The Oak Bush Plains State Preserve at Edgewood is an 813 acre area located in the towns of Babylon, Huntington and bordering the town of Islip on Long Island. This land was originally acquired by the New York State Office of Mental Hygiene (OMH.) In the 1930'S for the purpose of constructing 2 psychiatric hospital facilities, the Edgewood State Hospital and the Pilgrim State Hospital. Between 1944 and 1946 some of the buildings were leased by the US Army to treat returning soldiers- during this time the facility was called Mason General Hospital. Following the war the buildings were then taken over by OMH. In 1969, the Edgewood Hospital closed, leaving more than 700 acres of land abandoned.
The facility and surrounding acres were transferred to the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) in 1987, who declared the land a “State Nature and Historic Preserve.” In 1989, for public safety and health reasons, the Edgewood hospital buildings were demolished leaving open land and fields in its wake. Some remnants of the facility can still be found including an overgrown rail spur that once functioned as a means to bring coal to the power plant, several filled in underground tunnels and a multitude of paved and torn up roads once traversed by hospital employees.
In 1998 New York Governor George Pataki, added 86 acres to the preserve. This parcel is the northeast section closest to Pilgrim's large operational buildings and also is directly adjacent to the proposed TRIM site. The land starts north of the old "G" road extension, and is bordered on the west by Old Commack road, and on the north by the Pilgrim entrance where we held the rallies. The east border is the edge of the proposed TRIM site.
Currently the Edgewood Preserve is the largest remnant of pitch pine-scrub oak barrens on Long Island and the second largest remnant in New York State. It is home to a large array of biodiversity including many common bird and mammal species. Several snakes and amphibians also live here. A species of special concern, the coastal barrens buckmoth, has been observed at and is believed to breed at the preserve.
The Oak Brush Plains provide many recreational opportunities for local citizens including bird watching, hiking, and bike-riding. The preserve also plays host to permitted special interest groups such as the Edgewood flyers, a local model airplane group.
The Edgewood Preserve is under continuous maintenance and improvements through the efforts of the NYSDEC and concerned citizen groups such as Friends of Edgewood and the Edgewood Flyers. Through cooperative means, tons of illegally dumped wastes have been removed, unlawful access routes to the property blocked, and new parking facilities constructed. Efforts will continue to maintain and improve the preserve as well as allow access and recreation for the community.
In 1987 Mckinney's Session Laws of New York, established the Oak Brush Plains State Preserve on Long Island. These laws required that any land no longer needed for the Pilgrim Psychiatric Hospital, which is still functioning, will be added to the Edgewood Preserve. More than twenty years have elapsed since Chapter 635 of the Laws of 1987 was enacted and the Pilgrim State Hospital land has not been annexed to the Preserve. In recent years, however, the Pilgrim State Hospital land had been considered as a possible site for the New York State Department of Transportation to construct a large commercial multi-modal project known as the Long Island Truck & Rail Inter Modal (LITRIM) Facility. It would be constructed in order to reduce the burden of long haul trucking on the highways of Long Island. The recent approval of three unrelated major construction projects by town officials has now overburdened this area with traffic congestion.
In 2008, Bill Number A9870 would have required the commissioner of general services, or any other successor in title to transfer certain lands now or formerly within the Pilgrim State Hospital site on Long Island into the Oak Brush Plains State Preserve and to further require the transfer of the same lands into the State Nature and Historical Preserve by December 1, 2008, reasserting the intent of the 1987 laws. The bill passed both NY Senate and Assembly unanimously, but was vetoed by Governor Paterson.
Organization such as Friends of the Edgewood Preserve, Sierra Club, Long Island Pine Barren Society, Great South Bay Audubon, Citizens Campagin for the Environment, and Seatuck have and are fighting to protect this land.
General Long Island Pine Barrens Information
The Long Island Pine Barrens is one of the most unique and diverse habitats in New York as well as the greater part of the Northeastern United States. This sandy, acidic, and nutrient-poor ecosystem evolved following the most recent glacial movement 15,000 years ago. Since that time, the Pine Barrens has been host to countless plants and animals, often serving as one of the few sanctuaries for many threatened or endangered species.
These lands mainly consist of pitch pine-scrub oak communities, with an understory most frequently composed of grasses and plants such as huckleberry (Gaylussacia baccata), bearberry (Arctostaphylos ua-ursi), blueberry (Vaccinium pallidum), and wintergreen (Gautheria procumbens). The groundcover consists of a dense and diverse lichen flora. The flora of the Pine Barrens is “fire dependent,” with pitch pines cones opening after forest fires and shrub and understory plants quickly regenerating after a fire. These fires can be very large (in 2006, 100 acres burned). Unfortunately there has been past signs of arson fire, which are unmaintained and can be detrimental to local flora and fauna.
This ecosystem is also host to a diverse range of wetland communities including marshes, heath bogs, red maple swamps and rare Atlantic white cedar swamps. This diversity contributes to the survival of a variety of rare plants including orchids and pink lady’s slipper, as well as a number of carnivorous plants including sundews and pitcher plants which require the nutrients of insects in order to survive in the nitrogen poor soils of their bog habitats. Along with rare plants, the Pine Barrens host over 100 bird species and many threatened or endangered animal species including the buck moth, the eastern tiger salamander, the eastern mud turtle and the northern harrier hawk.
Not only do the Pine Barrens protect a number of animal and plant species, but it is also located over much of the aquifer that has been federally designated as Long Island’s sole source of drinking water. Protection and maintenance of these irreplaceable lands are key, not only to preserve our current diversity of wildlife, but also to sustain as Long Islanders’ standard of living.