As the hidden brook titled Valley Stream flows through the suburban New York village of Valley Stream, I could not title this essay as “Valley Stream, Valley Stream.” This brook also runs through a state park that shares its name, behind backyards, beneath parking lots, through two former millponds before emptying into Jamaica Bay.
The stream flows for four miles from its source in Franklin Square to its confluence with Hook Creek. Along the course are a handful of picturesque parks, such as Village Green Park, seen above.
Where it Flows
The most detailed map of Valley Stream that I’ve found is the 1947 U. S. Geological Survey of Lynbrook that shows the postwar march of tract housing encroaching on farmland and fields of southern Nassau County. I marked the Queens-Nassau border in orange, with Simonson Creek in lavender running closely to it. To its east is Clear Creek, which is today almost entirely gone; Valley Stream in blue, and to its east is Motts Creek. In black running east-west is Southern State Parkway, and in yellow is Sunrise Highway, the two major roads in this area.
The exact location of Valley Stream’s headwaters is on the site of the Town of Hempstead’s Highway Department garage in Franklin Square, on Park Avenue near Franklin Avenue. Across the street from the garage the buried stream appears as a series of vacant lots lined up along its route. Water appears on the south side of Arlington Street near the village’s water tower.
The creek and its banks are managed by the county and there is room here for a pedestrian and bike path, should the county agree to it. But as it runs past backyards, I doubt that homeowners would agree to this intrusion on their privacy. The stream runs in this state for a mile before entering the state park sharing its name.
At Dutch Broadway we see the stream on a rainy day flowing rapidly towards the state park. The width of the stream’s bank appears inviting for a park planner. In a county where many roads are too narrow to accommodate a bike lane, the spaces along streams can easily fit a bike/jogging path that connects villages along its course.
Within the community of North Valley Stream, the namesake waterway has a smaller western branch that emerges in the green median between East Gate and West Gate, two roads that frame this median. It flows towards the sports field of Howell Road Elementary School, under the Southern State Parkway and into the state park, where it merges into the main branch of Valley Stream.
Valley Stream State Park
After crossing Southern State Parkway, the creek enjoys a natural state of affairs within the borders of Valley Stream State Park. At 97 acres, it is one of the smaller state parks, but not the smallest. A product of Robert Moses’ planning, it opened in 1928 together with Southern State Parkway, Hempstead Lake State Park, Belmont Lake State Park, and Hecksher State Park. Anticipating suburban development that would follow the new highway, Moses built parks along its route to preserve some open space for recreation and nature.
From the Boston Public Library collection, two postcards illustrate the early appearance of this park. The stream was followed by footpaths used for hiking and horse riding in a scene reminiscent of Olmsted’s great parks. The appearance of the creek here hasn’t changed much since then. Hendrickson Avenue marks the southerner border of the state park. Near the park entrance here is the Pagan-Fletcher Restoration, a mansion from the 1840s that has old maps and photos of Valley Stream.
Forgotten Beach on Valley Stream
What has changed is the park’s southern portion that contained Cornell’s Pond, a millpond that was used in the late 19th century for Brooklyn’s water supply. Moses gave this pond a beach and this postcard makes it look very wholesome and clean, at the admission fee of 10 cents. In reality, the crowds made this freshwater beach unsanitary and village residents requested the state to discontinue the beach. Swimming was prohibited in 1947.
This 1931 map shows Cornell’s Pond within the state park. Its bathhouse was located at the southern end of the lake, where there is today a public pool. In 1958, nearby residents lobbied the state to transfer the park’s southern portion and its lake to the village at the cost of $103,000. Today the only public freshwater beach on Long Island is at Lake Ronkonkoma.
In 1960 the newly designated Arthur J. Hendrickson Park opened its swimming pool on the southern end of the lake. The park was given its name in 1966 in honor of a former village mayor. Within the lake are fountains, while its shoreline has an unnatural concrete border. The park offers plenty of recreational options: mini-golf, tennis, handball, basketball, and its pool. Surprisingly the lake is not used for boating. As the suburbs are a society driven by cars, at the park’s southern end, a portion of the creek was covered in favor of a parking lot that serves the swimming pool. In contrast to the thick forest of the state park, this village-run is almost entirely a grassy terrain that is carefully mowed.
Village Green and Beyond
Valley Stream disappears beneath shops and apartments for a few blocks and then reemerges on Payan Avenue. It then crosses West Valley Stream Road and enters Village Green Park.
In contrast to the state park, this village-operated park has the look of a parade ground with its sizable lawn. This park features a bandshell, dog park, public library and Village Hall. It has a parking lot, but no playgrounds. Within the park, a tributary brook flows into Valley Stream. This stream originated behind the parking lot of
Edward W. Cahill Park does not have any recreational amenities aside from its path around Mill Pond, known historically as Watts Pond. As with Hendrickson, this park is also named after a former village mayor. Crossing Mill Road, the stream is now at sea level flowing past the Green Acres subdivision. Designed by architect Irwin Chanin, it features a path along the creek and dead-end streets that intersect with linear park paths. Prior to development, Green Acres was an airport, and prior to that, Clear Creek flowed through the site.
The final park on Valley Stream is Brook Park, where Clear Creek flows into the stream. This park has a playground and tennis court. Following the storm surge damage caused by Hurricane Sandy in Oct. 2012, the governor and the town teamed up to install a new bulkhead on the park’s shoreline. Valley Stream than flows under Rosedale Road and merges with Hook Creek. on the Queens-Nassau border. The water then makes its way to Jamaica Bay.
Much of the information that I’ve found on this creek comes from the village’s website and its historical society. They have their own list of waterways that flow within the village borders.
Valley Stream is one of a handful of creeks flowing north to south on Long Island’s south shore. Previously I’ve documented Pine Stream in West Hempstead and Mill River in Hempstead. If It were up to me, I would be living in the suburbs by now working for either Nassau County, Town of Hempstead, or Long Island State Parks, continuing with my current work of documenting hidden waterways and managing public parkland.
Whether or not a job appears, I’ll continue to make my way east into Nassau County, having covered much of the city in the three years since I’ve launched this blog.