Interpretive/Nature Trails

Take a Tour of Alley Pond Park With the Natural Areas Conservancy – Untapped New York

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Alley Pond Park near Douglaston and Bayside is the second-largest park in Queens, spanning over 655 acres. Lying on top of a glacial moraine — an accumulation of glacial debris that formed 15,000 years ago during the Pleistocene Epoch — Alley Pond Park is filled with ponds and hiking trails. freshwater that trickles down from the hills mixes with the saltwater from the Little Neck Bay, creating Alley Pond’s diverse system of freshwater and saltwater ecosystems.

Alley Pond Park

On August 7, 2021, the Natural Areas Conservancy’s Trails Community Engagement Coordinator, Josh Otero, will lead an in-person tour of Alley Pond Park. Enjoy a stroll beneath Alley Pond’s predominantly oak-tulip canopy, and learn about the native and invasive plant species that are present in the forest. Participants will get a chance to learn about the park’s trail conditions and witness some of the trail maintenance and improvement efforts taking place in the park.

On the tour, you’ll learn basic skills for identifying New York plants (both native and invasive species), as well as information about the different trail structures — puncheons, rock steps, and box steps. You’ll also hear about what trail structures accomplish and why they are installed. Hikers will see the general trail and hiking information like wayfinding and signage, as well as the Turtle and Decodon Ponds. The event is free for Untapped New York Insiders (and get your first month free with code JOINUS).

Alley Pond Park trail

Alley Pond Park Walking Tour

The Natural Areas Conservancy is a champion of NYC’s 20,000 acres of forests and wetlands. Its team of scientists and experts promotes nature’s diversity and resilience across the five boroughs, working in close partnership with the City of New York. The Conservancy ensures healthy forests, improves coastal resilience, adapts natural areas to climate change, and builds a coalition of park professionals to promote healthy natural areas across cities throughout the country.

Alley Pond Park trail in summer
Photo courtesy The Natural Areas Conservancy

When Alley Pond Park opened to the public in 1935, it included several acres of playing fields, including a playground, tennis courts and baseball fields. Parks Commissioner Robert Moses also added a nature trail to his master plan: the first interpretive trail of its kind in the city. Alley Pond Park, just one of 10 Forever Wild preserves in Queens, is the most ecologically diverse park owned by the City of New York/Parks and Recreation in the borough. It holds some of the largest forests in the City and supports a variety of rare plant species including bloodroot, Christmas fern, and yellow giant hyssop.

Alley Pond Park

Perhaps named after “The Alley,” an 18th-century commercial center formerly located at the site, the park is home to the oldest and tallest tree in New York City, known as “the Queens Giant.” According to a 2004 article in The New York Times, the gigantic tulip tree is believed to be over 450 years old. In 2005, it stood tall at over 134 feet and continues to withstand the test of time.

While the trails have been undergoing maintenance and rehabilitation, the park’s shoreline has been eroding. Alley Creek lost 30 percent (or 13 acres) of its marsh from 1974 to 2012 alone, equating to about two feet of loss per year. Efforts have been made to clear away debris and non-native invasive plant species, such as common reeds.

Photo courtesy The Natural Areas Conservancy

Other notable tidbits about the park include that the park was once the site of Kiddy City, the third-largest amusement park in New York City when it opened in 1954. Located on Northern Boulevard and 230th street, the attraction featured 24 rides, a batting cage, an arcade and an archery range. It thrived for a decade until a fire destroyed the adjoining Treasure Island Restaurant & Arcade in 1964.

On August 7, 2021, the Natural Areas Conservancy’s Trails Community Engagement Coordinator, Josh Otero, will lead an in-person tour of Alley Pond Park. The event is free for Untapped New York Insiders (and get your first month free with code JOINUS).

Alley Pond Park trail

Alley Pond Park Walking Tour

Next, check out 10 Forever Wild Nature Preserves in NYC!

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