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Forest Park

The Daily Plant : Monday, May 24, 2004

FRESHWATER POND REPLENISHES FOREST PARK


On Thursday, May 20, a crowd gathered in Queens to celebrate the $550,000 restoration of Strack Memorial Pond in Forest Park. Officials and family members unveiled the new signs for the pond and planted a red oak tree to re-dedicate the site to Private First Class Laurence E. Strack.

"Once a soggy and often unusable ballfield, this site is now a beautiful pond, teeming with life," said Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe. "By continuing to restore wetlands, we make our city a healthier and greener place for all New Yorkers. The more than half-million-dollar restoration of PFC Laurence Strack Pond gives nature lovers a great new spot to see butterflies, red-tailed hawks, and great blue herons."

In 1966, two ballfields were constructed at this site at the bottom of a glacial kettle. Over the years, the ground settled and runoff from the surrounding slopes flooded the fields, making them unusable. Throughout Forest Park, there were once kettle ponds formed by the last glacier, which disappeared from New York 20,000 years ago. These ponds were filled with plants and flowers and were home to salamanders, frogs, birds, and other animals.

Parks & Recreation’s Natural Resources Group (NRG) has restored the wetlands in Forest Park, transforming the former ballfields back into a pristine kettle pond, or natural bowl-shaped depression. NRG added three acres of freshwater wetland habitat, stabilized the landscape around the pond, and restored the slope of the water’s edge. NRG also planted native species to create a healthy ecosystem. Visitors can enjoy the pond’s new trail and viewing areas. The New York State Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act and the Mayor allocated the $550,000 to restore the pond located at Forest Park Drive off Woodhaven Boulevard.

This site was named in honor of Private First Class Laurence E. Strack (1948-1967) on February 11, 1969. Strack was the first Woodhaven resident to die serving in the Vietnam War. He was also an avid baseball player and fan. In 1966, he enlisted in the United States Army and received his paratrooper training. He returned to Woodhaven to marry his childhood sweetheart before being assigned to the 173 Airborne Brigade. On March 3, 1967, during a combat parachute jump in Vietnam, PFC Strack was killed in a fierce firefight. He posthumously received the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the Vietnam Service Medal, the Parachutist Badge, the New York State Conspicuous Service Medal, and the Bronze Star with "V" Device Purple Heart.

On Thursday, visitors could hear the calls of the tufted titmouse, the oriole, and the king bird and contemplate the newly-planted button bush, pickerel weed, iris, and lily pads. "I don’t want to ruin it by talking," said Commissioner Benepe, reflecting on the pond’s tranquility. "It’s so beautiful here. The birds are very happy this morning, and so am I."

Secretary of State for New York State Larry Daniels emphasized the importance of preserving our environment, arguing that we owe it to our children to give them a world that is better than we found it. He said, "To recreate is to re-create us and the spirit that sustains." At the end of his speech he offered "support—not only in word and in deed, but in dollars."

Joining Commissioner Benepe and Secretary Daniels at the event were Council Member Dennis Gallagher, Parks & Recreation Queens Borough Commissioner Richard Murphy, President of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 32 Pat Toro, and family members of Laurence Strack

Gil Strack, Larry’s brother delivered a moving tribute, bringing the memory of his brother alive for the crowd. "Not a day goes by that I don’t think of my brother," he said. Gil’s 17-year-old daughter, Samantha, came to the ceremony to support her father. "I didn’t know my uncle, but I think it’s beautiful," said Samantha. "It’s a good place for my dad to come."

QUOTATION FOR THE DAY

"I once wanted to become an atheist, but I gave up –
they have no holidays."

Henny Youngman, comedian and actor
(1906-1998)

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