A QueensWay enthusiast on how trails helped him endure the pandemic.
By Lisa W. Foderaro | Photographs by Tara Rice
Published May 18, 2021
When Ruben Ramales goes for walks with his pit bull, Lily, they head for the network of trails that winds through the eastern end of Forest Park.
Forest Park—165 acres of tulip trees, scarlet oaks, shagbark hickories, and black cherry trees—is one of the largest open spaces in Queens. Considering he can walk there in about 15 minutes from his home in the borough’s bustling Woodhaven neighborhood, Ramales says the forest is surprisingly wild … a place where Lily can sniff and explore and where Ramales can escape the hubbub and step out of his newly circumscribed life of Zoom meetings.
“What I love about Forest Park is that it does have a lot of untouched space, meaning you actually have real nature,” said Ramales, who’s executive director of the Queens chapter of the American Institute of Architects.
Their regular route to Forest Park runs not far from an overgrown viaduct, which holds the forgotten tracks of the Rockaway Beach branch of the Long Island Rail Road. The line once ferried people across Jamaica Bay and onto the Rockaway Beach peninsula, but the tracks have sat silent for nearly six decades. Now the rusting structure snakes behind tidy homes, past auto parts stores, alongside schools, and right through Forest Park. Its rail bed is covered with weeds, but also handsome oaks and Norway maples, self-sown over decades.