Forest Park


Forest Park

Forest Park is the third largest park in Queens. It is surrounded by several neighborhoods, which include Forest Hills, Glendale, Kew Gardens, Richmond Hill, and Woodhaven. Like most of New York City, the topography of Forest Parks was shaped by the retrieval of glaciers by dissolving bedrocks while transferring new elements to the environment resulting in different layers of land. The last glacier that left the Harbor Hill Moraine, where Forest Park is located, was called the Wisconsin glacier. This glacier created the impressions in the ground and the different terrains we now see in the park today. 1

From the Colonial Era to around the 1890’s, the lands of Forest Park were mostly used for farming, timber harvesting, and cattle grazing. But this all changed in 1892 when the New York State legislature authorized the western Brooklyn Parks Department to purchase a parcel of land in the county of Queens2. They began their search for a large piece of land that would allow them to construct a recreational center large enough to suffice the overcrowded neighborhoods. They wanted to purchase roughly 500 acres of land that would stretch throughout the two boroughs. Then on August 9th, 1895, Brooklyn Parks Department bought their first parcel of land, one of 124 parcels since this plot of land was owned by many different landowners2 and was named Brooklyn Forest Park. However, after the final purchase of its 538 acres in 1898, the name was shortened to its current title, Forest Park4, to unite the two boroughs and the City of New York.

The next forty years were crucial to the development to the park. Frederick Law Olmsted surveyed the land and designed it so that the park would remain to have its pastoral quality. He also noted that there were divisions in the park caused by railroads of the Long Island Railroad, in which he designed around them. Only one of these lines is still running today but it is joined by two highways, the Jackie Robinson Parkway and Woodhaven Boulevard, completed in 1935. Besides these obstructions, many other alterations occurred. Since the land was owned by many different landowners, there were many houses that needed to be auctioned and removed. After this was done, the planning and the construction of the other parts of the park commenced. This included the installation of a golf course, clubhouse, greenhouse, pathways and lamps, new roads, recreational facilities, and much more. The park was steering off to a new and better direction to accommodate its dense human surroundings. Nonetheless, it is still considered to be the most undisturbed woodlands in New York City. 1

Map of Forest Park in 1909 6

Map of Forest Park in 1912a 7

Map of Forest Park in 1912b 8

Forest Park Concert Bandshell (1926) 9

Forest Park Victory Field (1926) 10

Myrtle Avenue-Sumner Avenue (1936) 11

Present Features of Forest Park:

Map of Present Forest Park

Forest Park is located around a large number of communities.  It serves Kew Gardens, Forest Hills, Richmond Hill, Woodhaven, and Glendale communities.  Different sections of the park are divided into special interest areas.  The western region of the park is specifically made for sports, including softball fields and tennis courts.

The East part of the park, however, shows more of the forest in Forest Park. Kettle holes, knobs, boulders and a rocky terrain are all remnants of the region’s glacial past.  One of the main species of trees that dominates the park is the 413 acres of native red and white oak that populate the forest. These trees are over 150 years old.

However, there are many things that plaque the park.  Fire is a threat to the park and is always a major concern.  Vandalism ruins the park’s beauty, but unfortunately, it’s a common occurrence.  However, despites these potentially destructive things, residents are fighting back in positive ways.12

Species of Trees in Forest Park

The woodland is home to an abundant number of trees due to its many undisturbed forests. The woodland is mature throughout, as evidenced by the presence of large oaks, hickory, and flowering dogwood.  Tree falls are common. As seen through observations of tree species in the park, it is suggested that the woodland is an oak-hickory-dogwood forest.

The overall topography of the forest is well vegetated with both herbaceous and woody flora. The survey revealed 15 families of herbs and ferns, represented by 26 genera; woody vines consisted of one family represented by two genera. Forest gaps on top of the debris that was left over from melted glaciers are often covered with a mix of understory shrubs, saplings, grasses, and other herbaceous plants. In contrast to other neighboring wooded parks, most kettles in Forest Park lack seasonal water and are variably vegetated.

