If you love nature, you're certain to love Staten Island, as it is filled with many parks and nature preserves. On the southwestern shore of Staten Island, in the neighborhood of Charleston, you will find the 260-acre Clay Pit Ponds State Park Preserve. This park was the first and only state park preserve to be established in New York City, having been set up in 1976. In 1980, Clay Pit Ponds State Park Preserve opened to the public. It is under the jurisdiction of the State of New York Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation.
Prior to its use as a park, the land taken up by Clay Pit Ponds State Park Preserve was mined for clay, hence the park's name.Beginning in the middle of the nineteenth century, brick manufacturer Balthasar Kreischer utilized the land for a manufactory he ran nearby. Today, the land is unique due to its many different habitats and species of fauna.
If you're more of a fan of flora, Clay Pit Ponds State Park Preserve has bogs, fields, freshwater wetlands, ponds, sand barrens, streams, swamp forest, and wooded uplands. There are also two noteworthy communities within the park. The first is a community of post oak-blackjack oak barrens, which cannot be found elsewhere in the State of New York. The second is the red maple-sweetgum swamp, which is the largest of this type of community to be found in the State of New York.
Within the park are many walking and bridle trails. The walking trails consist of the 0.7-mile Abraham's Pond Trail, the 0.6-mile Clay Pit Road Trail, the 0.4-mile Ellis Swamp Trail, the 0.3-mile Gericke Trail, and the 0.2-mile Sharrott's Pond Trail. The bridle trails consist of the 0.4-mile Abilene Trail, the 0.33-mile Chestnut Trail, the 0.6-mile Clay Pit Road Trail, the 0.3-mile Englewood Trail, the 0.3-mile Kent Street North Trail, the 0.3-mile Kent Street South Trail, the 0.1-mile Margold Trail, the 0.2-mile Munchkin Trail, the 0.4-mile Perimeter Trail, the 0.25-mile Sharrott's Trail, the 0.4-mile Tappen's Trail, the 0.5-mile Veterans Road Trail, and the 0.1-mile West Shore Trail.
The trails listed above take you through the many habitats of the park and give you views of the bodies of water found within. To make the visual easier, we will divide the park into three sections: the section above Clay Pit Road, the section between Clay Pit Road and Sharrotts Road, and the section below Sharrotts Road. In the section above Clay Pit Road, you can find the Blue Factory Bog, Tappen's Pond, Clay Pit Pond, and Goode's Pond. In the section between Clay Pit Road and Sharrotts Road, you can find Ellis Swamp and Abraham's Pond. In the section below Sharrotts Road, you can find Sharrott's Pond. At both Abraham's Pond and Sharrott's Pond, there are observation decks.
Clay Pit Ponds also welcomes those who prefer fauna over flora. Early in the twenty-first century, 171 different animal species were recorded to have been found within the preserve. This included 7 amphibian species, 138 bird species, 14 mammal species, and 12 reptile species. Three of the bird species were listed as threatened in the State of New York, while an additional three were listed as being of special concern. By 2005, it was recorded that there were 180 species of birds alone that had been found in the park.
At 2351 Veteran's Road West, you can find the Clay Pit Ponds Interpretive Center. Here, visitors can learn about the area's present and past residents. There are exhibits with historical artifacts on display and classrooms for school trips. The Clay Pit Ponds Interpretive Center is open from 9 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday. The rest of the park is open from dawn to dusk each day.