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By Kelsey Durham

The Udalls Cove Preservation Committee gathered about 100 volunteers representing several community organizations last weekend to take part in its 45th annual cleanup of the 30-acre wetland that spans Little Neck and Douglaston.

Volunteers met at the Aurora Pond section of the park to begin the yearly spring cleaning, which the UCPC has organized every year since 1969 as a way of getting the nature area ready for visitors again after the winter.

Those who pitch in spend the day combing through every section of the park, clearing litter that washed onto the shore of the cove or was left behind by people who visited during the winter months.

Many of the volunteers who turn out to help each year are affiliated with civic and community groups, and a good portion of them are children.

Walter Mugdan, president of the Udalls Cove Preservation Committee, said he is always delighted to have youngsters join in.

“We want to inspire them to be attentive,” he said, “to take care of their environment.”

Mugdan said that when the organized cleanups first began decades ago, the volunteers would target the areas of the park that were most in need of some spring cleaning attention.

But since the event has gotten so popular and now has support from so many people throughout northeast Queens, the annual cleaning now extends throughout the entire cove as volunteers spread out to make sure they cover all areas of the wetlands.

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) was one of several elected officials who came out to this year’s cleanup Saturday, and he offered his thanks to the large crowd of volunteers before they began their day’s work.

“When you think about what this was years ago and the changes that have been made, it’s amazing and it’s really made a difference,” Avella said of the annual event.

The senator also made an announcement that brought joy to those who cherish the nearby greenspace — the allocation of $20,000 in the state budget adopted last month that will pay for a variety of projects that the preservation committee has had its eye on for a while.

Mugdan said one thing the board of directors could choose to do with the money is to remove the remnants of old abandoned boats that have sat on the shore of the Virginia Point section of the park since the closing of what used to be a marina in the 1960s.

He said the committee has also discussed the possibility of constructing a foot path off the edge of Aurora Pond, on the side opposite of the road, which many Long Island Rail Road passengers use after leaving the train station even though there is no real path to follow.

State Assemblyman Ed Braunstein (D-Bayside) also turned out to clean up the cove last week, saying he is a frequent visitor to the park and is proud of what it represents. He stressed the importance of keeping New York City’s greenspaces clean and thanked the community for their hard work year after year.

“If someone blindfolded you and dropped you here in this park, you would never know you’re in New York City, but a park like this doesn’t just happen,” Braunstein said. “It takes a whole community to preserve a space like this and I couldn’t be prouder to represent such a beautiful park.”

Reach reporter Kelsey Durham at 718-260-4573 or by e-mail at kdurham@cnglocal.com.

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