Alley Pond Park
|Alley Pond Park|
Alley Pond Environmental Center (APEC)
|Location||Bordering Douglaston and Bayside in New York City|
|Area||655.294 acres (265.188 ha)|
|Operated by||New York City Department of Parks and Recreation|
Alley Pond Park is the second-largest public park in Queens, New York City. It occupies 655.294 acres (265.188 ha), most of it acquired and cleared by the city in 1929, as authorized by a resolution of the New York City Board of Estimate in 1927. The park is bordered to the east by Douglaston, to the west by Bayside, to the north by Little Neck Bay, and to the south by Union Turnpike. It is run and operated by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.
South of the Long Island Expressway, there are woodlands, and north of it, there are meadowlands.
Alley Pond Environmental Center
The Alley Pond Environmental Center, with a library, museum and animal exhibits, is located in the northern part of the park, on the south side of Northern Boulevard.
Geology and Ecology
The park occupies part of a terminal moraine, a ridge of sand and rock, that was formed by a glacier 15,000 years ago, at the southern terminus of the Laurentide ice sheet. Boulders dropped by the glaciers on the hillsides of the southern end of the park still remain, as do scattered kettle ponds formed by melting ice. The valley features both fresh water, draining into the valley from the hills and bubbling up from natural springs, and salt water from Little Neck Bay; this promotes ecodiversity, with freshwater and saltwater wetlands, tidal flats, meadows, and forests accommodating abundant bird life. 
What is now Alley Pond Park was once home to the Matinecock, who harvested shellfish from Little Neck Bay. The English began to colonize the area by the 1630s, when Charles I granted Thomas Foster 600 acres (240 ha), on which he built a stone cottage near what is now Northern Boulevard. Mills were built on Alley Creek by Englishmen Thomas Hicks and James Hedges, while other colonists used the valley as a route to Brooklyn, the Hempstead Plains and the Manhattan ferries. George Washington (1732–1799) is thought to have used this route for his 1790 tour of Long Island. The valley's usage as a passage, or perhaps its shape, may ultimately account for its name; in any case, an 18th-century commercial and manufacturing center there became known as "the Alley".
Despite this center and light industrial uses that dated back to Hicks' and Hedges' mills, the area remained agricultural and largely unspoiled into the 20th century. In 1908, as motorists sought attractive areas for expeditions, William Kissam Vanderbilt (1849–1920) built his privately run Long Island Motor Parkway through the area in 1908.
By the 1920s, automobiles were proliferating faster—and so were people, as the population of Queens doubled during that decade. With open space becoming less plentiful, the City of New York began setting aside land for parks, and it acquired the Alley site for this purpose on June 24, 1929. Later that year, the Parks department expanded the park into 330 newly acquired acres surrounding the alley and removed some older structures. After this acquisition had been approved, Mayor James J. Walker (1881–1946) declared that "there is no better site in Queens".
In 1935, the park officially opened with ceremony attended by Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia (1882–1947) and Parks Commissioner Robert Moses (1888–1981). Already, the park boasted 26 acres (11 ha) of new playing fields; the Alley Pond Park Nature Trail, which was the city's first of its kind; a 23-acre (9.3 ha) bird sanctuary; bridle paths; tennis court; picnic areas; and a 200-space parking lot.
The Parks Department added a 2.5 mile (4 km) bicycle path in 1937, having acquired and converted Vanderbilt's parkway. It runs west into Cunningham Park as part of the 40 miles (64 km) Brooklyn-Queens Greenway from Bayside to Prospect Park and Coney Island.
Throughout the 1930s, the Parks Department, as it now recognizes on its website, acted with more "zeal" for recreation than for conservation, which was the other purpose of parks.  The Department filled in much of the Valley's marsh lands to construct recreational facilities and roads, namely, the Long Island Expressway and Cross Island Parkway. By 1974, the Department and City had begun to make the environment a higher priority, creating the Wetlands Reclamation Project to rehabilitate the park's natural wetlands. In 1976, the Alley Pond Environmental Center opened with a mission of educational and ecological education. For conservation purposes, the City acquired over $10.9 million worth of new land for the park, and in 1993, almost $1 million was spent to restore the Picnic Grove, renovate two stone buildings, and reconstruct the playground and soccer field.
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