The Big Rock Wetland Restoration Project: 2014-2021

The DMEA’s Big Rock Wetland Restoration Project is an ongoing project to restore 7 acres of tidal wetlands and upland at Douglas Manor bordering Memorial Field north to Big Rock, on the east side of the Douglaston peninsula at Udalls Cove. In Spring 2021, the DMEA will finish Phase 1 of this project, producing a design for a multi-faceted restoration that is “permit ready.” Phase 2 will be the implementation of the design and requires raising funds through grants and other means for the construction of the $1.7 million restoration project.

The DMEA hired noted environmental restoration and engineering firm GEI Consultants, Inc. based in Huntington Station, Long Island, after receiving a $120,000 DEC planning grant through the office of former State Senator Tony Avella in 2018.

The proposed landscape restoration plan designed by GEI includes removal of invasive phragmites reeds, the re-introduction of native plantings and “living shoreline” plantings to enhance wildlife habitat and improve water quality. The invasive phragmites monoculture at the site has supplanted a once rich plant environment that supported a diverse wildlife habitat and helped buffer the east side of the peninsula at Udalls Cove from storm and tidal damage. Phragmites, a non-native invasive reed with tall feathery heads, has taken over large sections of the site, crowding out all other plants and attracting little wildlife. The restoration also includes strengthening the shoreline against storm surges, stabilization of the eroded riprap edges of Memorial Field, replanting and stabilization of the bank and upland shoreline to prevent roadway collapse along Douglas Road from the Field to the Point, and restoration of tidal grasses in Udalls Cove that have been decimated by erosion and water pollution.

Since DMEA began this effort in 2014, the Big Rock Wetlands project has engaged more than 750 students and 20 teachers from local schools MS 67 and PS 98 through their STEM programs and unique wetland science curriculum. The DMEA has also held numerous public outreach programs with its partners, including nature walks, education programs, and a design charrette to kick off the planning study with GEI. In addition, Hofstra University students from the Department of Geology, Environment and Sustainability, led by Dr. J. Bret Bennington, Professor of Geology and Chair of the Department of Geology, have returned to the site multiple times over the years, collecting data, and studying coring samples from the wetland. As a result, the students have mapped a fascinating environmental history of the site, including its transformation from the beginning of the Industrial Age in the mid-19th century, to the present.

The project takes its name from “Big Rock”, a locally known natural landmark just off the tip of the peninsula, and at the northernmost boundary of the site. The enormous rounded boulder, about 15 feet in diameter, is a glacially deposited stone that is a remnant from the Ice Age.

The DMEA has partnered on this project with the Douglas Manor Association, the owner of the site; the Alley Pond Environmental Center (APEC); the Udalls Cove Preservation Committee; the Douglaston and Little Neck Historical Society (DLNHS); the NYC Parks Department; Hofstra University; Dadras Architects; and local public schools MS 67 and PS 98.