Dedicated to the memory of the late New York State Sen. Norman J. Levy, a Merrick resident and a champion for the environment, Levy Park and Preserve opened to the public on Oct. 22, 2000. This award-winning Town of Hempstead preserve serves as a plant and wildlife sanctuary, as well as a tranquil respite for residents.
The conversion of the former Merrick Landfill into the Norman J. Levy Park and Preserve not only epitomizes the town's commitment to environmental conservation, but saved Hempstead Town taxpayers more than $42 million. The innovative $15 million park plan is substantially less expensive than the $57 million capping and closure plan originally required of the town by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
Located alongside the Meadowbrook Parkway, the park and preserve's most visible symbol is the fully operational agricultural windmill (situated on the north side of the facility), which is used to circulate the water in two man-made ponds that provide a fresh-water habitat for wildlife. An exciting feature of the park is the kayak launch into the original Meadow Brook. The site also includes three miles of hiking and jogging trails with 18 exercise stations along the trails.
The preserve's highest point of 115 feet produces tremendous views of the Jones Beach Tower, the New York City skyline and numerous coastal treasures.
The 52-acre facility also features a 500-foot fishing pier into Merrick Bay. The pier's decking is constructed of Cumaru, a hardwood from Peru. This extremely durable wood is harvested in an environmentally friendly manner. In addition to its aesthetic qualities, Cumaru is very strong, resists splintering and contains no preservatives. The handicapped accessible fishing pier provides a great opportunity to try your luck at catching the various fish that fill Merrick Bay each season.
In places where disturbance of nature was necessary to cap the landfill, the Town of Hempstead developed woodland and prairie plant communities, similar to the Hempstead Plains, to attract different types of birds. Black locust, poplar, white birch and red cedar are among the types of trees you will find at Levy Park and Preserve. Additionally, wildlife such as turtles, snakes and foxes are thriving.
Kakaying is offered at Levy Park from June 1 through August 29. Kayaks are launched from the launch area in the park on the Meadow Brook which empties into the Merrick Bay. The brook is tidal, therefore tours are offered based on the high tide for each day. Patrons should call Levy Park for daily tour times. Patrons wishing to kayak may bring their own kayak and launch from the site or take a kayak tour with our kayaks, paddles and life vests with two Levy Park Rangers. Kayak rental fees are as follows: Single Kayak - $25, Tandem Kayak - $35. A non-refundable in-person deposit is required per kayak. Methods of payment accepted are cash or check made payable to Town of Hempstead. PLEASE ARRIVE ONE-HALF HOUR BEFORE TOUR START TIME. Children 8 to 14 years of age must be accompanied by an adult in a tandem kayak. Children under 8 years of age are not permitted on the kayak tour. Persons under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult. All kayakers should be in good physical condition. Tours are one hour to one and a half hours in length. For additional information, please call (516) 804-2000.
The preserve also features a herd of Nigerian dwarf goats, which the town employs as an ecologically sensitive method of controlling weed and brush overgrowth. The goats are the latest pets-workers-employees to complement the ecological mission of the landfill-turned-nature preserve. Several years ago, Hempstead Town added a flock of Guinea fowl, turkey-sized birds, as an environmentally friendly alternative to insecticides in the control of ticks at the preserve. In tandem, the birds and goats have been a low-cost, ecologically responsible solution to the challenges that nature presents at a waterfront nature habitat.
The best way to learn about this beautiful parkland is to see it for yourself. A tour of this innovative preserve and recreational facility is a terrific educational experience for school children, scouts and adult groups as well. Tours begin with an orientation at the park's outdoor amphitheatre, which seats over 100 people. The groups will learn about the evolution of this beautiful 52-acre park. They will see various types of birds, the Meadow Brook, marshes, the different types of trees, birds and other wildlife. Jitneys are available to transport the physically challenged, elderly and other visitors, upon request, around the facility. The jitneys will travel the 52-acre preserve from the parking lot to the plateau. Please call (516) 804-2000 to arrange for a group tour or to obtain further information about Norman J. Levy Park & Preserve.