March 12 for 12: Fish Thicket Preserve

12 for 12! This month, we’re sticking closer to home and heading to Fish Thicket Preserve, a Town of Brookhaven park located just off Woodside Avenue. This preserve features dense forests and winding, interlocking trails, yet is small enough to go through in half an hour.

The first thing that needs to be stressed about this park is how difficult it is to find it! If you’re driving west on Woodside Avenue, you’ll see a sign identifying the park on the left side of the road, but if you’re driving east, that same signpost will not identify the park! Since there is not a parking lot for this preserve, you’ll simply have to park on the shoulder of Woodside in the area around the sign. Fortunately, the shoulder on Woodside is spacious, and there’s a bike lane separating it from the traffic. The next challenge, then, is figuring out where the trails start! When you’re facing the sign, walk forward, and you should see a dirt path descending into the woods. It’s very easily hidden when you’re just driving by, so keep your eyes peeled!

Once you’ve found your way into the preserve, you’ll find yourself going up and down fairly steep grades. There’s a bench right at the start of the trail, and a picnic table a bit further in, but after that there aren’t any rest stops until you’ve completed your loop around the prserve. Couple that with the erratic changes in elevation, and Fish Thicket proves to be a more challenging hike than last month’s 12 for 12. It’s also worth noting that there are no restrooms here, so take your potty break beforehand!

The trails themselves are easily apparent. At this time of year, many of them are covered in dead leaves and pine needles, but I never found myself wondering if I’d accidentally gone off the trail at any point. There are many different intersections, but you’ll know when it’s time to turn around once you begin nearing the residential areas that form the border of the preserve opposite Woodside Avenue.

On my walk, I saw a nice variety of animals that might be expected in the forest. From bees, to butterflies, to woodpeckers, to songbirds, there’s a nice variety in what inhabits the preserve, even if the preserve itself is fairly uniform in terms of its habitat.

If you’re looking for a quiet walk, this preserve will mostly serve your needs. At the start of your walk, the screeching of the cars on Woodside Avenue will be exceedingly obnoxious, but after five or so minutes of walking, the noise pollution faded away for me. The preserve was also mostly bereft of other people. I saw one other person on my walk, and it’s worth noting that they were riding their bike through the preserve with no difficulties whatsoever, so if you’ve got a bike that can handle the terrain, then this may be an ideal place to visit. Since it’s been asked before, it’s worth noting that this would not be the best park to bring strollers or scooters.

Fish Thicket Preserve is an ideal park if you want a short bout of exercise. Its inconsistent terrain means it’s a strenuous hike at points, but that might be exactly what you’re looking for. This is one of the most obscure parks we’ve covered on 12 for 12 and will likely be the most obscure by the time the year’s through. But, the term “hidden gem” exists for a reason, and I think that for many, this park would certainly qualify.

By Travis Cutter, Long Island Pine Barrens Society