- Public transportation: E or F train to Union Turnpike Station. Take Q46 bus to Winchester Boulevard. Walk north on Winchester to highway overpass and turn left under Grand Central Parkway to access the road that leads to parking lot. Alley Pond Nature Center is across soccer field.
- Car: Westbound — Grand Central Parkway to exit 23. Follow signs to Union Turnpike and make a left on Turnpike at traffic light. Continue to Winchester Boulevard and turn left at light. Pass Creedmoor on right. Make next left under highway into park, which leads to parking lot. Alley Pond Nature Center is across soccer field (open by appointment, 718-217-6034). Eastbound – Grand Central Parkway to exit 23, bearing right on ramp. Make a left at stop sign onto Winchester Boulevard and make a quick left under highway into park. This road will lead to the parking lot. Alley Pond Nature Center is across soccer field.
Directions to Alley Pond Environmental Center, 228-06 Northern Boulevard, 718-229-4000.
- Public transportation: 7 train to Main Street stop, transfer to eastbound Q12 bus that stops at Center. Or LIRR to Bayside station. Walk south to Northern Boulevard for eastbound Q12 bus, which stops in front of the center.
- Car: Long Island Expressway to Clearview Expressway northbound. Exit at Northern Boulevard, eastbound. Continue approximately three miles on Northern Boulevard to APEC (on right side of Boulevard).
Chickadees hop about in the trees along the parking lot, providing a warm welcome to visitors. Though at first glace this may seem like a typical recreational park with ball fields, barbeques and running dogs, make your way beyond the expanse of turf to get a vision of what New York City used to look like.
Retreating glaciers molded this land into its knob and kettle topography with rolling hills and low-lying ponds. Despite being sliced and diced over the years by highways and parkways, Alley Pond Park — the second largest in Queens — is the most ecologically diverse piece of land managed by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. It’s no wonder that the department has listed 549 of the park’s 657 acres in its Forever Wild Program to protect vital habitats.
Named “Alley” after the area’s preceding commercial and manufacturing center in the 18th century, Alley Pond Park offers marvelous nature appreciation opportunities along its hiking trails. Forest trees include American Beech, Sweet Gum, oak, maple and Black Tupelo, some of which are over 200 years old, like the city’s oldest and largest, a Tuliptree appropriately named the Alley Pond Giant. The shady understory offers perfect conditions so wildflowers like trillium and dozens of mushroom species can flourish.
Dotting the landscape are freshwater kettle ponds that provide a home for various species like Spring Peepers and Eastern Box Turtles. Decodon Pond, the largest of the kettles, is named after the Water Willow tree (Decodon verticulum) and even a cold November day sees tremendous life around these ponds with busy Downy Woodpeckers, Northern Flickers, Brown Creepers and Dark-eyed Juncos.
Forests and ponds give way to salt marshes and tidal wetlands where the park joins Little Neck Bay at its northern section. Visitors should plan to visit the Alley Pond Environmental Center (APEC) off Northern Boulevard. Formed in 1972 by a group of folks concerned about the area’s protection, APEC provides award-winning environmental programs for children and adults, and maintains the trails that surround the salt marsh. APEC also hosts the Queens County Bird Club meetings.
- Alley Pond Environmental Center, accessed on 1/3/2009 at www.alleypond.com
- Field Guide to the Natural World of New York City by Leslie Day, published 2007 by Johns Hopkins University Press.
- The New York City Audubon Society Guide to Finding Birds in the Metropolitan Area by Marcia T. Fowle and Paul Kerlinger, published 2001 by Cornell University Press.
- New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, accessed on 1/4/2009 at: http://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/alleypondpark, http://nycgovparks.org/sub_about/parks_divisions/nrg/forever_wild/pdf/Q001_2008%20FW%20-%20Alley%20Pond%20Park%20Preserve.pdf, http://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/alleypondpark/facilities/hikingtrails
- New York City Trees: A Field Guide for the Metropolitan Area by Edward Sibley Barnard, published 2002 by Columbia University Press.
- Wild New York: A Guide to the Wildlife, Wild Places, and Natural Phenomena of New York City, by Margaret Mittelbach and Michael Crewdson, published 1997 by Three Rivers Press.
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