Willow Lake Park access in limbo – QNS.com

Willow Lake Park access in limbo

Although the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation Department plans to reopen pathways to Willow Lake within the next few years, an inspection and repair of the Willow Lake Bridge as well as a massive park cleanup needs to be done before visitors will be able to access the area, which has been closed for six years.
The Parks Department is waiting on an inspection by the Department of Transportation (DOT) to begin work on the Willow Lake Bridge, said spokesperson Abigail Lootens. Six years ago, a three-alarm fire scorched the bridge, which crosses the southern tip of Willow Lake in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park and is really the only entrance into the area. &#8220[The fire] took four hours to get it finally extinguished,” Lootens said. Since then the bridge has been closed.
If the bridge is found structurally unsound, the DOT will then take over the job - with an estimated two years of design and planning time already carved out - but the Parks Department could take on the project using its own workers - and get it done in less time - should the bridge be deemed sound. The DOT has not yet scheduled a date for the inspection, Lootens said.
In reconstructing the bridge, the Parks Department and the DOT must also consider the size and scale for the bridge. Although used only by bikers and visitors on foot, the bridge is currently wide enough for a large vehicle.
&#8220Right now, it is a much larger bridge than we need it to be,” Lootens said.
In addition, a third concern - besides structural damage and size - is vandalism. Local residents worry that should the bridge become open to the public again, it will attract vandals, whose fire-starting mischief forced the bridge to close in 2000.
After the bridge burned, the two pedestrian pathways - one crossing over the Grand Central Parkway and the other over the Van Wyck Expressway - were closed, and six years later, the trails are overgrown and haggard.
The only other way to get to the parkland surrounding the 84-acre lake is to cross the Grand Central Parkway at Jewel Avenue, but this route is not a clear-cut path to the lake and is heavily trafficked by cars.
Overall costs to reopen the pathways, clean up the lake, and restore the bridge is between $3-4 million, but the effort will get $1.2 from the city's capital budget, $1.1 million to restore the lake from the State, and possibly money allocated for neighboring Meadow Lake.

More from Around New York