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Queens Chronicle

Once a pond a time in Forest Park

Hidden in plain sight, Strack Pond is getting a natural makeover

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Posted: Thursday, June 6, 2019 10:30 am

Someone with a good throwing arm could stand on the far eastern edge of Strack Pond and hit Woodhaven Boulevard with a rock.

The pond, tucked behind a thick line of trees and shrubs in Forest Park, can’t be seen from the road even in winter.

It is known only to intrepid dog walkers, hikers and the occasional school group. You have to know it’s there and, to maintain its exclusivity, most of those who do know don’t talk about it.

But Strack Pond’s days as the Greta Garbo spot in Forest Park may be numbered.

Last Saturday, thanks to $5,000 in city money from Councilman Robert Holden (D-Middle Village), the trails around the 3-acre pond preserve were cut back, weeded and cleaned-up by scores of stooping volunteers.

It is the only the beginning, according to Mk Moore, president of the Friends of Forest Park.

“We don’t want to build it up or make it into something it’s not,” said Moore. “We just want to keep it a wild and natural place.”

Improvements Moore and the Friends are talking about with the Parks Department are not game chargers — just some things to make a special place more special.

“A couple of benches where people can sit,” he said. “Right now, people have to sit on the rocks or on blankets spread out on the dirt.”

Also doubling the size of a patio along the pond’s western edge, where an area the size of half a tennis court is covered with worn and broken pavers.

“Right now, we are trying to see if we need a landscaper or if it’s something we can do ourselves,” said Moore.

Longtime park-goers recall when Strack Pond was filled in by the Parks Department in the 1960s to create two baseball fields — something that seemed like a good idea at the time, said Ed Wendell, head of the Woodhaven Cultural and Historical Society.

“I played down there when I was kid,” he told the Chronicle.

But after even a mild rain, the pools of standing water made the fields unplayable, he remembers.

“My father was a coach and he always carried bags of clay in his trunk. He used it to soak up the water on the field,” Wendell said.

The water problem eventually made it impractical to play there and the league moved its games elsewhere.

In the 1990s, the decision was made to dig up the field and return the land to its original state.

It took two years and about $1 million to bring the pond back.

Last weekend’s cleanup included new wooden-plank paths, called puncheons, in some of the marshy sections of the trail.

As for the more permanent improvements, Moore cannot give a timetable.

“At the Parks Department,” he said, “things are measured in years.”

“There has been interest in creating a natural ‘patio’ area with shoreline access,” said Portia Dyrenforth, the Forest Park administrator.

“That would require a capital project, and is currently unfunded. But we are pursuing the idea,” she said.

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