Today’s news:

Willow Lake reopens on limited basis

The Parks Department is working to determine whether and how the area could safely be opened to the public, said Patricia Dolan, president of the Flushing Meadows Corona Park Conservancy, an independent group that supports the park.The Willow Lake Natural Area in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, which last month received a grant of more than $84,000 from the New York State Parks Department to continue restoration of the wetlands and trail around the lake.The walk featured some birdwatching, and walkers were hoping to spot a Tundra Swan and other species that inhabit the area near Willow Lake. Most of the birds, besides robins and kingfishers, were hiding from the cold in the reeds and trees that border the lake.The birds will also benefit from the state grant, which will allow the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation to continue its ongoing restoration of their natural habitat in the Willow Lake wetlands and the trail that surrounds the body of water. The walkers were among the first to venture into the natural area since the Parks Department completed temporary repairs of the bridge at the north end of the lake last year. City Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows), who inspected the fire-damaged bridge last summer and worked with the Parks Department to begin repairs on the structure, walked with constituents. The city Department of Transportation will be making permanent repairs on the structure through a capital construction grant.The Willow Lake Trail will be cleared and resurfaced using part of the $84,480 state grant. Once this work is completed, the public will once again be able to reach the lake by way of pedestrian overpasses crossing the Grand Central Parkway and the Van Wyck Expressway. The trail will provide a direct route for pedestrians between Forest Hills and Kew Gardens."Now that the bridge is safe, we are looking forward to the Parks Department opening the Natural Area on basis for tours and other controlled visits," Dolan said. "These eighty acres of the Park are unique in the city and must continue to be protected."Another tour is scheduled for Feb. 25.Reach reporter Alex Christodoulides by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.

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