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Walks in the Woods: Fuchs Pond Preserve

Outdoors by: Joanne Kountourakis, June 1, 2021

The view at Fuchs Pond Preserve, once the site of an interesting agricultural venture – cranberries.

In my first Walks in the Woods piece, I wrote about the Northport Rail Trail. This time around, I’ll focus on a similarly short but sweet oasis, one with a five-acre, spring-fed freshwater pond and freshwater marsh: Fuchs Pond Preserve. Once known as Cranberry Hill, the site is a small jewel just off Waterside Avenue in Crab Meadow, a modern-day retreat into the area’s very rich and rural history.

When I first moved to Northport seven years ago, all of my hiking happened outside of town – Cold Spring Harbor State Park, Target Rock in Lloyd Harbor, the Theodore Roosevelt Sanctuary or Sagamore Hill in Oyster Bay. For long weekends, I’d head to the Hudson Valley. And while the Shawangunks hold steady in my heart, I feel extremely fortunate for the excellent trails we have here, along 25A and north to the Long Island Sound.

Those feelings I get when hiking upstate, the serenity of being away and surrounded by trees, of having a moment to just… breathe, are right in our backyards.

A major selling point of Fuchs, for me, is the pond’s proximity to three nearby preserves: the adjoining Jerome Ambro Memorial Wetlands Preserve, Makamah Nature Preserve, and just across Waterside Avenue, the Henry Ingraham Nature Preserve. This interconnectedness allows visitors to stay for 20 minutes or two hours, depending on the trail/s traveled.

There are many ways to access the preserve, including small (one to four car) dirt lots on Waterside, next to the sign reading Alexander G. McKay Preserve at Cranberry Hill Fuchs Pond County Park, or the less trafficked Seaside Court (a safer bet for parking), all of which lead you to short trails that take you to the pond (see map). For more direct access, and plentiful parking, I like to venture down an easy-to-miss entrance on Norwood Road, just west of the elementary school (look for a mailbox and a green town parks sign).

A map of the area from the TOH Trails Guide.

Park in front of the old farmhouse, or anywhere along the circle, and walk the paved path down to the pond, staying straight to see a painted rock, split by many seasons of ice and snow. The steep slope behind the rock is great for adventurous kids to climb up and slide down. This path quickly ends at Waterside.

Stay right when the paved path splits and head over the small bridge, however, and you’ll be able to walk more than halfway around the pond, taking in the sights and sounds of nature: dense woods and a plethora of chirping birds, turtles sunbathing on fallen logs, the whistle of duck wings; you may even spot a fox den. As you walk northeast around the pond, just before the trail comes to an end, you’ll see paths breaking off and heading up to connect with a main walkway; take a trail up, then keep going east following the golf course and you’ll be off to Makamah. Head west and across Waterside for the Henry Ingraham preserve.

Between the Fuchs, Ingraham and Ambro preserves, “visitors can experience nearly all of the natural habitat types in the Town of Huntington,” boasts the town’s trails guide. It really is a special thing. The pond offers a short jaunt for a quick getaway, and plenty of exploring for kids. If you’re looking for something longer, let Fuchs be the start of, or a stop on, a hike to some of the other preserves.

The Northport Historical Society records activity on the pond going back to when the area was first settled in the 1650s. After the Revolutionary War, storekeepers, oystermen and shipbuilders made up much of the Northport population, and on the hills and in the valleys of what is now Crab Meadow, families tended the land, raising crops and livestock. Farmers were the main inhabitants of the Waterside Avenue area.

On the site that is now Fuchs was a cranberry bog, in operation from the early 1900s until about 1930. When you drive down the long driveway off Norwood Road, a farmhouse dating back to 1780 still stands. A garage and caretaker’s house adjoin it.

It is believed the Lewis family took the farm over in the 1830s, and that in the early years of the 1900s, one of the Lewis farmers created the cranberry bog. According to a short paper, written in 1988 by Suzanne M. Kilgallen and shared with the Journal by the Northport Historical Society, farmer Lewis recognized that the sandy soil adjacent to the Crab Meadow marsh would be ideal for cranberry growth. And with that he began a unique agricultural venture.

For over two decades the bog produced cranberries that were sold locally and, according to some reports, shipped by train for sale in New York City.

Lewis employed local schoolchildren to pick cranberries during the short fall harvest season, providing the pickers with wicker baskets with wooden handles, according to accounts in Suzanne’s paper. Locals earned two cents a quart for this work, after school and on weekends, she wrote.

Sigmund Scherer, who in 1907 set up his landscaping/water gardening operation in Northport, purchased the land in 1911 to develop lily ponds (Scherer's family business still flourishes at its original location on Waterside). After Lewis’s death, Rudolf Reimer, a prominent German-American, purchased the bog and attempted to create a freshwater lake as a possible trout pond. Reimer, a resident of Brooklyn appointed District Commissioner of Immigration and Naturalization at New York in 1934, considered the estate his “country place.”

According to a 1994 Northport Journal article by George Wallace, the lake project failed though, because the bog swallowed up everything which tried to excavate it, including a team of horses used to cut marsh grass there (the horses sank and almost perished). The property was eventually purchased by Sophie and Betram Fuchs. In 2003, the Town of Huntington and Suffolk County acquired the Fuchs Pond Preserve, using funding from the Huntington Environmental Open Space and Park Fund (EOSPA) and County Greenways-Open Space programs.

The paved path leading from the Norwood Road entrance down to the pond.

A rock split from seasons of snow and ice.

Kids delight in this steep hill.

A small bridge on the main trail.

Just follow the bend…

And take one of those trails on the right to head to a neighboring preserve.

The circa 1780 farmhouse still stands on the property.

The “Freshwater Ecosystem” mural.

A close-up of the highly detailed mural.

The TOH parks sign on Norwood Road; the road leads to ample parking for Fuchs Pond Preserve.

Perhaps my favorite recollections are from lifetime Northporters who recall sledding down the land’s gentle slopes, or ice skating on the frozen pond in winter. A March 2011 blog post by pond advocate and park steward at the time, William O’Brien, details others pond pastimes:

Back in the ’70s, I would take my own small boys with our Labrador for a nature walk and we would crawl on our stomachs through the giant ferns up to the pond's edge, peering into the crystal clear water to watch big brook trout finning over gravel bottoms. A wondrous sight! More conversations with folks of all ages seem to reveal how the pond held a special place in their memories and even now, as they grew up in Northport – swinging out over the pond on that 30-foot-rope to drop into its waters or springtime lovers walking among the newly scented blooms…

A wondrous sight, indeed.

Today part of the preserve is used in the summer by the Cornell Cooperative Extension for its Sea Stars Marine Camp program. What used to be the farmhouse’s living room and porch (complete with outdoor fireplace) is currently used by the day campers, and a beautiful “Freshwater Ecosystem” mural, created with the help of over 230 children from the camp, pays homage to the preserve and its ecosystem.

Length: 0.5 miles
Terrain: Mostly flat and easy; if you park in the lot off Norwood Road, getting back to your car involves an uphill walk on pavement.
Noise levels: Minimal (passing cars on Waterside, lots of duck sounds)
Parking: Street (Seaside Court recommended) and via the Norwood Road entrance on non-camp days.
Tips: Don’t forget your tick spray.

For additional information, including a map of Fuchs, see the TOH trail guide: https://www.huntingtonny.gov/f...

Before this: Northport Rail Trail (https://northportjournal.com/outdoors/walks-in-the-woods)
Up next: Henry Ingraham Preserve