Clay Pit Ponds State Park Preserve
The park is a 260-acre (1.05 km2) nature preserve, comprising wetlands, ponds, sand barrens, spring-fed streams, and woodlands. It includes pitch pine woods, and rare wildflowers such as cranberry, lizard-tail, possumhaw, and bog twayblade. The animal species found in the park include northern black racer snakes, box turtles, Fowler's toads, green frogs, and spring peepers. More than 170 bird species have been sighted in the park. Deer are also regularly seen there.
The park was created in 1976 after extensive lobbying by the Protectors of Pine Oak Woods, a local conservation organization. The purpose of the preserve is to retain the unique ecology, as well as to provide educational and recreational opportunities, such a nature walks, pond ecology programs, and birdwatching. Horseback riding is permitted on 5 mi (8 km) of bridle paths. The park has two designated areas which are set aside for endangered species and which are off-limits to the public. Two hiking trails, the Abraham's Pond Trail, and the Ellis Swamp Trail, are open to the public near the park headquarters.
The park was the site of extensive mining of white kaolin clay in the 19th century that provided the raw material for bricks and terra cotta. After the abandonment of the quarrying operations, rainwater, natural springs, and vegetation filled in the pits. The preserve also contains archaeological evidence of settlements of the Lenape, early European settlers, and the Free Blacks of Sandy Ground.
In October 2008, an interpretive center opened on Nielsen Avenue with exhibits on the history of the Charleston area and wildlife and plants found within the park. The groundbreaking for the $1.3 million nature center was held on May 4, 2007. The 3,000-square-foot (280 m2) facility contains exhibit space, classrooms, and an outdoor pavilion.
- Lee, Jamie (February 26, 2009). "A new way to look at nature at Staten Island's Clay Pit Ponds". Staten Island Advance. Retrieved 2009-08-08.
- Nyback, Glenn (May 5, 2007). "Mother Nature, get ready for your closeup". Staten Island Advance.