WEST HILLS
Sweet Hollow Road, Huntington/Melville


Directions:

For camping, take LIE exit 48 north to High Hold Drive; entrance is on the right. For picnics and horseback riding, use exit 49 north to Sweet Hollow Road; entrance is on right. For hiking, take Sweet Hollow Road and turn right into north entrance.

Route 110 near the Walt Whitman House (West Hills Road); take Reservoir Road up to the top


Geology:

The backbone of Long Island is the Ronkonkoma Moraine and the highest point on this is Jaynes Hill, 401.5 feet above sea level.


History:

August 3, 1881. Poet Walt Whitman came back to his childhood home at West Hills, Long Island; letter to the New York Tribune:

"I write this back again at West Hills on a high elevation (the highest spot on Long Island?) Of Jayne's Hill. . . . A view of thirty of forty, or even fifty or more miles, especially to the east and south and southwest: the Atlantic Ocean to the latter points in the distance -- a glimpse or so of Long Island Sound to the north."

At more than 400 feet above sea level, Jayne's Hill is 400 feet above sea level. It was named after the Jayne family who had owned it since the 1800s. It was officially named High Hill by the U.S. Government. An earlier name had been Oakley's Hill, after a previous owner.
(Cynthia Blair: http://www.newsday.com/features/custom/names)


Habitats:

in the northern portion there is a beech forest; the southern portion, west of the church, has scarlet oak (Quercus coccinea) (Daniel Karpen)


Threatened:

The LIBS Newsletter of September-October 1994 reported that the Suffolk County Planning Department recommended the conversion of several undeveloped county parks to golf courses. One suggested area was the West Hills County park. This area is a climax forest with an oak overstory and a mountain laurel understory. There are white pine plantings where pink lady slippers are common. A small population of blackjack and scrub oaks grows along a ridge facing toward Northern State Parkway. (Article by John Turner)


Facilities:

Hiking, youth group camping, picnicking, bridle paths, a playground, a meeting hall, and a horseback riding facility.

Horses, both privately owned, and leased from the on-site public, Sweet Hills Stables, enjoy some of the finest and most picturesque bridle paths on Long Island at West Hills County Park. Camping at West Hills is offered to organized youth groups only. Campsites, lean-tos, and primitive shelters are available year-round. Reservations are required. Sweet Hollow Hall, a former church, now serves as a public meeting hall for several not-for-profit organizations and clubs. Starflower Experiences, Inc., offers environmental education programs for children at the hall. Sweet Hollow Hall is a handicapped accessible facility.


Trails:

The popular Walt Whitman trail crosses the property that takes the walker to the birthplace of Walt Whitman. The trail is a spur of the Nassau Suffolk trail (a nationally designated recreational hiking trail).

Picturesque, well-groomed nature trails, including the historic Walt Whitman Trail to Jayne's Hill (Long Island's highest peak, at an elevation 400 feet), wind through this highly popular, mixed-deciduous forested park.


PLANT LIST:
Ray Welch


Trees:
Betula lenta (black birch)
Betula populifolia (gray birch)
Carya glabra (pignut hickory)
Castanea dentata (American chestnut)
Cornus florida (American dogwood)
Fagus grandifolia (American beech)
Juniperus virginiana (red cedar)
Pinus rigida (pitch pine) one
Pinus strobus (white pine)
Prunus serotina (black cherry)
Quercus alba (white oak)
Quercus coccinea (scarlet oak)
Quercus marilandica (blackjack oak)
Quercus prinus (chestnut oak)
Quercus velutina (black oak)
Robinia pseudoacacia (black locust)

Shrubs and sub-shrubs:
Epigaea repens (trailing arbutus)
Gaylussacia baccata (black huckleberry)
Kalmia latifolia (mountain laurel)
Myrica pensylvanica (bayberry)
Vaccinium spp. (blueberries)
Viburnum acerifolium (maple-leaf viburnum)

Vines:
Smilax sp. (greenbrier)
Toxicodendron radicans (poison ivy)

Herbs:
Cypripedium acaule (pink lady slipper)
Solidago rugosa (goldenrod)

Ferns and fern allies:
Lycopodium obscurum (clubmoss) found by Art Cooley


Alpheus W. Blizzard, 1931 article in the journal Ecology
Jayne's Hill grassland now gone

Allium vineale (garlic mustard)
Artemisia vulgaris (common mugwort)
Celastrus orbiculatus (Asiatic bittersweet)
Hieracium sp. (hawkweed)
Hypericum gentianoides (orangegrass)
Lonicera japonica (Japanese honeysuckle)
Morus rubra (red mulberry)
Phytolacca americana (pokeweed)
Polygonum cuspidatum (Japanese knotweed)
Rosa multiflora (multiflora rose)
Rubus phoenicolasius (wineberry)
Rumex sp. (dock)
Rumex sp. (sorrel)
Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem grass)
Taraxacum officinale (common dandelion)
Veronica sp. (speedwell)


11 October 2003 (Saturday). WEST HILLS COUNTY PARK, HUNTINGTON, SUFFOLK CO., NY. Meet at 10:00 AM in the park at the western end of the picnic area (near the stables and playground area). By car: take Exit 48 (Round Swamp Rd.) of Long Island Expressway, make left at light, go under LIE, and after ca. 200 yards. bear right onto Old Country Rd., continue east for ca. 1 mi., make left (at traffic light) onto Sweet Hollow Rd., follow signs for West Hills County Park picnic area (you will pass cemetery and Gwynne Rd.). Or take Northern State Pkwy. to Exit 40S (Rt. 110/Walt Whitman Rd.), make right almost immediately after exit onto Old Country Rd., travel a few hundred yards, make a right onto Sweet Hollow Rd., continue using previous directions. Join Torrey Botanical Society President Andrew Greller to hike the Walt Whitman trail. West Hills Park is home to many native plants that are rare or otherwise absent in the metropolitan area. These include unusual plants "imported" from North Carolina, including a massive stand of rose bay (Rhododendron maximum). We expect to see galax (Galax aphylla), mountain holly (Ilex montana), rose acacia (Robinia hispida), buffalo nut (Pyrularia pubera), Shuttleworth's wild ginger (Asarum shuttleworthii), chinquapin (Castanea pumila), and many others. We will observe how nature is reclaiming the land that was heavily cleared for a 30-yr. project in naturalistic landscaping. We will also hike up to the "summit" of Long Island's highest "peak," Jayne's Hill (400 ft.), and visit a nearby majestic beech-birch-maple-oak forest. Bring lunch and beverage; wear sturdy shoes or hiking boots. Drivers will be asked to drive to the summit of Jayne's Hill before the hike and carpool back with the leader to the picnic ground parking lot to start the hike. [Directions to Jayne's Hill summit: make a right out of picnic area parking lot onto Sweet Hollow Rd., travel 1.3 mi. to stop sign, make sharp right onto Chichester Rd.; travel 0.3 mi. and make a right onto West Hills Rd., travel 0.5 mi. and make right (at stop sign) onto Reservoir Rd., proceed up steep hill for 0.6 mi., park near ranger shack and Toad Pond sign.] Joint trip with the Long Island Botanical Society. Leader: Andrew Greller, Department of Biology, Queens College, 65-30 Kissena Blvd., Flushing, NY 11367-1597; agreller2@erols.com.


West Hills Nature Preserve

20-acre parcel has a flood plain forest of pin oak and young black tupelo

(Daniel Karpen, Bruce Kershner, Peter Kelly, David Hunt; "Old growth black tupelo on Long Island"; LIBS Newsletter, Winter 2004, Vol. 14, No. 1.)