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Doug parks group plans to halt Aurora Pond decay

In a "penny-wise" and ecologically sound move, the Udalls Cove Preservation Committee will begin a restoration project to protect the recently restored Aurora Pond in Udalls Cove this week.

The project will safeguard the pond, which cost the city $1.4 million to restore in 2006, by stemming erosion in a nearby ravine. This erosion affects the pond because it allows rainwater to carry dirt into a small creek that cuts through the ravine and eventually empties into the pond, said Udalls Cove Preservation President Walter Mugdan. The rainwater comes from nearby city streets and rolls down the ravine's steep slopes.

"If we didn't do this, more and more of the dirt would end up in the creek and it would continue to fill the creek and run down the stream into Aurora Pond," Mugdan said, emphasizing that the restoration is a "penny-wise decision" to protect the city's money that went into restoring the pond.

It took the city two years to restore Aurora Pond, which was named after UCPC member Aurora Gareiss, who died in 2000. The committee began pressing city leaders to restore the pond in the 1980s after the pond became so filled with soil it resembled little more than a mud puddle. Stones were placed along the pond to prevent erosion, but the restoration project at the ravine will help stop erosion and dirt before it even reaches the pond, Mugdan said.

The project was expected to begin on or before May 1 and will be completed by mid-June. It will entail three phases. First, top soil will be brought in to replace the soil lost by the erosion.

Second, a swale, or "water ditch," will be built along the ravine and will channel rainwater from the top of the ravine to the creek. The swale will be lined with stones of different sizes to curtail any erosion.

Finally, non-native trees and plants that line the ravine will be removed and replaced with 40 trees and 50 shrubs native to the area, such as oak, gum or dogwood trees and Witch Hazel shrubs. Half of the tress will be planted now; the rest will be provided by the city Parks Department and planted in the fall.

The final results will look very natural, Mugdan said.

The project is estimated to cost $75,000 and is being funded through UCPC donations and two $20,000 grants secured by state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) and City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside). The work is being performed by landscape contractor hired by the Udalls Cove group.

Mugdan said his organization has wanted to carry out the restoration project for several years, but other projects have impeded the process, such as the removal of more than 1 million pounds of concrete rubble from the park. He said this project is just another important step in protecting the ecology of a nature preserve.

Reach reporter Katy Gagnon by e-mail at kgagnon@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300 Ext 174.

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