Founded in 1969, the Udalls Cove Preservation Committee (UCPC) is a volunteer organization dedicated to the conservation, preservation and restoration of Udalls Cove, and its associated wetlands and wooded uplands. Much of the area is now protected as the Udalls Cove Wildlife Preserve, managed by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. UCPC is a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization.
About Udalls Cove
Udalls Cove is an inlet of Little Neck Bay, part of Long Island Sound, between the Douglaston and Great Neck peninsulas. At the head of the Cove (its southern end) is a large and healthy salt water marsh. Behind that, Aurora Pond lies at the center of freshwater wetlands, bounded by steep, wooded slopes.
Two freshwater streams drain into the Cove. One of these, Gabler’s Creek, runs through the Wildlife Preserve. It flows north from Northern Boulevard (opposite St. Anastasia’s Church) through “The Ravine,” a deep wooded gully that lies between Little Neck and Douglaston. Gabler’s Creek passes underneath the Long Island Railroad tracks just west of the Little Neck Station. It flows into Aurora Pond, then back out and through a culvert underneath Sandhill Road (known locally as “the Back Road”), then out to the Cove through the salt marsh.
Udalls Cove is home to a wide variety of wildlife including egrets, herons, ducks, geese, and swans; mammals such as muskrat and raccoons (and even an occasional fox); toads, frogs and salamanders; turtles; and many kinds of fish. Osprey – huge fish eagles that nest nearby – use the area for fishing.
Prior to the 1950's, the area between Douglaston and Great Neck north of the Long Island Railroad was sparsely developed. Two small boatyards at the northern end of Little Neck Parkway, at what is now called Virginia Point, were surrounded by salt marsh. During the 1950's and 1960's many more houses were built, and plans were even made for a golf course to be built on filled wetlands. At the same time, the wooded uplands were being whittled away also, as development encroached from all sides. To make matters worse, the remaining marshlands and woods had become dump sites, littered with garbage, demolition debris and even wrecked cars.
Then one woman said, “Enough.” Aurora Gareiss, a feisty, middle-aged Douglaston resident whose home looked out on Udalls Cove, determined that what was left of the wetlands and woods around the Cove should be conserved.
On a Saturday morning in April, 1970, on the occasion of our nation’s first Earth Day, a dedicated group of citizens from Douglaston, Little Neck and Great Neck assembled at the “Back Road” just west of the Little Neck railroad station, between Little Neck and Douglaston. Standing at the edge of a picturesque, one-acre freshwater pond, they committed themselves to preserving the last remnants of undeveloped marshlands, shoreline and wooded uplands in the Udalls Cove watershed. Inspired by the indomitable and inimitable Ms. Gareiss, they formed the Udalls Cove Preservation Committee (UCPC). They followed up with the first of what would become annual cleanups of the wetlands and the shoreline.
UCPC has been providing "CPR" to the community ever since -- Conservation, Preservation and Restoration of Udalls Cove and the wetlands and wooded uplands in the Udalls Cove watershed.
Providing "CPR" to the Community since 1969
Aurora Gareiss at her former home named "Bit O' Bay." The Udalls Cove salt marsh is behind her.
Photo by Jon Meyer
With Aurora Gareiss as its first president, and later with Doug MacKay, Ralph Kamhi and Walter Mugdan as her successors, the Udalls Cove Preservation Committee has achieved many of its goals. Much of the area has been acquired by New York State and City, and the Village of Great Neck Estates, and is now protected as the Udalls Cove Park and Preserve. In recognition of Ms. Gareiss’ outstanding contributions to conservation in Udalls Cove and around the City and State, the lovely freshwater pond, with its water fowl and muskrat and turtles, was officially named Aurora Pond.
But there is still much to do. Actual acquisition of several pieces of property within the “Ravine” portion of the designated perimeter of the Udalls Cove Park has not yet occurred. And over-development continues to threaten the watershed on which the health of the Preserve depends.
Aurora Pond itself was in dire need of restoration – a project completed in 2006 – but more restoration work remains to be done. Since 2004, UCPC has invested over $185,000 in major restoration projects in the Aurora Pond, Ravine and Virginia Point sections of the park. A significant fraction of this funding came through a series of grants from the State and City of New York, but much also came from our dedicated members.
UCPC also promotes environmental awareness and conservation education among the young people of our community. From 2001 to 2010 UCPC sponsored the Aurora Gareiss Wetlands Conservation Contest among fifth graders in local elementary schools. And since 2006 we have sponsored 21 Eagle Scout candidates who have completed restoration and improvement projects in our park.
UDALLS COVE PRESERVATION COMMITTEE
UCPC is a 501(c)(3) Tax Exempt Organization
OFFICERS AND DIRECTORS
President: Walter Mugdan
1st Vice President: Bruce Stuart
2nd Vice President: Pat St. John
Secretary: Karen Dinegar
Treasurer: Junko Savage