POTAMOGETON POND

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Miss Heather, via facebook: So let’s see: my inbox is hoppin’ (this includes a missive from a college student. It is among the most grammatically nightmarish/typo-ridden tomes I have received in a long time.) It’s now apparently accepted that spelling isn’t all that big a deal and with texting abbreviations and the lack of spelling drills in modern school curricula, spelling isn’t about to make a comeback. Still, it’s jarring when so called authorities or authority figures can’t spell or at least use a spell checker. FNY has its share of errors.

I must admit to being stumped by a sign I encountered in eastern Queens, and found that it indeed was a misspelling.

Eastern Queens has a collection of vast parks – the familiar Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Kissena Park and its Corridor, Alley Pond Park, and Cunningham Park. (And aside from Forest Park and Astoria Park, western Queens is somewhat park-starved). There are also parkways– green spaces along car-only parkways built by traffic czar Robert Moses in the early 20th Century such as the Belt, the Cross Island, and today’s scene at Grand Central Parkway. I was rambling along Bell Boulevard just north of the GCP in March 2011 when a sign caught my eye at the corner of 86th Avenue, which serves as the northern border of the GCP along with some relatively undeveloped parkland. It read: Potomogeton Park, which I assumed was a Native American place name. Googling it, I found that it was the common water plant with floating leaves, found in most parks. I never knew its official name, and the Parks Department hasn’t either, since the correct spelling is potamogeton, with an a instead of an o after the first t. Hey, it would have stumped me in a spelling bee as well. The name is actually Greek in origin.

I was also unaware of the bridle path along 86th Avenue, and since the nearest stable is in the Kissena Park vicinity I’m not sure it’s used anymore.

Pot(a)mogeton Pond is accessible from a staircase at 86th Avenue and 217th Street. This is likely a small kettle pond left over from the glacial era and spared by the Grand Central Parkway construction nearby in the 1930s. A short pedestrian trail surrounds the pond, which likely has some pot(a)megeton floating in it in spring and summer.

Just one more of those hidden surprises the guidebooks don’t mention.

3/21/11

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