Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The red trail

This morning I walked around my adopted woods surrounding Strack Pond with the administer of Forest Park responsible for the wooded areas in the park. She gave me permission to mark out a trail through the woods. I hope to elicit the help of all who read this blog in mapping out and maintaining this beautiful walk through the woods surrounding Strack Pond.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Thoughts by the pond

I remember sitting in my favorite spot beneath a wide oak tree just off the trail that surrounds the pond. The last snow was still on the ground but the sun and air told of spring coming. You can see the buildings that surround the park and the tops of trucks that pass on Wooodhaven Boulevard at that time before the forest has awakened. It's a reminder of how fragile the park is, how vulnerable to the outside world.

I was caught in the rain tonight. It started as I was walking to the pond , so I stopped by a bank protected by the double canopy of trees that grow there. It was dry there . I watched the rain disturb the mottled green surface of the water. I took in this beautiful scene of the pond and its surrounding woods too thick now to see those buildings and trucks of March but, they are still there. The park is lush and beautiful now, but no less fragile or vulnerable. Help me put an end to littering in our green spaces.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Other Forest Park

Although I wish for this blog to be a public forum, so far I have received little comment (publicly) from the readers. Word has reached me however, that at least one of my readers worries that the blog because many of the posts focus on the business of picking up and analyzing trash (I have become some kind of forensic trashologist), because of this, paints a negative image of Forest Park which might lead to the wrong impression of its value or might even deter visitors from coming to the park. I would like to dispel that image from the minds of readers who don't know the park first hand. Let me say that in the hundreds of hours I spend in the park, I have witnessed unlawfull activity including littering only on about three occassions. None of these incidents were threatening or caused me any anxiety. The park is a safe place to be during daylight hours. If you aren't aware of the geography of the park, Forest Park is a big park! By far, the largest portion is all forest. Because of it's size, it forms a border with four separate neighborhoods, Glendale on one end, Forest Hills, Kew Gardens and Richmond Hill on its other side .Two sets of railroad tracks dissect it. Myrtle Avenue runs through it and Woodhaven Boulevard cuts off another section . The downside of that is there are just too many ways of entering the park apart from the designated areas planned by its designers.My work of picking up trash is largely confined to the edges of the park the unplanned entrances. That's where I find homeless encampments, places to hide illegal activities and most litter. I pick up that litter and look for it every day. Perhaps the reporting of my work has skewed my readers overall view of the park. I should therefore, paint a fairer picture of the vast majority of the park and take you there on a virtual journey.

