Bald eagle returns to Meadow Lake after wetlands are restored

By Bill Parry

A bald eagle has taken up residence in Flushing Meadows Corona Park along with egrets, swans, muskrats and turtles since the city invested $2.8 million to restore the wetlands along the shore of Meadow Lake.

At 84 acres, Meadow Lake is the largest freshwater lake in the city, according to the city Parks Department. The restoration includes infrastructural improvements to prevent stormwater contamination of the lake’s ecosystem. In addition, thousands of new native plants and 1,650 trees were planted by 200 volunteers to drown out the noise from the Grand Central Parkway and the Van Wyck Expressway.

“Since the 1939 World’s Fair, the story of Flushing Meadows Corona Park has been one of continued improvement,” city Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver said. “Eight decades of building, public programming, and now, environmental restoration. Meadow Lake is the heart of the world’s park, and in the coming months and years, we will continue to collaborate with our volunteer stewards to make sure it stays healthy and cared-for, as it is today.”

Silver attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the southern end of the man-made lake, which was built in the 1930s to capture storm- and wastewater off the highways. The project includes a bio-retention basin to treat the water before it gets into the lake, clouding its water.

“Today, we can see Meadow Lake as nature intended it to be: surrounded by thousands of native plants and without stormwater contaminating its ecosystem,” City Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest) said. “The investment is crucial to the southern half of Flushing Meadows Corona Park, and hopefully represents just the beginning of needed improvements in my portion of the park.”

Lancman has watched over the years as most of the money the city has invested has gone to the northern end of the park where the New York State Pavilion, the Queens Museum, the USTA Tennis Center and Citi Field are located.

“I grew up in this park and I’ve heard all of the broken promises from too many administrations,” Lancman said. “You’d see flooding in the parking lots and the lake would be cloudy and uninviting. Now it’s a pleasant place to be instead of one people shy away from.”

City Councilwoman Karen Kozlowitz (D-Forest Hills) sponsored $1.4 million in Council funds towards the project, along with another $1.4 million from the State Department of Conservation Clean-Water-Clean Air Act grant.

“Since 2009 we’ve been trying to get this work ,” she said. “It’s a great thing for this part of the park which has thousand of visitors each weekend.”

In addition to work on the lake’s shoreline, pathways have been improved and new access will be provided for pedestrians coming from Forest Hills, Kozlowitz said. Work is also being done on the boathouse, she added.

“This is a commitment from elected officials to give some level of respect to this part of the park,” Lancman said. “This is our jewel and we’re finally taking care of it.”

The park’s administrator, Janice Melnick, has seen the bald eagle herself, mainly during afternoons between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.

“It’s wonderful to see nature returning to Meadow Lake,” she said. “We’re helping nature while providing better public access to the park so visitors can enjoy nature and enjoy the solitude as well.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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