Seventy concerned citizens, community activists and local politicos turned out on May 15 to show support for the preservation of the Ridgewood Reservoir as a natural urban oasis on the border of Queens and Brooklyn.
The group voiced concern about the city’s proposed plans to cut down trees, breach the walls of the dam and to build artificial-turf covered ball fields that would destroy what is considered a unique natural habitat. The area contains a succession forest with many native plants, freshwater wetlands and critical habitat for native birds, mammals and amphibians.
The Ridgewood Reservoir Education and Preservation Project (RREPP), a group of community members and nature enthusiasts, opposes the plan and is promoting the concept of creating an environmental learning center on the site. The group feels that the development plans could jeopardize some endangered or threatened plant species and several bird species that are declining or rare that were spotted during recent bird surveys.
Naturalist Robert Jett gave the group a short summary about the local flora and fauna and pointed out that 142 different species of birds were found in the area, as was a thriving population of Italian Wall Lizards. One of the problems pointed to was that an invasive species of vine called Kudzu has choked off many of the edges of forested areas and will have to be removed or controlled.
Neglect of the area has led to invasions of another kind. Some local residents race their ATV’s through the area and pose hazards to joggers and walkers. In addition, this is a favorite site for paintball warriors who come into the park to enact their mock-combat war games. However, those problems would subside if there was adequate staffing, consistent maintenance and wider use by the public.
After the tour, Queens Borough Commissioner of Parks Dorothy Lewandowski talked to the group gathered in the parking lot on Vermont Place about the city’s preliminary plan for Ridgewood Reservoir and said that there will be public hearings that will give the community an opportunity to voice its concerns.
City Councilman Joseph Addabbo, community activist David M. Quintana and State Assemblyman Darryl C. Towns, who were among the organizers of the demonstration, agree that the reservoir provides the city with a unique opportunity to establish a recreation and education resource in the community. After all, most of the work has already been done by nature.
It will take a little vision and a small investment to make this a reality.