However, it is evident that unregulated high-impact activities such as mountain biking, horseback riding, and off-trail pedestrian use of the park have negatively impacted the plant community. Vandalism is equally evident in the form of cut trees, brush fires, graffiti, and litter. Although there is no scientific data, the loss of plant cover and severe erosion of soil due to human activities has resulted in a degraded landscape in great need of restoration.13

Species Importance Values

The Floristic Composition and Community Structure of the Forest Park Woodland, Queens County, New York14

Betula lenta, sweet birch was the ecologically dominant species.  It had the highest relative density of all taxa.  The second-ranked species was Quercus rubra, northern red oak. The third-ranked species was the nonnative invasive Phellodendron amurense, Amur corktree. The fourth species in the dominance ranking was Cornus florida, flowering dogwood.  Quercus velutina, black oak ranked fifth in overall ecological dominance.  Prunus serotina, black cherry ranked sixth in ecological dominance and was the third most frequently encountered tree species.  Quercus alba, white oak ranked seventh in ecological dominance but third behind Q. rubra and Q. velutina in relative dominance.  Acer rubrum L. (red maple), A. platanoides L. (Norway maple), Liriodendron tulipifera L. (tulip tree), Ilex verticillata L., A. Gray (common winterberry), and Nyssa sylvatica Marshall (black gum) appeared as singletons and ranked low in ecological dominance due to low counts and small diameter size.13

Invasive versus Non-Invasive Species

Of the 22 species identified in the Forest Park woodland, 19 were native to the temperate Northeast, and three were nonnative invasive species (Phellodendron amurense, Acer platanoides, and Rhamnus frangula [glossy buckthorn]).

It has long been established that nonnative invasive species are a threat to native ecosystems. Invasive species impact upon all levels of biotic organization by modifying the fundamental properties of ecosystems.

Invasive species in eastern U.S. forests may out-compete natives, occupy unfilled niches, or have negative alleplopathic impacts on the growth of their arborescent neighbors. Threats to the diversity of native plant populations by the establishment of nonnative plants have been noted elsewhere in Queens County. It has recently been proposed that the nonnative invasive Phellodendron amurense may be interfering with the growth of the Fagaceae. North of Philadelphia (Montgomery County, Pennsylvania) as well as in the New York City area (Queens and Bronx County), P. amurense has aggressively invaded disturbed forests. Due to lack of regeneration of native species, oak-hickory hardwood forests are being transformed into Phellodendron forests. It has been suggested that root exudates from Phellodendron amurense may be inhibiting the growth of its neighbors in oak-hickory forests.13

Forest Disturbances

It is theorized that forest disturbances result in gaps that are heterogeneous due togap-phase regeneration. Gap-phase regeneration is the pioneer phase during which trees begin to colonize a site.   Recovery from disturbances often results in a mosaic of forest patches at different stages of succession. Trees found within gaps may consist of either pioneer species or climax species or both, and thus gap-phase regeneration adds to stand diversity. In general, plant communities respond to disturbances differently, and their responses vary with the type of disturbance, be it logging, anthropogenic pressure, fires or natural tree falls, such as those observed in Forest Park. From this study, Carsten W. Glaeser believes that a combination of tree falls, herbivory, and other unquantified disturbances has promoted a tree species distribution and composition more typical of pioneer species than of climax species in this mature oak-hickory hardwood forest.

Of the top 12 ecologically dominant trees and shrubs in Forest Park, three share characteristics associated with pioneers of disturbed sites. Pioneer trees generally produce copious amounts of small, readily dispersed seeds; have seeds that can only germinate in full sun; and are relatively short-lived.  Betula lenta, Phellodendron amurense, and Prunus serotina possess some or all of these traits and are of special interest because of their high representation within the study plot of density and frequency. The pioneer status of these species is supported by their high representation within the small and mid-size diameter classes. The environmental variables influencing the demographic responses of these pioneer taxa are undetermined for Forest Park.

The distribution of woody stems in the Forest Park study site was typical for a mature woodland stand in that it contained an abundance of small- to mid-size-diameter stems and relatively few large stems. This skewing of the stem-diameter distribution toward the early stages of gap-phase regeneration is widely accepted as a general trend for mature and aging forest.13

Overview of Species Diversity

The census revealed an extremely low regenerative potential for all the oak and other traditional canopy trees amid highly abundant pioneers and a successfully colonizing nonnative invasive tree, Phellodendron amurense. Considering that the 0.5-hectare study plot is representative of the greater Forest Park, the lack of regeneration of the canopy trees—and the potential loss or disruption of their contribution to the ecology, habitat, and microclimate dynamics of the forest—is a cause for serious alarm.13

Invasive Sapling Trees

Forest Park Tree

Fungus on Fallen Tree

Invasive Saplings

Aging Black Oak Surrounded by Invasive Species 19

Forest Park Trees

Fallen Tree and Garbage

Oak Tree

Sapling Tree

Creatures of the Park

Having this dense forest in the park allows it to harbor many different animals and insects. In the springtime, many migrating birds make a stop here to feast. It is visited by approximately 100 species of birds which includes the hooded warbler, cerulean warbler, worm-eating warbler, mourning warbler, red-winged black bird, song sparrow, robin, spring azure, hummingbirds, red eyed vireo, catbirds, American redstart, and the chestnut-sided warbler. It is also recorded that roughly 35 birds breed here. Some of them are the red-bellied woodpecker, ring-necked pheasant, hairy woodpecker, tufted titmouse, downy woodpecker, wood thrush, gray catbird, and rufous-sided towhee. Some amphibians that can be found are the red-backed salamanders and the American toads. 1

