activist and “friend to all living things.” According to the Town of Huntington’s trail guide, the pond was formed by the damming of nearby streams, and initially used by Native Americans. In 1972, the TOH purchased the land with a 50% matching grant through the Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund.

I had never been to the preserve before but heard it was picturesque. Tucked onto the side of 25A in Centerport, just west of Stony Hollow Road, the trailhead is easy to miss. You’ve likely driven past it hundreds of times, though. I have, and getting to see this little retreat off a very beaten path, seemed overdue.

An easy-to-follow loop less than half a mile long traces the perimeter of the preserve’s central pond with multiple docks and overlooks to view the water and its inhabitants – including plenty of ducks. I appreciated the mix of trail terrain, basically dirt, grass and wooden planks that helped navigate some smaller waterways and muddy areas, and can imagine my kids enjoying the trail’s simplicity, the little bridges, the streams and turtles in the water.

I did notice, particularly by the observation areas, left-behind garbage: food wrappers, water bottles, dog poop bags, a fishing reel. Which left me thinking – why can’t we carry out what we carry in? And also, people fish here?

In 2011, a new dam and fish ladder were installed to allow alewives (a species of herring) to travel into the pond, providing them new habitat and spawning grounds, and allowing visitors new opportunities to fish, reads the town trail guide.

I also confirmed with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) that the pond is stocked in the spring and fall with trout, extending the fishing opportunities to more than the resident species. According to the DEC, the best fishing is near the dam on the north side of the pond.

The Betty Allen Preserve offers a quick escape, with the kids or alone, with binoculars – the birdwatching is great – or a fishing pole. I was in and out in less than 30 minutes (a meandering pace); many hikers choose to do both the South and North ponds in one trip, with the only slightly longer Phragmites trail across the street offering beautiful views of Northport Harbor. For additional information on Phragmites, click here.

Length: approximately 0.5 miles
Terrain: Totally flat but beware of unlevel ground when traversing tree roots and on bridges, etc.
Noise levels: Medium (passing cars on 25A)
Parking: Across the street at Phragmites Park (Twin Pond North)
1. Be careful when crossing the street.
2. Realy, use extreme caution when crossing the street.
For the love of nature: Leave no trace and take out what you bring in, please.
More fish in the pond: Bluegill and pumpkinseed sunfish, and largemouth bass
For additional information, including a map of Betty Allen Nature Preserve, see the TOH trail guide.

The trail at this time of year is rich with greenery.

One of the many little streams and waterways that run off from the pond.