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RESTORATION OF AURORA POND

RAVINE RESTORATION PROJECT � PHASE III
Completed June, 2008

The Udalls Cove Preservation Committee (UCPC) has completed another important step in its ongoing restoration and conservation work in the Ravine portion of the Udalls Cove Park and Nature Preserve. During the Spring of 2008 UCPC carryied out a restoration project in the area of the Park northeast of the intersection of 44th Avenue and 244th Street (just north of the Douglaston Firehouse).

Storm water runs into the Ravine from the nearby streets. Water runs down 44th Avenue from near Zion Church, and also runs down 244th Street from the direction of Northern Boulevard. Most of this water flows into the roadway adjacent to the Firehouse and enters the Ravine from there. The water entering at this location had carved a deep erosion gully in the area. The eroded sediment ended up at the bottom of the slope in Gabler�s Creek, which runs through the Ravine and feeds the newly restored Aurora Pond to the north.

UCPC�s restoration project involved -- (1) construction of a rock-lined drainage swale to control erosion in this area of the Park; (2) replenishment of lost top soil; (3) covering the new soil with wood chips; and (4) replanting the area with native species of trees and shrubs.

This restoration project like all of UCPC's work in the Park  was carried out in full cooperation and partnership with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation (NYCDPR), the owner of the land. The $75,000 project was conducted by a professional landscape contractor hired by UCPC. The work was subject to, and was carried out in conformance with the terms of a Tidal Wetlands permit issued by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC); and construction and forestry permits issued by NYCDPR.

The drainage swale was constructed using rip-rap technique, which involves the placement of rocks of various sizes in the water course. The rocks protect the soil below from erosion; they also slow the water as it flows downhill, allowing sediment to settle out. There is a small percolation basin at the bottom of the first part of the slope, which allows more sediment to settle. The drainage swale then continues towards the east, down to Gabler's Creek.

Prior to the start of work, the project site was overgrown with invasive species primarily Japanese Knotweed, Porcelainberry and Norway Maple. These were removed to allow the swale construction and soil replenishment work to proceed. There were a few higher quality, native trees on the site (including several Hickory, Black Locust, Black Birch and River Birch trees) which were carefully protected during the work. In addition, twenty new native trees (including oak, gum, tulip and dogwood) of 2" - 3" diameter size, and 50 native shrubs (including viburnum, chokecherry, witch hazel and bayberry) were planted. An additional twenty new native trees will be planted in the Fall of 2008. (As is usual in a project of this sort, a few of the newly planted trees and shrubs have died; these will be replaced in the Fall or next Spring.)

A cobblestone entry allows storm water to flow from 44th Avenue into the new drainage swale. To complete the project, an attractive wooden split rail fence was installed along the adjacent roadways.


UCPC Completes Sandhill Road Guard Rail Project
April, 2007

UCPC recently completed construction of a new, wooden guard rail along Sandhill Road near Aurora Pond. The sturdy, attractive railing matches exactly the railing installed adjacent to the pond last year ago by the City Parks Department as part of the Pond restoration project.

The $48,000 project was funded in part by two $20,000 grants received by UCPC � one from the State (secured by State Senator Frank Padavan) and the other from the City (secured by City Council Member Tony Avella).

UCPC hired a professional contractor to install about 550 linear feet of guard rail. The contract specifications required that the railing be identical to several hundred feet of railing installed a year earlier by the City.

The project  like all of UCPC restoration work in the Park  was carried out pursuant to the conditions of a permits issued by the Parks Department and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.


RESTORATION OF AURORA POND COMPLETE!
May 19, 2006

The project to restore Aurora Pond is complete!  After nearly two years of work, the construction fence finally came down on May 19, 2006.  A �grand  reopening� ribbon-cutting ceremony for the newly restored pond is expected to occur within the next two months.  

Named to honor Aurora Gareiss,  the legendary Queens conservationist and founder of the Udalls Cove Preservation Committee (UCPC), the pond was accidentally destroyed when it was dredged in the early 1990's.  The dredging work at that time cut through a layer of clay-like soil which had allowed the pond water to collect.  After it was dredged, the pond basin no longer held water, leaving it little more than a weed-choked mud puddle.