During the summer, insects come out while the mammals stay hidden to protect their young. The most popular species are the butterflies. About 25 species flutter through the forest during this season. Some species include the tiger swallowtail, spicebush swallowtail, little wood satyr, and mourning cloak. In the fall season, many birds migrate south. Some of the birds that you might see pass by are the broad-winged hawk and the red-tailed hawk. Lastly in the winter, most mammals are hidden due to the cold, but you can still see tracks of moles, shrews, gray squirrel, and cottontail rabbit. There are also animals that hibernate during this season. Some that do include the eastern chipmunk and the raccoon. You also might catch sight of winter birds, which include the crows, woodpeckers, goldfinch, blue jays, nuthatch, and chickadee. 1

American Robin 22

Tufted Titmouse 23

Song Sparrow 24

Red Eyed Vireo 25

Red Tailed Hawk 26

Red Winged Blackbird 27

Red Bellied Woodpecker 28

Chestnut-Sided Warbler 29

Black-capped Chickadee 30


Terminal Glacier Moraine

A moraine is material transported by a glacier and then deposited.  Forest Park lies at the crest of the terminal moraine.  A terminal moraine forms at the snout of the glacier and marks the furthest extent of the ice, and forms across the valley floor. It resembles a large mound of debris, and is usually the feature that marks the end of unsorted deposits and the start of fluvially sorted material.  31

Since rocky terminal moraines are the least suited for development, they became the cheapest lands for the city to use for wood lots, cemeteries, and especially for parks. 32  In addition to being prime land for park and cemetery development, Forest Park is one of the highest parts of the Queen borough, peaking at an elevation of 180 ft.  33

Animal Sacrifices

Forest Park is also known to be a place where animal sacrificial rituals take place. There are incidents where park goers would stumble upon animal corpses or body parts that are not native to these parks such as goats, chickens, and cows. These animal killings are said to be used to worship the devil or for voodoo practices for good luck. Some reports include a dog biting into a cow tongue full of needles and a man coming across the corpse of a rooster and the head and torso of a black goat. Now the killers usually perform their rituals at night so they won’t get caught. We as a group came across a loose chicken. Perhaps it escaped from its gruesome slaughter. 34

Future Prospects, Suggestions, and Solutions:

From the research that we have gathered, we see that the native Oak-Hickory forests are in danger due to the growing population of the nonnative invasive tree, Phellodendron amurense, commonly known as the Amur Corktree. We see this as a problem because soon the mature trees will die off due to the overwhelming growing rate of the saplings. We find it that we should take action in order to preserve the dense population of the elder Oak and Hickory trees. We find that the number one problem in this park is the maintenance. While visiting the park, we went to venture off into the less populated area and into the forest area. While maneuvering through the branches and bushes, we also had to dodge a lot of garbage. In specific, it was mostly beer bottles. There were also signs of people sleeping here as we saw mats and even a broken airbed. We think that it would be best for the environment if we had people clean this place clean and then have people enforce littering laws. Then maybe this park would be cleaner and safer. After that, we can tackle the problem of the saplings. Some suggestions we came up with included planting more native trees in a new area and also the removal of some of the invasive species. Then have the park maintain the process of removing new invasive seedlings and saplings.

Footnotes:

