BY ANGELA MATUA
Bayside native Matthew Symons is the new face of the parks he frequented as a child.
Symons, who has worked in the New York City Parks Department for almost 20 years, officially starts his job as the northeast Queens administrator this Monday.
He will be in charge of the overall upkeep of the parks in the district, which include Alley Pond Park, Oakland Lake, Crocheron Park, Fort Totten, Little Bay, Joe Michaels Mile and some smaller properties.
As an administrator, Symons will also be encouraging volunteer participation, working with local stakeholders in the parks and acting as a liaison with community boards and elected officials.
Symons joined the Ranger Rick Nature Club as a child and while studying at SUNY Binghamton, he met a classmate who was an Urban Park Ranger and decided to pursue that as a career. He worked as an Urban Park Ranger for 14 years before becoming the deputy administrator for Flushing Meadows Corona Park, the fourth largest public park in New York City.
“This part of the world really means a lot to me as a park ranger, but also as a native Queens person,” Symons said.
Symons’ experience as a deputy administrator for Flushing Meadows Corona Park has prepared him for his new role, he said, and he wants to make it a mission to attract more visitors to northeast Queens parks.
“I think it’s always important…to develop a sense of stewardship with the public, so we want people to feel engaged and interested and to feel that the parks belong to them,” Symons said. “It’s not the city owns the parks and they just visit them, but the parks are something that belong to them.”
Though Symons hasn’t technically started his job yet, he has already been visiting parks to engage with people who are interested in parks and those who may not be so that he can gauge the projects and events he should be working on.
“[My goal is to] kind of take the temperature of the community and see what the needs are and then based on that pursue what makes most sense for the public and the parks in general.”
Though he anticipates that there will be challenges in his new role, so far, Symons likes what he sees.
“In the past few weeks, I’ve been spending some time in the area and….I’m not saying that there won’t be challenges, but we’ve had a volunteer event every weekend,” Symons said. “Basically, all of our properties are getting a lot of attention, which is great.”
Symons said the Parks Department faces a unique challenge in northeast Queens because unlike other parts of the city, Queens residents have access to outdoor spaces closer to home, such as their own backyards.
He hopes to use special events and programs like Urban Park Rangers to interest this segment of the Queens community.
“We will try anything to get people to visit their parks and love their parks,” Symons said.