Joann Garguola often walks the Mill Pond Park Loop with her cocker spaniel Bailey. The 1.1-mile trail near Wantagh is close to her East Meadow home. But in mid-fall, nothing in Nassau for dogs compares to the Old Westbury Gardens Fall Dog Festival, when designated areas of the grounds are open to leashed dogs with their owners.
The annual festival took place on Nov. 3 and included a pup parade and costume contest, vendors and animal welfare organizations. Garguola was there with Bailey and the Long Island Dog Owners Group (LI-Dog), which works to create dog parks and increase dogs’ access to Long Island parks and beaches. Old Westbury Gardens is extending its Dog Day series through most weekends in Nov. this year.
“Dog Day Weekends are truly exciting opportunities for dog owners to experience a beautiful outdoor Long Island attraction, along with their beloved pets,” said Nancy Costopulos, president and CEO of Old Westbury Gardens. “There aren’t enough dog friendly attractions on Long Island, and we’ve noticed tremendous popularity with our Dog Day series. We’re very excited to add additional dates!”
Doug Gelbert agrees that dogs don’t have many places to roam in Nassau. He is the author of Doggin’ Long Island, available at the Book Revue in Huntington, and 25 other books about hiking with your dog. He also started the hikewithyourdog.com website and the Hiking With Dogs Facebook group, which has about 47,000 members. The 30 hikes that Gelbert details in Doggin’ Long Island are all in Suffolk County.
“Robert Moses was not able to commandeer nearly as much land in Nassau as he was in Suffolk,” Gelbert explained. “There are a lot of fantastic parks out there—it is one of the best places on the East Coast to hike with your dog.” Gelbert stressed that he doesn’t list all the Long Island hikes in his book, just the 30 best ones, and that he ranks top hikes, not walks.
Gelbert observed that Nassau has more people and private land. Some historic places, such as Sagamore Hill in Cove Neck, are dog friendly and have nature trails for dogs and their owners to explore. Jlynn Mugz loves taking Claire, her Jack Russell mix, there.
“It’s a nice hike, has a little beach, and a beautiful view,” Mugz said. “But I definitely agree we need more places in Nassau County!”
Michelle Stahl Wallach and her family love taking their rescued wheaten terrier mix, Doc, to Bay Park in East Rockaway, on the South Shore of Nassau County.
“There’s plenty of shoreline to walk or take a swim as well as a concrete promenade along the canal and an enclosed dog park with sections for both small and large dogs,” she said. Wallach and her family also like Hempstead Lake State Park in West Hempstead and Massapequa Preserve.
Kirsten Marchioli and her daughters have had only great experiences at Sands Point Preserve with their six-month-old puppy Sunny.
“You do pay a $15 fee to park there, but it is super clean, has lots of other nice dogs for her to sniff and play with, and beaches, dunes, hiking trails in the woods, green open fields with views and a fenced-in dog run,” Marchioli said.
One day they might bump into morkie Sasha and maltipoo Mishka at the preserve. Their owner Gilat Nahum recommends visiting Sands Point’s Castle Gould, Hempstead House and turtles (in the pond).
Meghan Faillace walks the Bethpage Bike Path almost daily with her dog Olive. The Liebman family takes their goldendoodle Scarlett to Coindre Hall in Lloyd Harbor.
Bailey Arboretum in Lattingtown welcomes leashed dogs. Its longest trail is about 9/10 of a mile. Nearby in Glen Cove, Welwyn Preserve has popular trails but officially does not allow dogs. That policy is not strictly enforced. While Bailey Arboretum likes having dogs, its Superintendent Michael Mason points out that pets can create problems.
“It’s a quiet place. This is an arboretum first, not a dog park, and we’re geared specifically to maintaining the trees,” he said. He stresses the importance of picking up after your dog, keeping it leashed, checking for ticks after, and only bringing friendly, non-aggressive dogs.
Keep those guidelines in mind at Old Westbury Gardens this month and you may help pave the way for more pack walks in Nassau’s treasures. Gelbert urges dog owners to remember that they are “ambassadors for all dog owners” when they explore the outdoors together.