Today, I parked on a street off of Woodhaven Boulevard and Union Turnpike and walked to its end where there is a big industrial looking building on a dead end street. It houses a Riding Academy with one of those indoor rings riding schools provide, and a small stable where one can either rent horses or stable their own. From there, riders cross Union Turnpike and enter the park's bridal path where they ride through 500 plus acres of mostly an oak and hickory forest covering the hills and gulleys of the glacial moraine that formed this part of Queens. I entered the park walking down the wide lane used by the horse riders as they travel to a place where they can access a tunnel under the Jackie Robinson Parkway which unfortunately shaves some 30 original acres from the park. This morning, I had my work gloves with me but no plan in my mind that I would clean up a particular spot. The woods on this other side of Woodhaven Boulevard are much cleaner than what I have described in earlier posts. There are four marked trails in and around the forest, and countless smaller off the trail paths that can end in dead ends or meet the marked trails at other points or exit the park.There is also the bridal path which intersects those trails at several places.This morning, I found a clean looking plastic bag that looked strong so I thought I would fill that one bag and continue my walk from where ever that led me. Littering on this side of the park isn't as pervasive as in the small strip of woods I normally prowl on the Strack Pond side of the park. So starting in the area where I found the bag, I took one of those off the trail paths close to the edge of the park and walked stopping to pick up water bottles, and all the stuff I normally find, but not in any one heavily concentrated area . When I had filled the bag, I looked for a place to dispose of it and found a can at an opening in the woods where Forest Park Drive cuts across its expanse. Thankfully, there is no traffic allowed on the Drive on this part of its length so I saw a few walkers and a biker or two this morning as I crossed the Drive and looked for the painted dots on fences, rocks and trees that mark where the orange trail leads one around the woods. The orange trail is the outermost trail and the longest in the park. It would take you about an hour or perhaps a little more to hike the whole trail. I decided to follow the trail for part of its length back around to where I could get off it at a place near where the horses and I entered .If you're thinking to yourself , this sounds like a really nice thing to do, you would be right. This morning, I walked through a section of the trail where towering pines dominate a flat area of about two hundred yards only to return me to be swallowed again by the hills of the forest. I walked down darkened lanes and climbed hills where the exposed roots of giant oak trees formed natural stairs in the soil. I love to examine the bottoms of the oak trees that are all over the woods. The roots of some of the larger and older ones reach into the soil like the legs of giants covered in green moss.In the spaces between where the roots meet the trunk, natural grottos form in these oak tree where one might expect to find an altar to the goddess or a faerie door leading to the nether world. At some point in the trail, I crossed a bridge over the active tracks of a spur of the Long Island Railroad where occasional freights pass hauled by diesel locomotives. It's serene and calming in spite of the traffic noise of the Jackie Robinson which plays in the background. It's a treasure-is Forest Park. It is a place to be preserved and supported.The staff there does a remarkable job with the limited resources spooned out by the city. We need more money, more staff, more rangers and more volunteers. Come, walk around this park. Explore the trails, pause on a hill to view a freight train rounding a curve. This is why I work--why I sometimes get obsessed with the trash I find. This is what makes it all worth the effort.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Sex in the Park

Picking up trash in the park is an interesting way to study human behavior. Heavy concentrations of particular kinds of trash lead one to certain conclusions about how the park is used, at least by those who litter. Now, hopefully there are those users of the park who never litter, so there is little or no evidence of their passage. Among those, I count horse riders, dog walkers, nature lovers and citizens who are conscientious about littering (like me). Horse riders do of course, leave some "trace" behind,but even that seems concentrated in certain areas- almost as if there is some kind of agreement among their steeds that one only uses certain parts of the trail to leave one's manure. Perhaps there is some kind of "elephant burial grounds" mentality among horses. I really don't know. Dog walkers seem very good at cleaning up after their pets. I rarely find those tell tale plastic bags knotted closed at their handles, in the mix of the other litter.By the way,since any littering is against the law in the park, anyone who does so is guilty of criminal behavior. However, it is interesting to note that among litterers, there are three specific groups of other law breakers. They are the drinkers of alcoholic beverages, the drug users and those for whom the park is a convenient place to have sex. I have addressed the former in other posts. Now, I would like to shed some light on the latter. I suppose it's good in a way that the use of condoms for sex is on the rise (at least among Forest Park patrons). The ubiquitous presence of those NYC condom packages are a testimony to the awareness that protected sex is important, even in the woods. I have never come upon anyone actually having sex, however I did see two teens trying to swallow one another's faces one afternoon. I suggested they "get a room". Depending on the time, I also encounter single men looking like they are looking for other single men. So, I surmise, both hetero and homosexual sex
are one of the unadvertised attractions to the woods of Forest Park. I have a friend who now lives in Seattle who tells me that her memories of Forest Park include the first few times she had sex as a young girl, so apparently the park is famous as a venue for early hetero sex.It appears that present day heterosexual users like to leave souvenirs of their encounters. Spent condoms and ripped panties or underwear seem to be a triumphant testament to sexual success. I find very few used condoms in the homosexual areas (thank you very much). Only the wrappers remain as evidence of any union.

To all litterers, I would like to say please, I am not impressed or moved in any way that you had lunch, drank a gallon of malt liquor, smoked dope and then got laid. Don't leave the evidence of your behavior behind. For God's sake, pick up that wrapper!