Nature trails you didn’t know existed 1

Members of the Natural Areas Conservancy hike through Alley Pond Park on Wednesday. The organization is teaming with the Department of Parks and Recreation to map and maintain more than 300 miles of nature and hiking trails in the city.

New York City, according to the Natural Areas Conservancy, has more than 300 miles of hiking paths and nature trails, but only about 43 that are formally marked.

Sarah Charlop-Powers, executive director and cofounder of the group, wants to change that.

She and members of the organization were in Alley Pond Park in northeast Queens on Wednesday to publicize their “New York City Strategic Trails Plan,” a 68-page report aimed at building and maintaining a robust trail system, and getting the information to people who would like to take advantage of it.

“Most of the trails go through forests, wetlands and marshes,” Charlop-Powers told the Chronicle in a telephone interview.

The trails that are not marked and regularly cleared, she said, often are ones that have just been created by continual use.

The group’s strategic plan is aimed at creating unified mapping, signs and design standards for all existing and future trails. The members hope to eliminate informal trails that are redundant, substandard or impact environmentally sensitive habitats.

There also are plans to help connect existing trails; establish maintenance schedules and procedures; and build a base of volunteers, sponsors and donors.

“Many parks in the city have those, like the Central Park Conservancy,” Charlop-Powers said Tuesday. She wants to establish the same for trails.

“We are proud to have collaborated with NYC Parks on a whole new strategy to upgrade New York City’s nature trails,” Charlop-Powers said in a statement issued Wednesday. “Our goal is to create the kind of experience most New Yorkers think they need to leave the city to find, right here in the five boroughs.”

“We have spent decades restoring and caring for our natural areas, and I’m thrilled that we are now focusing on mapping and revamping our extensive trail system, making it easier to explore and navigate the natural beauty of our parks,” said Jennifer Greenfeld, Parks’ assistant commissioner for forestry, horticulture and natural resources.

The report, released Wednesday, says Queens has just over 76 miles of trails. Alley Pond Park features a glacier-formed moraine, freshwater and saltwater wetlands, tidal flats, meadows and forests.

It also has 21.68 miles of trails to view and experience them all.

Forest Park in southwestern Queens is 165 acres of small hills that the NAC report calls “knob and hill” terrain. It has more than 19 miles of trails.

Cunningham Park in Fresh Meadows is described as 15.7 miles of winding trails through oak and hickory forests with abundant wildlife.

Those seeking more information on the trail initiative or the NAC are invited to visit the group’s website at naturalareasnyc.org.

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