  1. City of New York Parks & Recreation Natural Resource Group. Forest Park Queens, New York: A Guide to the Natural Areas. New York City: City of New York Parks & Recreation Natural Resource Group, 1993. Print.
  2. http://www.nycgovparks.org/sub_your_park/vt_forest_park/vt_forest_park.html
  3. http://www.nycgovparks.org/sub_your_park/vt_forest_park/vt_forest_park.html
  4. Glaesaer, Carsten W. “The Floristic Composition and Community Structure of the Forest Park Woodland, Queens County, New York.” Urban Habitats 4.1: 102-126.l
  5. City of New York Parks & Recreation Natural Resource Group. Forest Park Queens, New York: A Guide to the Natural Areas. New York City: City of New York Parks & Recreation Natural Resource Group, 1993. Print.
  6. http://dev.maps.nypl.org/warper/maps/8113″
  7. http://dev.maps.nypl.org/warper/maps/15682″
  8. http://dev.maps.nypl.org/warper/maps/15683″
  9. Forest Park (Concert). Photograph. Photographic Views of New York City, 1870's-1970's / Queens, Queens, NY.”
  10. Forest Park (Victory Field). 1926. Photograph. Photographic Views of New York City, 1870's-1970's / Queens, Queens, NY.”
  11. Sperr, Percy Loomis. Queens: Myrtle Avenue – Sumner Avenue. 1936. Photograph. Photographic Views of New York City, 1870's-1970's / Queens, Queens, NY.”
  12. http://macaulay.cuny.edu/eportfolios/munshisouth10/wp-admin/post.php?post=1053&action=edit&message=1
  13. Glaesaer, Carsten W. “The Floristic Composition and Community Structure of the Forest Park Woodland, Queens County, New York.” Urban Habitats 4.1: 102-126.
  14. Glaesaer, Carsten W. “The Floristic Composition and Community Structure of the Forest Park Woodland, Queens County, New York.” Urban Habitats 4.1: 102-126.”
  15. Glaesaer, Carsten W. “The Floristic Composition and Community Structure of the Forest Park Woodland, Queens County, New York.” Urban Habitats 4.1: 102-126.
  16. Glaesaer, Carsten W. “The Floristic Composition and Community Structure of the Forest Park Woodland, Queens County, New York.” Urban Habitats 4.1: 102-126.
  17. Glaesaer, Carsten W. “The Floristic Composition and Community Structure of the Forest Park Woodland, Queens County, New York.” Urban Habitats 4.1: 102-126.
  18. Glaesaer, Carsten W. “The Floristic Composition and Community Structure of the Forest Park Woodland, Queens County, New York.” Urban Habitats 4.1: 102-126.
  19. Glaesaer, Carsten W. “The Floristic Composition and Community Structure of the Forest Park Woodland, Queens County, New York.” Urban Habitats 4.1: 102-126.”
  20. City of New York Parks & Recreation Natural Resource Group. Forest Park Queens, New York: A Guide to the Natural Areas. New York City: City of New York Parks & Recreation Natural Resource Group, 1993. Print.
  21. City of New York Parks & Recreation Natural Resource Group. Forest Park Queens, New York: A Guide to the Natural Areas. New York City: City of New York Parks & Recreation Natural Resource Group, 1993. Print.
  22. "American Robin." The Cornell Lab of Ornithology.Web. 17 Nov 2010.”
  23. "Tufted Titmouse." The Cornell Lab of Ornithology.Web. 17 Nov 2010.”
  24. "Song Sparrow." The Cornell Lab of Ornithology.Web. 17 Nov 2010.”
  25. "Red Eyed Vireo." The Cornell Lab of Ornithology.Web. 17 Nov 2010.”
  26. "Red Tailed Hawk." The Cornell Lab of Ornithology.Web. 17 Nov 2010.”
  27. "Red Winged Blackbird." The Cornell Lab of Ornithology.Web. 17 Nov 2010.”
  28. "Red Bellied Woodpecker." The Cornell Lab of Ornithology.Web. 17 Nov 2010.”
  29. "Chestnut-sided Warbler." The Cornell Lab of Ornithology.Web. 17 Nov 2010.”
  30. "Black-capped Chickadee." The Cornell Lab of Ornithology.Web. 17 Nov 2010.”
  31. “Glacial Moraine.”  Geography Site Homepage. 23, Feb. 2006.  Online. <http://www.geography-site.co.uk/pages/physical/glaciers/moraine.html#Terminal>.
  32. “Hot Rocks: A Geological History of New York City Parks.” New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. <http://www.nycgovparks.org/sub_about/parks_history/geology.html>.
  33. McCully, Betsy. City at the water’s edge: a natural history of New York. Rutgers University Press, 2007.
  34. Fanelli, James, and Rich Calder. “Animal-Rites Horror.” New York Post. 07 June 2009. Web. 07 Nov. 2010. <http://www.nypost.com/p/news/regional/item_Wa9T4zBxGGrjuT9o0rEGWI;jsessionid=B4FE5978BADBE43A35A34103AA3B6E5A>.

2 Responses to Forest Park

  1. Jason Munshi-South says:

    This section is coming together nicely!

    The historical maps and imagery are excellent, but you need more explanation as to what the viewer is looking at.

    More photos of wildlife and geological features would also be great.

    Somewhere in this presentation, your group should include a discussion of the terminal glacial moraine on which these two parks are located!

    Jason

  2. Jason Munshi-South says:

    I also think the section on the future needs work. It is too brief in its current one-paragraph format.

    Jason

Leave a Reply