Earth Matters: Hidden gems of Hempstead Harbor

Earth Matters: Hidden gems of Hempstead Harbor

By Wilson Pines

Recently my Audubon chapter had a walk at two of the underappreciated gems of the North Shore, Roslyn Pond Park/Gerry Park and Cedarmere. Both sites have undergone removal of invasive plants and restoration of native pollinators and bird-attracting plants. These are just two of the small parks and preserves scattered along the North Shore that are well worth a visit for their gardens, birds, butterflies and natural beauty.

Roslyn Pond Park/Gerry Park is surrounded by historic Roslyn and features the Mackay Horse statue. One of a pair that once graced the Mackay estate on the hill tops above the village, it was moved to the park in 2013 following restoration. Its twin stands in front of Roslyn High School.

Four ponds and newly restored wetland areas alongside the ponds and brook that connects the ponds are an attraction for birds and wildlife. Many of the new plantings are in flower now including Goldenrod, Asters, Bee balm, and Black-eyed Susans, which are attracting visitors like Ruby-throated Hummingbirds and Goldfinches. Rarer visitors to the park include Louisiana Waterthrush and Wilson’s Snipe in addition to many other species.

In winter the main pond generally stays open, attracting not only the ubiquitous Canada Geese, both domestic and migratory, and Mallards, but Gadwals, Black Ducks, Northern Pintails, Northern Shovelers, Green-winged Teals, and other waterfowl. Rarer visitors include Pink-footed and Cackling Geese. Public parking is available in the park in front of the lower pond and on East Broadway past the library. A list of the 122 species seen at the park can be found on

Cedarmere is located on Bryant Avenue north of the village. Once the country home of poet William Cullen Bryant, it is now a Nassau County Park. The site offers spectacular views of lower Hempstead Harbor. In addition to the historic home, there are several other structures on the grounds: an ice house, greenhouse and the beautiful Gothic-style water mill. The mill’s waterwheel is currently being restored.

The pond that fed the mill hosts a variety of dragonflies, turtles and frogs. The original boxwood parterre and slightly later sunken garden have been restored, though instead of Victorian bedding plants, they now feature an array of native plants. Huge Rose Mallows are in bloom, along with Cardinal flower, Phlox, Joe Pye Weed.

The grounds also boast several notable tree species and specimens, including NYSDEC certified largest American Holly in New York State., the largest Pignut Hickory on Long Island, Chinese Scholar Trees (Sophora Japonica) and NYSDEC certified largest Kentucky Coffee tree in New York State.

Goldfinches are collecting thistle down for their nests, Eastern Kingbirds hawk for insects from bare snags and in Hempstead  Harbor, Egrets and Great Blue Herons hunt along the edges. Cedarmere’s 107 observed bird species can be found on here,

The restoration of the buildings and grounds has been driven by the Friends of Cedarmere and the Roslyn Landmark Society. The Friends offer tours and events that can be found on their website,  There are three public parking lots on the grounds.

The parks are close to each other and can easily be visited in one outing. If you have more time, just up the hill is the Nassau County Art Museum, which sits within the large grounds of the William Cullen Bryant Preserve. The grounds feature sculptures, trails, two small ponds and a formal garden. On the west side of the harbor is the Hempstead Harbor Shoreline trail with amazing views of the harbor, and the Hempstead Harbor Natural Area with mountain bike and hiking trails.


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