After the pond disappeared, its restoration became UCPC's top priority.  The organization worked with the NYC Parks Department and with local elected officials to secure funding and develop a viable plan.  After ten years of effort by UCPC and our elected officials, work on the restoration project began in August, 2004.  The pond is located on Sandhill Road (known locally as the Back Road) between Douglaston and Little Neck.

Prior to the early 1990's, Aurora  Pond was about an acre in size, and afforded an idyllically beautiful view for passersby on Sandhill Road.  In the winter, local children skated and played ice hockey on the frozen surface.  In the spring and summer, the Pond was home to hundreds of toads that would �sing� at night; and to a variety of water fowl and other wildlife.

The Parks Department invited UCPC to work cooperatively on the design of the restoration project.  In early 2000 UCPC submitted a detailed proposal laying out our recommended objectives and giving historical information about the size and location of the former Pond.  UCPC also provided detailed comments on the draft design, and was gratified that the Department made adjustments to address our concerns.

Under the final restoration plan, a new basin for the Pond was constructed, and its bottom was lined with clay to replicate the original layer that kept the water in the Pond.  The clay was covered with soil, and appropriate native vegetation was planted.  Gabler's Creek, which flows through the Udalls Cove Ravine and past Aurora Pond, was re-routed into and through the restored Pond, assuring a year-round flow of fresh, oxygen-rich water.  Water from natural springs near the foot of the Long Island Railroad embankment also flows into the Pond.  A viewing area adjacent to Sandhill Road, with a beautiful,  rustic Adirondacks-style railing, allows pedestrians to stop and enjoy the vista.  A series of trails allow a relaxing stroll around the pond and through this area of the park.  Native species of trees, shrubs and grasses have been planted all around the Pond.  Orange plastic fencing around the shoreline of the pond will keep geese and ducks from eating the newly planted vegetation during the first year; more attractive black wire fencing will serve a similar purpose for some of the new trees and shrubs.

Additional maintenance work will be required for a number of years thereafter to ensure that the new vegetation is successfully established.  UCPC will work with the Parks Department in this maintenance effort, and we look forward to welcoming back the fish, turtles, herons, egrets, ducks, muskrat, frogs, toads and salamanders that formerly lived and foraged in and around Aurora Pond.

 The Parks Department's attempt to dredge the Pond in the early 1990's was in response to siltation caused by decades of run-off from the steep slope to the west and the streets above.  In order to prevent the same thing happening again, the gully down which storm water flows from Hillside Avenue into the Pond was entirely reconstructed.  The gully was lined with large rocks built into a series of attractive terraces that form little pools and waterfalls during a rain storm.  By slowing down the water in these pools, much of the silt and sand settles out before reaching the Pond.  In fact, much of the water seeps into the ground within the gully itself, helping to recharge the groundwater table.

As a last step in the restoration project, the 30+ year old fence that formerly separated the pond from Sandhill Road was removed.  This fence, hand made by UCPC from old telephone poles, was rotting and unsightly and had collapsed in many places.  It has been replaced by a sturdy and attractive wooden railing.  

However, the City Parks Department had funding only to replace the phone-pole fence adjacent to the pond restoration site itself.  UCPC has therefore initiated a Fund For The Fence campaign to raise the money needed to replicate along the remainder of Sandhill Road the fine new railing that now borders the pond.  The cost is estimated at between $45,000 and $50,000.  At UCPC�s annual meeting on May 6, 2006 State Senator Frank Padavan announced that he had secured a $20,000 grant in the New York State budget to serve as the cornerstone of the Fund for the Fence.  Additional fund-raising efforts are under way.  You can help us go

FROM THIS. . .           

          . . . TO THIS!
      

