Jun 28

A safe haven for Forest Park turtles: Queens Girl Scout earns her Gold Award

Katherine Kurre was enchanted by the sight of turtles sunning themselves around the edges of Strack Pond in Forest Park.

But she thought there must be a better and safer way for them to relax out of the reach of curious kids and potential poachers.

“I went online and saw these turtle ramps,” said Kurre, an 18-year-old Glendale resident and long-time Girl Scout. “I thought I could put together something like that.”

Kurre’s environmentally minded project recently helped her net the Girl Scout Gold Award, the group’s highest honor.

“I’m really happy it’s being used,” Kurre said during a visit to the pond earlier this week.

Several varieties of fish, turtles and frogs call the pond home — located just yards from busy Woodhaven Blvd.

Decades ago, the city filled in the kettle pond and turned it into ballfields named for Laurence Strack, the first Woodhaven resident to die in the Vietnam War.

But nature reclaimed the perpetually flooded area and it was eventually restored as a pond.

With the blessing and guidance of the Parks Department, Kurre put together a plan and a team of volunteers, including friends and family members.

They designed and built the turtle island out of composite material. And they also embarked on an ambitious clean-up of the pond area which had been battered by flooding and erosion.

The group fished paving stones out of the pond and reset them into a patio area. They also reclaimed logs that had washed into the pond and rebuilt the low rustic trail fence.

In addition, they removed invasive plants and unclogged some of the streams that feed into the pond.

“It’s really beautiful,” said Josephine Scalia, the city’s landscape project coordinator for Forest Park and Highland Park. “It’s great that she came to us with this project. It’s really accessible and a site that the park rangers use for education and programming.”

Kurre, who graduates from the Mary Louis Academy this month, is headed to SUNY Stonybrook in the fall. Scouting has been a part of her life for 13 years.

“This is a great foundation for young women who are beginning to make their way in the world,” said Barbara Murphy-Warrington, CEO of the Girl Scouts of Greater New York.

Kurre is already at work on another turtle island/ramp for the pond — even if the ducks sometime commandeer it for their own use.

“Even seeing the ducks on it is great,” said Kurre.

Originally posted in the NY Daily News by Lisa Colangelo

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