14 June 2013

WOODHAVEN RE-VISITS

Years ago, I lived for about two years in Woodhaven, Queens.  After a few years living in an apartment building, it was an improvement to move to a family house in Woodhaven.  I recall going to the local T-shirt store and bought an "I Love Woodhaven" shirt.  Woodhaven was not as crowded as Elmhurst, more so now that Elmhurst is so over-developed.  I like the area and want to re-visit it but it's out of the way for me.  The most I would do is drive by along Woodhaven Boulevard, maybe once actually going out of the way to drive by the house I lived in.  Recently, my son started to take SHSAT tutoring in Elmhurst and I have about two hours to kill every Saturday.  Perfect time to re-visit Woodhaven!

The first place I re-visited, or perhaps visited for the first time, was the eastern section of Forest Park.  I used to live near the western end of the park and knew about the bandshell, the golf course, the entrances to the Jackie Robinson Parkway.  It's a shame that I was not as serious as I am with regards to running.  The hill at Forest Parkway and Park Lane South is perfect for elevation training.  Alas, I only recall once walking with my fellow blogger TOTA to St. Anthony Hospital to run a loop or two of the facility.  Years later I would discover, with surprise, that the whole place was gone and replaced by a bunch of family houses.  The only thing left is some marker put in place by the Woodhaven Cultural and Historic Society.  On another occasion, I walked through the park to Glendale and paid a surprise visit to a high school friend who lived in Glendale.  There was no cell phone back then and I just came up with the idea out of the blue, so even if I wanted to call ahead, it was not easy.  One other time, I went through the eastern section of Forest Park, all the way to Metropolitan Avenue and found some branch library of the Queens Public Library system.  I recall clearly I helped some old person operate the copying machine and he/she was so grateful.  But those three incidents are all I remember of my walks or run.  If I live in Woodhaven today, I would run on its trails everyday!

Some weeks ago, I explored the eastern trails of Forest Park, with my son, and promptly got lost.  I tried to avoid the many small trails and stayed on some wide trail that occasionally have wooden rails to mark the path.  The Google Map program on my smartphone was no help, as it showed me as being outside of the park.  Once deep in the trail, you just cannot see buildings etc to know where you are heading.  I knew about some LIRR train track that goes through the park, so at least I was able to use that to head back.  Just to be sure, I asked a jogger if we were heading toward the exit and she confirmed so.  Eventually, we made it to the paved path leading to Myrtle Avenue and Park Lane South.  Civilization!

Some weeks later I actually ran in the park, out to the Metropolitan Avenue exit of the Jackie Robinson, then to the northern border of the park, and back into the park at the bridle path.  I was somewhat lost again, but without my son I was able to run faster and eventually found my way back to Myrtle and Park Lane South again.  I'll keep exploring the trails until I know them so well as to which way is Uptown and which Downtown!

My most recent re-visit of Woodhaven took me back to the area where I used to live.  I went as far as the Betty Smith House, where the "A Tree Grows In Brooklyn" author wrote most of the book, on Forest Parkway.  Appropriately enough, just across the house is the Woodhaven Branch Library.  Too bad the library was closed.  I spent many hours studying there when I lived in the area.  I then ran up the many steps at Park Lane South and Forest Parkway to the top of the hill and headed for the track just on the other side of Woodhaven Boulevard.  On the way, I learned that there was now a pond in the park.  I knew about the nature trail from some visit long ago, just a glimpse of it, and the occasion finally arrived to check it out.  There used to be many ponds in the park but they all disappeared over time.  This particular pond was once a ball field, but it was flooded so often that park department decided to make it into a pond again.  It's named after Private First Class Strack, who was the first Woodhaven resident to die in battle during the Vietnam War.  It's a lovely pond and I brought my son back for a walk later on in the day.  Together we discovered strawberries, tadpoles, frogs, sunning turtles, ladybugs, and various unusual plants, at least unusual-looking to us.

In the coming weeks, I'll explore the non-forest parts of Woodhaven, especially historically places.




World War I memorial near Myrtle and Park Lane South.

One of the many trails in the eastern section of Forest Park.
Somehow I mistook this to be "Betsy Ross" when I used to live in the area.

From here on, it's all downhill and the pond is on the right.

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