Send your check made out to Udalls Cove Preservation Committee to UCPC at:
251-31 42nd Avenue, Little Neck, NY 11363.  Mark it �Fund for the Fence.�      


Update: September, 2004

Thanks to years of effort by UCPC and our elected officials, the project to restore Aurora Pond finally began on August 9, 2004. The Pond, located on Sandhill Road (known locally as the Back Road) between Douglaston and Little Neck, was accidentally destroyed when it was dredged in the early 1990's. The dredging work at that time cut through a layer of clay-like soil which had allowed the pond water to collect. After that time, the basin of the Pond no longer held water, leaving it little more than a weed-choked mud puddle.

After the Pond disappeared, its restoration became UCPC's top priority. Our organization worked with the New York City Parks Department and with local elected officials to develop a viable plan. In 1999, former New York City Councilman Mike Abel secured approximately $800,000 in funding to restore the lost Pond. The money has been set aside since then, awaiting finalization of the plans.

Prior to the early 1990's, Aurora Pond was about an acre in size, and afforded an idyllically beautiful view for passersby on Sandhill Road. In the winter, local children skated and played ice hockey on the frozen surface. In the spring and summer, the Pond was home to hundreds of Fowler's toads who would sing at night; and to a variety of water fowl and other wildlife. The Pond is named after Aurora Gareiss, the legendary Queens conservationist and UCPC's founder.

The Parks Department invited UCPC to work cooperatively on the design of the restoration project. In early 2000 UCPC submitted a detailed proposal laying out our recommended objectives and giving historical information about the size and location of the former Pond. UCPC also provided detailed comments on the initial and final draft designs prepared by the Department's Capital Projects office. UCPC was gratified at the Department's willingness to consider our recommendations and make design adjustments to address our concerns. The result is an excellent restoration plan, for which UCPC commends landscape architect and project manager Marcha Johnson and her colleagues in the Parks Department.

Under the final restoration plan, a new basin for the Pond will be constructed. The bottom of the basin will be lined with clay to replicate the original layer that kept the water in the Pond. Gabler's Creek, which flows through the Udalls Cove Ravine and past Aurora Pond, will be re-routed into and through the restored Pond, assuring a year-round flow of fresh, oxygen-rich water. A viewing area adjacent to Sandhill road will also be created so that pedestrians can stop and enjoy the vista. Native species of trees, shrubs and grasses will be planted around the Pond.

The Parks Department�s attempt to dredge the Pond in the early 1990's was in response to siltation caused by decades of run-off from the steep slope to the west and the streets above. In order to prevent the same thing happening again, the restoration plan includes a reconstruction of the gully down which storm water flows from Hillside Avenue into the Pond. The gully will be lined with rocks built into a series of attractive little pools and waterfalls. By slowing down the water in these pools, much of the silt and sand will settle out before reaching the Pond. Some of the water will also seep into the ground in the gully itself, helping to recharge the groundwater table.

The restoration project is expected to take about ten months, and will require additional maintenance work for a number of years thereafter to ensure that the new vegetation is successfully established. UCPC will work with the Parks Department in this maintenance effort, and we look forward to welcoming back the herons, egrets, ducks, muskrat, frogs, toads, salamanders and turtles that formerly lived in and used Aurora Pond


Update: January, 2003

Paradise Lost

        Even as efforts to protect the marshes, woodlands and shorelines of the Udalls Cove Wildlife Preserve were bearing fruit, Aurora Pond � named for our group's founder, Aurora Gareiss  was in trouble.  It was filling up with silt that ran down with rainwater from the hilly Douglaston streets to the west.  As the Pond got shallower, it held less water and was subject to drying up almost entirely during drought years.  Invasive and largely unproductive Phragmites reeds a signature of a disturbed wetland environment crowded out cattails and other indigenous plants.            

