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How the Citywide Trails Team is Improving More than 1000 ft. of Trails in Alley Pond Park

By on April 01, 2024

Josh Otero fastening a puncheon in Alley pond park

By Gabriel Cummings, Trails Technical Manager

Last September, the Citywide Trails Team held a puncheon training at Alley Pond Park, Queens. Our team—Isaac Kirk Davidoff from NYC Parks Environment & Planning, the NAC’s Josh Otero, and myself— trained the Student Conservation Association‘s fall leader team who were tasked with making critical erosion mitigation improvements to a muddy and flooded section of the Yellow Trail. The training piloted the installation techniques that the crew would use for subsequent puncheons.

trails crew and sca crew puncheon

The Citywide Trails Team crew members and SCA staff work on setting boards for the puncheon installation

Using reclaimed materials for puncheons

The puncheons used in this project were reclaimed tropical hardwood boards originally from the rainforests of Brazil and Guyana, salvaged from the Rockaway Boardwalk after Hurricane Sandy. These boards were perfect for the job because the wood is extremely rot-resistant and durable. The wood is super resilient, especially considering that the boardwalk was constructed almost 100 years ago which means it’ll get repurposed for a new century of use.

Where applicable, our trails team uses locally sourced materials such as rock or rot resistant trees such as Black Locust as part of our larger sustainable trail building efforts. We’ve recently expanded our use of upcycling existing resources to put to use materials that would otherwise go to waste. Big shoutout to the Alley Pond Park management staff who helped us source the materials from Rockaway Community Park and deliver it to the park for us to use for this project. Since 2016, they’ve been a frequent collaborator and supporter of the Citywide Trails Team on trail projects. 

How we install trail puncheons in 4 steps

a graphic showing the steps of installing puncheons

Installing puncheons requires immense effort and coordination! To give you a sense of the process, these are the four steps we take to make safe and navigable trail puncheons in NYC Parks:

  1. First we survey the site to identify the appropriate type of puncheon needed. We measure out the length of structures to be installed and lay down flagging to mark up the installation location. 
  2. Next we excavate the area and lay down sills which serve as the foundation for the puncheon. The sills are typically 6x6x8’ dimensional lumber posts. Depending on the site, we reinforce them with rock or rebar to snugly secure them on the ground. We check the level to make sure our foundation is set properly. 
  3. Then we cut the boards to size and lay them on top of the sills to create the walking surface for the puncheon. 
  4. Lastly, we install all the fasteners needed for the puncheon. For this project, we secured the structure with 1” rebar since these were large boards. We then naturalize the area around the project site and take an after photo to document our work. 

350 ft. of trail and counting!

The SCA’s 4 person crew did a fantastic job with the project and managed to construct 24 puncheons over the span of 5 weeks which resulted in 350 ft. of trail improvements. The project had been in the works for several years and had support from a number of teams to get it completed. Thanks to the Alley Pond Park management for dropping off the boards to the project site, to the NYC Parks GaPP Crew who helped lay out the initial boards along the Trail, and to trails crew members Annie Gugliotta and Leslie Garcia for supporting the crew during weekly project check-ins. Lastly, shoutout to the NYC Parks Environment & Planning’s Forest Restoration team staff members who also supported the puncheon installation. Additional recognition to the SCA for their continued partnership on trail projects in NYC Parks! The project was generously funded through an Athletic Brewing Grant received by the NAC. 

Future trail improvements to Alley Pond Park

The trails crew has been hard at work this month continuing to build puncheons on the trail and have plans to return in June for additional work. In all, the trails crew will build an additional 275 ft. of puncheons to the site. The SCA will also be returning in late April to install 300 ft. of puncheons throughout their five week program.

We encourage you to check out the freshly improved trails in Alley Pond Park! Learn more about the NAC’s trail maintenance work and how to become a trail maintainer with us. 

Two trails interns work on a puncheon, Leslie Garcia smiles

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