QUEENS — Forest Hills residents can now spend summer weekends at the lakeside.
For the first time in years, the city has opened the entrance to the Willow Lake Trail, a path that takes visitors directly from Forest Hills via a footbridge to the Willow Lake Preserve in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
In previous years, visitors could access the area — which has been known for its wetlands and bird watching opportunities — only during tours guided by Urban Park Rangers.
"The Willow Lake Preserve is an amazing natural treasure in one of the most developed parts of this city,” said Flushing Meadows Corona Park Administrator Janice Melnick.
According to the Parks Department, Willow Lake and the adjacent Meadow Lake were created with water from the Flushing River for the World’s Fair in 1939. While Meadow Lake was created for recreational use, Willow Lake was designed as a rustic refuge.
The restoration, part of Mayor Bloomberg’s MillionTreesNYC initiative, aimed to bring back diversity in the lake ecosystem through the planting of almost 13,000 trees, shrubs, grasses and wild flowers, according to the Parks Department.
The work also included spreading wood chips on the trail and removing some of the invasive plants.
This summer, the department — which recommends that visitors wear boots while hiking along the lake — will be installing stepping stones and plank bridges on the trail.
“Visitors can go birding, learn about the ecosystem with our Urban Park Rangers, or even become a part of the trail's continued restoration by volunteering," Melnick said. "I invite everyone to come and explore this urban oasis!"
The trail, at the Grand Central Parkway and 72nd Road, is now open on weekends (Saturdays and Sunday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. or during scheduled Urban Park Ranger tours), but the hope it to eventually have it open 7 days a week for most of the year, according to the Parks Department.