         Once a thriving pond, now just a puddle.... In the early 1990's the City attempted to remedy the situation by dredging the Pond to deepen it, so it would hold more water.  But this effort was a disastrous failure.  It turns out that a layer of clay-like soil several feet beneath the surface was holding water in the Pond, somewhat like a bathtub.  While trying to deepen the Pond, the excavators broke through this layer.  It was as if the stopper in the bottom of the bathtub had been removed, and the tub no longer held any water.  Aurora Pond soon became a mere shadow of itself, a tiny, weed-choked puddle a fraction of its original one-acre size, and six or seven feet lower than it had been just a few years before.  Soon the banks were overgrown, and where there had once been a charming vista from the street, passersby can now see only trees and reeds.

UCPC Responds               Once a thriving pond, now just a puddle....

            The Udalls Cove Preservation Committee committed itself to a full restoration of Aurora Pond, and set about working with local elected officials and the City Parks Department.  The New York City Council in Fiscal Year 2000 appropriated some $800,000 for the restoration of the Pond and improvements to the associated wooded uplands and the so-called Ravine area south of the railroad tracks.  (Both the Pond and the Ravine are within the Wildlife Preserve.)  UCPC was invited to work with the City Parks Department in the planning and design of the restoration project.  We have been in close communication with Ms. Marcha Johnson, the Parks Department Landscape Architect responsible for the project.

The Restoration Project Underway

         In 2001, much preparatory work that is needed to develop a sound concept and design for the restoration project was completed by the Parks Department.  Borings and percolation tests were done so that hydrologists and soil scientists could determine what underground layers were holding the water in the past.  Sources of water to feed the Pond were identified, including groundwater, nearby springs, surface runoff, and Gablers Creek (which runs through the Ravine from Northern Boulevard, and passes under Sandhill Road near Aurora Pond as it flows out to Udalls Cove.)

A professional survey of the entire Wildlife Preserve was carried out.  Aerial photographs and detailed maps were combined with precise elevation readings taken in the field. This information was needed for design to ensure that available water sources can get to the restored Pond. 

   Gabler's Creek Near Sandhill Road

  The Future of Aurora Pond

            Detailed design began in 2002.  In late May of that year, the Parks Department met with UCPC to present several options.  UCPC expressed strong support for one of them, but recommended some additional modifications.  In October, we met again with the Parks Department to review the conceptual design for the selected alternative.  We were pleased with the proposal, which provides for diversion of water from Gabler's Creek, soon after it emerges from the culvert under the Long Island Rail Road tracks, into Aurora Pond.  The Pond bed itself will be reconfigured.  Importantly, the bottom of the Pond will be lined with an impervious liner covered by about a foot of soil.  This will re-establish the hydraulic barrier that was broken when the earlier dredging work took place in about 1992.  The outflow from the Pond will return to Gabler's Creek through another channel, and into the culvert under Sandhill Road (the Back Road).  The design also provides for the installation of rocks into the gully that leads down a steep hillside into the Pond from the bottom of Hillside Avenue in Douglaston.  That gully is severely eroded, and is the source of much of the sediment that caused the Pond to fill up in the past.  Installation f the rock lining, interspersed with little pools and waterfalls, will slow the water down during a rainstorm, and allow more of the sediment to settle out before it reaches the pond.  The rocks will also prevent the gully itself from continuing to erode. 

            Final design drawings are now being prepared.  Construction work is planned for 2003.  It is very important that this schedule be met.  UCPC has communicated with the City Parks Commissioner, asking him to assign a high priority to this project.  We hope that by 2004, a restored Aurora Pond will once again take its rightful place as the crown jewel in the Udalls Cove Wildlife Preserve, which is an invaluable natural asset of the Douglaston/Little Neck/Great Neck community.

              In the coming months, check for updated information about the progress of the Aurora Pond Restoration project at www.LittleNeck.net the community web site serving the Little Neck and Douglaston area.

What You Can Do:

              Write to the New York City Parks Commissioner and ask him to make sure that the Aurora Pond Restoration Project construction takes place in 2003, as planned.  Address your letter to: The Honorable Adrian Benepe, Commissioner, New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, The Arsenal, 1234 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y.  10021

See NEWS for latest updates on progress of the Restoration Project. 

  Click here to go to LittleNeck.net
Last modified: 11/29/15  

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