A Stone’s Throw Away

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A flag waves among manicured gardens, welcoming guests to the near 13-acre Steppingstone Park. (Photos by Allison Eichler)

A small sign sways in the breeze, alerting passersby to Great Neck Park District’s hidden gem—Steppingstone Park. A parking lot entryway along Stepping Stone Lane is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it scenario, but it’s worth keeping your eyes peeled.

Reserved only for residents with park cards, Steppingstone is a pristine wonderland of water activities, grassy expanses and children’s activities. Tables are painted with a checkerboard for checkers or chess enthusiasts, an American flag billows before a fountain as perfectly manicured shrubs and flowers symmetrically line the surrounding area, and a wading pool, splash pad and playground hold the laughter and joy of the children who clamber onto its equipment each day.

Enjoy expansive views of the Long Island Sound from one of the many benches scattered around the lawn, or bring a chair and settle into the sand surrounding the marine area. Feeling fishy? Cast a line from the dock and reel in something for dinner. Kayaking, sailing and jet-skiing are just a few of the many aquatic activities available for guests to take part in during the May to November marina season.

While the marina season is over by November, Steppingstone Park keeps the dock open year-round for those who wish to walk and enjoy views of the Sound.

The 12.8-acre park was established in the early 1940s as a simple beach where the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy currently stands. As it came to move to its modern-day location, the land kept associations with Walter Chrysler and George Cohan, and multiple plaques around the park denote its special history.

Over nearly 70 years, Steppingstone has only gotten better. A full-time staff and part-time seasonal staff work year-round to keep Steppingstone in tip-top condition through landscaping, renovation and maintenance.

“We are constantly trying to enhance and beautify the already amazing park that we have,” says Great Neck Park District Superintendent Jason Marra. “This is like the jewel of the park district; one of our parks that people have come to know and love.”

With summer activities like a camp program, outdoor yoga, archery classes, summer performing arts series, family fun day and multiple festivals, Stepping Stone is a community hub during the warm weather months.

The park employs staff year-round to keep the grounds in pristine condition.

In the winter, activities may come to an end, but the park is never without footprints.

“People will come to the park even during the winter time just to enjoy the view and the tranquility and the peacefulness,” says Marra, who noted that the dock is always open for those looking to take a waterside stroll.

A large white house is the centerpiece of the park and is home to parties, meetings and the Playscape, which is an indoor play area, complete with themed rooms like a diner and supermarket, for children ages 2 to 7.

“It’s a destination park,” notes Great Neck Park District Commissioner Robert Lincoln, Jr. “This is one of Great Neck’s secret treasures. People have said they step through that gate and you go into a different world.”

For more information about Steppingstone Park, visit www.gnparks.org.

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