- Public transportation: Bus — Q11 on Woodhaven; B55 along Myrtle Ave. Subway — J train to Woodhaven Blvd and Jamaica Ave or 102nd Street; E or F to Union Turnpike/Kew Gardens (for East Section). J train to Forest Parkway and Jamaica Avenue then walk northeast on Parkway to FP Drive (for West Section).
- Car: East Section – Van Wyck expressway south to Union Turnpike exit; turn left on Markwood Place/Park Lane; enter park near overlook. West Section – Jackie Robinson pkwy south to Forest Park Drive Exit; turn left onto park drive.
- Nature Center: Woodhaven Blvd at Forest Park Drive. Phone: 718-846-2731.
Another of Fredrick Law Olmstead’s grand works, Forest Park in Queens is the borough’s third largest at 543 acres. As expected for a city park, it features a number of recreational facilities including athletic fields and courts, a golf course, carousel and band shell. But what makes Forest Park particularly unique is its 411 acres of forest — more than 60% of the park is dense stands of oak, pine and hickory.
Situated along the Harbor Hill moraine, the land was rich with songbirds, rabbits, and quail when Brooklyn officials first conceived the park in 1895 as a recreation site for the area’s rapidly growing population. The park became part of Queens County when New York City was consolidated.
Though several roads including the Jackie Robinson Parkway dissect the park, much nature remains intact, especially in the eastern section. In fact, Forest Park Preserve is one of the Parks Department’s Forever Wild sites with 274 acres of remarkably pristine, undisturbed forest with Hickories, Flowering Dogwoods, Maple Leaf Viburnum, pines and Red and Black Oaks. Some specimens are over 150 years old!
The Preserve offers bike trails and bridle paths, but for those more inclined to hike there are three beautiful trails: the .5 mile long Red Trail, 1.5 mile Yellow Trail and 1.75 mile Blue Trail. Along the paths you’ll be able to get a better sense of the area’s glacial past with boggy kettle holes, knobs and boulders left behind when the glaciers began to retreat. One such kettle hole is the restored Strack’s Pond. Watch for birds, butterflies and dragonflies along the trail and viewing areas.
Forest Park Preserve is particularly great for birding during migration. Rarities include Cerulean, Yellow-throated and Mourning Warblers; regulars include Red-tailed Hawks, Great Blue herons, Downy Woodpeckers, and Great Egrets.
But the Preserve isn’t the only place to enjoy nature. Even along the main drive to the golf course, Blue Jays and Red-headed Woodpeckers call out as Eastern Gray Squirrels romp in the fallen leaves as if apartment buildings and subways were a world away.
- Brooklyn-Queens Greenway Guide by the City of New York Parks and Recreation, accessed on 1/2/09 at http://www.nycgovparks.org/sub_things_to_do/facilities/images/Brooklyn_Queens_Greenway_Guide.pdf
- 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 1/2/2009 at http://nycgovparks.org/sub_about/parks_divisions/nrg/forever_wild/site.php?FWID=31, http://nycgovparks.org/parks/forestpark/facilities/naturecenters.
- New York City Trees: A Field Guide for the Metropolitan Area by Edward Sibley Barnard, published 2002 by Columbia University Press.
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