More weird map discoveries (South Shore of Long Island, NY)

I’ve discovered some very weird stuff all over the southern shore of Long Island. Any idea what these scratches are? They can’t possibly be a natural phenomenon. From the size, my guess might be irrigation canals, but they’re not near any sort of farmland.

When I first saw them on Map view, I thought I was looking at a marina for boats, but they’re all over the place, with no pattern that I can see. And Bing’s Satellite view makes them look far too narrow and shallow for any boats.

Any guesses?

from Google Maps, near Westhampton Beach
from Google Maps, near JFK Airport
from Bing Maps, satellite view near JFK Airport

From the air we see that a lot in wetlands all over the country.

I don’t have any specific professional knowledge of these things but …

I suspect they are the remnants of a swamp-draining exercise from years ago when people thought draining was the right thing to do to swamps.

Either that or the idea is/was to increase the shore surface area to increase the oyster or whatever critter habitat.

All these things which I’ve noticed look aged & unmaintained. Given current wetlands protection regulations I doubt more scratches / canals are being dug.

Interesting, they are everywhere along the South Shore… from Jamaica Bay to Montauk including parts of Fire Island. Some sort of erosion control?

I’ve noticed them for years in wetlands in New Jersey, Massachusetts, and elsewhere, and have wondered what they were. I’ve never come across a good explanation for them.

I used to live in that area, and my WAG would be that they have to do with marine farming, possibly oysters or clams.

Those look quite similar to this salt marsh area near where I grew up. I can confirm that, at least in that view, those are drainage ditches from WPA-era swamp “control” projects. I see no reason to think the similar ditches in nearby areas weren’t created at the same time for similar reasons.

Another vote for drainage ditches. You used to see these all over the Mississippi Delta also. As paperbackwriter mentioned, many of these were constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps back in the WPA days.

If you drag the Street View man across the area, you can see blue dots for photos.

Here’s one. Looks like a drainage ditch to me!

I’ve seen the features up close. They do indeed look like drainage features.

My question is – if this is what they really are, why do it? It’s not as if they’re needed for drainage. Many of them are cut across multiple times by natural streams (although they admittedly might not have been back in CCC/WPA days, if that’s what they really are). Nature already drains such places, anyway – it’s not as if it needs man’s help. Even after draining, they’re still full of water, so it’s not as if it’s draining mosquito-laden swamps or something. And the areas are still not “developed”, but are as free of buildings as they were in the 1930s. So if this is from some Roosevelt-era public works project, what was the point?
And do you have any references or cites that these really are from such WPA projects?

Thanks, everyone, for your guesses. But let’s keep the thread going – CalMeacham has raised some very good questions!

I was told they were for mosquito control, allowing fish to get into the marsh to eat the larvae

Mostly, to give unemployed men some sort of employment.

Just my memory of an oral history project I did back in school. If a semi-stranger’s recollections of a group of complete strangers’ recollections counts as a cite, that is.

The WPA didn’t have people “digging holes and filling them up again” busywork – their projects were supposed to have some sort of point. I suspect that kanicbird’s recollection looks the closest to a real reason.

Interesting. You can see these all over the Florida gulf coast, too. I always assumed they were just scars leftover from someone’s ill-fated land scam, but kanicbird’s explanation makes more sense.

I think kanicbird’s got it. From this article (bolding mine):

Also see the pictures in this article, which are small but do appear to show the same structures as found in the OP.