Written by John H. Meyer Friday, 08 May 2009 10:52The Massapequa Preserve is partnered with another preserve that separates Massapequa and Seaford. From Jerusalem Avenue south to Merrick Road lies a narrow strip of land totaling 84 acres of an undisturbed upland forest of flowering dogwoods, hemlocks, hickory and mountain laurel.
During 1938, Nassau County acquired by a tax action the land that was to be developed for homes. However, because of the many streams, ponds and marsh land the builders decided to forgo the project.
A short time later a variety of unusual plant life, unknown to Long Island or this area was discovered thriving within the preserve boundaries. The Nassau County administration pledged to protect all of the plant life against fire, vandalism and encroachments of civilization.
Once the Nassau County Parks Department became the overseers it was named after Chief Tackapausha of the Massapequa Band of Algonkian-speaking peoples. According to what has been written by the Dutch leaders, Chief Tackapausha sold the land to them in 1643 but Tackapausha maintained he was only selling the “use” of the land, not the entire ownership. Bitter disputes followed for years, ending with the removal of all native tribes from Nassau County. The Seaford Creek was established in 1643 as the boundary between the Towns of Hempstead and Oyster Bay. The vast forest-like acreage of trees and plants were labeled and later 1,500 more plants native to Long Island were placed in such a way that they appeared to be in their natural habitat. Many of the labeled placards are still visible through the underbrush. About midway between Jerusalem Avenue and Clark Street, there was a lush grassy clearing that Boy Scout troops and their leaders received permission to build primitive sheds and lean-to’s that they used to store camping equipment and for a variety of Scouting events, including father and son barbecues. Later on, asphalt walking trails that now are grown over with underbrush and stone bridges were constructed over the many streams in the entire preserve. At the corner of Clark Street and Seaford Avenue inside the gated preserve, a stone attendants’ shelter once stood. However, it was vandalized many times and had to be razed. Just north of Clark Street, a small pond that is no longer too visible from the road was the home for frogs, peepers and goldfish. At night the frogs could be heard croaking from blocks away.
In the section south of Clark Street to the Long Island Rail Road tracks, walking trails and streams made the preserve a paradise for nature lovers and bird watchers. The south section also has a hidden spring-fed large pond near to the railroad. During the 1950s when the Long Island Rail Road tracks were elevated between Seaford and Massapequa, an underpass was constructed to let walkers conveniently get to a path leading to a traffic light at Washington Avenue and the short walk east to the corner of Riverside Avenue where the preserve’s first museum occupied a former tavern and the entrance to the south section of the preserve which contained walking trails, streams, a sanctuary of oak forests, ponds and a larger spring-fed pond. At the south end of the preserve near to Merrick Road before the preserve was developed the area was a huge swamp. When it was dredged, it became a natural habitat for swans, geese, ducks and amphibians that included raccoons, muskrats and snakes. It was named the Tackapausha Preserve Pond and referred to by neighbors as the Duck Pond. Many years before the development of the park, an avid Bay Fisherman from Seaford, whom everyone only knew as Mr. Hedgers, sold his catch of the day from a small shed in the same area where the small stone park attendants building now stands. Also at the south section, there is a state-of-the-art 3,000-square-foot museum that features a superb nature display with live animals that faces Washington Avenue. The Tackapausha Preserve is a great rustic family day’s outing close to home for Massapequa and Seaford residents.