Running roughly 6,000 feet from its head near Northern Boulevard to its mouth in Udalls Cove, this diminutive stream travels through a bucolic backyard ravine in Little Neck, Queens, which has largely been saved from developers by several generations of local volunteers. Their successful battle to preserve their neighborhood’s waterfront, and to restore it to health, continues to be one of the most impressive community organizing efforts in the city. And yet, like Hook Creek and Bridge Creek, Gabler’s Creek remains a relatively unknown Queens waterway, flowing out of sight at the very edge of the city.
The fact that Gabler’s Creek even exists today is largely due to the work of the Udalls Cove Preservation Committee (UCPC), a small neighborhood organization founded in 1969 by the concerned residents of Douglaston and Little Neck. "A golf course had been planned, filling in the wetlands. That was the pivotal moment," says Walter Mugdan, who has been the president of the group since 2002. Their initial efforts helped to create the 30-acre Udalls Park Preserve, a protected area now jointly managed by the NYC Parks Department and the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation.
In recent years, the UCPC has continued to protect the preserve from overdevelopment, invasive species, erosion, flooding, and a host of other challenges. "Altogether, our organization has spent between $225,000 and $250,000 over the last 12 years on various large projects," says Mugdan. "For a tiny organization like ours, that’s pretty good."
Funded by grants and donations, these projects include planting over 1,000 new trees, removing more than a million pounds of concrete rubble, building and maintaining numerous new trail systems and foot bridges, and helping the city to identify and purchase the final few properties that would make Gabler’s Creek into a single, continuous public space. "This is a last little remnant of the natural world here," explains Mugdan, reflecting on the importance of the preserve. "It is hardly a pristine wilderness, but you make the best of what you’ve got."