I found out via Queens Crap on Sunday that The NYC Parks Department reopened Willow Lake Trail on weekends, effective immediately.
They must have been really busy these last 2 weeks. As we recently reported, Willow Lake Trail has basically been abandoned for the last 15 years.
The sudden reopening of this trail is, in and of itself, extremely suspicious. When a huge piece of parkland sits completely closed to the public for over 15 years, you would think there would be a reopening ceremony? Or maybe some type of event to commemorate the renaming of the trail (recently renamed ‘Pat Dolan’ trail).
I immediately set out to walk the trail. What I found amounts to a coverup.
I immediately set out to walk the trail. What I found amounts to a coverup.
The 2 large sections of the trail which were washed out and passable via paving stones have been completely covered by a brand new, thicker layer of woodchips. It completely covers up the oily soil underneath. Yes – I said it again: It covers it up. Was any of the oily mud scraped up and sent out for testing?
No work has been done on the Willow Lake Trail Bridge. Nature, however, has taken over the burned out portions with lush green vines – so unless you knew better you might not realize you’re crossing a ‘temporary’ bridge.
Between Willow Lake Bridge and the Grand Central Parkway Bridge, the trail is completely not passable. The paving stones that were used to cross the 2 washouts further east are now being placed on the west end of the trail. They suddenly dead end though, and you’re left to make you’re way through the mud, thick vegetation, and wooden planks to try to make your way to the bridge over the highway. As of this writing, if you try to access the park/trail from the forest hills side, you can only cross the bridge over the Grand Central Parkway. The path is completely lost in the brush throughout this west end of the trail.
A friend of mine from the neighbor had this reaction when trying to enter from near the Grand Central Parkway: “I just went into the Forest Hills entrance, and it is EXACTLY as it was the last time I went in there 8 years. ago. Sidewalks cracked with tons of growth. Broken lamps. I got 100 feet down the path and had to turn around because the path is the same muddy piece of crap it used to be. Pat Dolan would be pissed if she saw her name on the gate. (As far as I know, from my side of the park, that sign and gate is the only new thing to this area)”
Between Willow Lake Bridge and the Grand Central Parkway Bridge, the trail is completely not passable.
Clearly, they are still working on making this end of the path passable. Why did they even open up the trail if you can’t walk the entire length?
I’ll tell you why: lack of coordination. Clearly our friends at City Hall and The Parks Department were completely embarrassed by the photos posted here. Someone miscommunicated how far the work crew had progressed and they reopened the trail. Assuming there is a work crew presently working on repairing the trail, it probably won’t take them more than 1-2 weeks to finish the job (depending on the size of the crew of course).
All of the old abandoned lamp posts are still along this portion of the trail. You’d think the city would rip them out of there and get a few bucks for the scrap metal.
Curiously, the new ‘Duck Blind’ that they built at the edge of the lake was basically abandoned on Sunday. The new woodchip trail does not branch off to it clearly, and reeds are growing all around it.
Again: the message sent is lack of coordination. A rush job.
Meanwhile, Lisa Colangelo over at the Daily News broke the story of the park’s reopening on Friday, May 31st. She has made a habit of asking the Parks Department when the trail will open, and had not seen the posts on here or Queens Crap, so the story just announces the parks reopening and has a few fluffy quotes from the Parks Department. I have a bone to pick with some of what they said – so allow me the indulgence of responding to their quotes line by line:
The Parks Department just completed the first phase of a project to remove invasive plants and make the site more accessible to visitors.
That’s nice but they said this would be done years ago. Are we suppose to just forget 15 years of broken promises? Is there a Phase 2? What the long term plans for this park and where can a taxpaying citizen such as myself find out about them?
A new stone path was designed to make the area more accessible to people who want to cavort with the birds, muskrats and other wildlife that inhabit the area.
Are you seriously telling me it took 15 years to go over to Home Depot and buy a few dozen paving stones so citizens can hop over what looks like an oily mess? Designed? Did someone get paid to ‘design’ this path, or was it just the work crew doing their job laying down the stones? No disrespect to anyone but a 5 year old can lay out stones to bridge gaps over water and muck.
Officials said they kept portions of the park shuttered to ensure that the new plantings would grow, but Melnick noted the area was always accessible through Jewel Ave
100% Not true. Access via Jewel Ave was limited at best. To get to the actual trail you had to walk along either the Grand Central Parkway or Van Wyck Expressway. Officials lying to the public might work in Manhattan, but it sure as hell isn’t going to work in Queens. This park has been ‘closed’ for 15 years.
Keeping the walkway from becoming overgrown requires constant trimming of plants, Melnick said. “Nature wants to reclaim what is hers,” she said. “It takes a lot of work to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
Uhm… yeah… so you’re saying sending one guy down the trail with a weed wacker every 2 or 3 weeks is a problem? How many full time Groundskeepers are employed by the High Line and Central Park again? To state the obvious: IF YOU MAINTAINED THIS PARK ALL ALONG IT WOULDN’T HAVE BECOME AN OVERGROWN MESS TO BEGIN WITH. Yes. It takes a little effort to maintain a park. *Shocking*.
…so you’re saying sending one guy down the trail with a weed wacker every 2 or 3 weeks is a problem? How many full time Groundskeepers are employed by the High Line and Central Park again?
I’m going to repeat the same questions from a few weeks ago:
Why has this park been closed for 15 years?
Why was nearly half a million dollars spent on 2 fences to keep people out of this park instead of on repairing the trail 5 years ago?
Are the waters of Willow Lake polluted with heavy metals and runoff from nearby highways, the junk yards of willets point, and the severely noxious smelling Flushing Creek? What independent lab analysis can be provided?
What are the long term plans for maintaining this park and keeping it permanently reopened to the public?
How often will employees be sent to inspect the trail and keep it clear of new growth and trash?
Attention NYC Parks Department and City Hall: Queens is still calling, and we want some answers. We’re not going to stop asking until you provide them in great detail.
Reopening this park is a nice first step. Anyone that now goes there will be able to clearly see its potential and what an asset it is to the community this parkland is. That’s a very good thing. I have nothing but praise to the workers who pulled this off so quick, and nothing but disdain towards the politicians who allowed this fiasco to fester for so long. Make no mistake about this: opening the trail is the first large step – now it needs to be maintained, and the soil and water around the lake need to be tested so we know what we’re dealing with and can come up with a plan to clean up any potential toxic chemicals.