Sep. 19, 2023 By Anthony Medina
Only steps away from the Forest Park entrance at the intersection of Myrtle Avenue and Park Lane South in Richmond Hill is a pine grove that’s home to trees that are hundreds of years old. The ground of the pine grove, which was once mostly brushed with a mixture of brown needles and twigs, is now a mixture of greens and other plant life.
Onset damage from thunderstorms and weathering have diminished the presence of the dignified white pine trees, but recent funding obtained by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation looks to restore the grove to its former glory and update multiple key parts of the public park.
The NYC Parks Department obtained almost $10 million in funding from the city and state for projects made to improve parts of the park, with some work expected to begin later this year and into 2024.
The White Pine Grove restoration project was funded by Councilwoman Joann Ariola, who allocated $65,000 to help restore this historic part of Forest Park, her office shared.
“The Pine Grove in Forest Park is a unique piece of the borough’s history and I am honored to help preserve and promote this beautiful corner of Queens,” said Ariola. “By providing funding to plant new white pines here, we are able to ensure that future generations will get to enjoy this treasured patch of woodland.”
The Pine Grove restoration will involve the removal of dead pines and replace them with hundreds more, according to Forest Park Administrator Portia Dyrenforth. The project will begin next spring and requires a collaborative effort from multiple parts of the Parks Department that handle the national resources needs of city parks.
One project as part of the initial $9.905 million allocated for Forest Park in capitol projects, includes a sidewalk reconstruction project, costing upwards of $4 million and expected to begin this fall and go into next year.
“They’re just very uneven sidewalks and we’ve been trying to do the best we can to try to fix them. But this will really make the whole park more walkable and it’ll continue,” said Dyrenforth. “We’ve been trying to do sidewalks kind of every year little by little and it was funded by the mayoral funds and also some funding from the state.”
Many of the sidewalks facing reconstruction include those near the golf course on Forest Park Drive and through to Dry Harbor Playground. The sidewalks along Freedom Drive, between Park Lane South and Myrtle Avenue, will also be reconstructed.
Although Dyrenforth said sidewalk reconstruction work isn’t always the most exciting, she insists it’s a necessary part of maintaining the park and ensuring better access to the multiple trails in Forest Park.
“The sidewalk projects like, especially along Freedom Drive, that directly connects to our trails, so that will make it a lot easier for you to kind of get on to Forest Park Drive, which is this closed road, and onto the trails,” Dyrenforth said. “And the same with even Dry Harbor Road. It kind of interconnects and that will help people more easily get to the new Glendale entrance that was funded by Council member Holden and the borough president.”
Another project, with a budget of $3.385 million, will reconstruct the Palm House at the Forest Park Greenhouse, where Parks’ gardeners grow hundreds of flowers and plantlife for the park. The Palm House portion of the greenhouse is used specifically for growing tropical plants and more, according to the Parks Department.
The greenhouse is mostly for Parks Department use and open to the public about once a year for tours, but its historical architecture at the park was something Dyrenforth said they were able to maintain in the upcoming changes. The reconstruction is expected to begin within the last few months of 2023 since the work was already awarded to a contractor.
One of the already fully funded proposed projects at Forest Park, with over $2.4 million in funds, looks to reconstruct the roof of the park’s main office building. The Overlook, located at the Richmond Hill side of Forest Park, along Park Lane North, serves as the central office for parks workers.
The building’s history and the foundations of The Overlook are steeped in the origins of the Queens Parks Department, according to the NYC Parks Department, and it too needs renovations from years of weathering.
Residents and those who frequent Forest Park should begin to see most of the latest work for themselves towards the end of the month.