by Mark D. Stein , SILive, link to original post with photos
Staten Island, the so-called “Borough of Parks,” has several spacious green spaces on its South Shore, among them Blue Heron Park, Wolfe’s Pond Park, and Lemon Creek Park. Combined, they attract thousands of visitors from near and far every year.
From the woodsy trails in Blue Heron, to the fishing pier at Lemon Creek, and the ample play spaces in Wolfe’s Pond, these three parks are each distinctive. Ever wonder how they got their names?
BLUE HERON PARK
Blue Heron Park is the most obvious. A wildlife sanctuary and educational resource, the 236-acre park bordered by Amboy Road, Barclay Avenue, Hylan Boulevard and Bertram Avenue is named after the gray-feathered, predatory bird with a yellow bill, according to the city Parks Department website. The Annadale property was acquired bit by bit by the city between 1974 and 2001.
“Blue Heron Park has become an outstanding wildlife sanctuary and educational resource,” according to the website. “The years have seen it transformed from a wasteland filled with over 30 abandoned cars to a peaceful refuge of walking trails, meadows, ponds, streams, and woodlands.”
The park is home to six ponds, including the 1.75-acre Spring Pond and the 1.4-acre Blue Heron Pond. They are kettle ponds, formed 15,000 years ago, by the retreating Wisconsin glacier.
Today, they are teeming with marine life such as the curve-billed glossy ibis, the black-crowned night heron, wood ducks, owls, osprey, turtles, and white water lilies, says Parks.
Spring peepers and tree frogs find ample breeding grounds in the ponds, where nature enthusiasts flock to observe the thriving ecosystem. The Nature Center is located at 222 Poillon Ave.
WOLFE’S POND PARK
Wolfe’s Pond Park’s 302-acre site is named after the Wolfes, a prominent Staten Island family that farmed in the area with the Johnsons and the Seguines. In 1857, New York State purchased the Wolfe Farm for use as a quarantine station for sick immigrants.
Local fishermen and oystermen suspected that the facility was contaminating the water, says Parks, so they burned down one building after another in protest. As a result, the station was relocated to Tompkinsville.
New York City repurposed the land for Wolfe’s Pond Park in 1929 and 1930, when it was already a recreational spot for Staten Islanders and visitors from other boroughs and New Jersey.
“More than ninety bungalows and summer cottages surrounded the pond. As a result of community protest in 1933, the buildings were razed and substantial park improvements were undertaken,” claims the website.
“A new dam was built to protect the freshwater pond from the infusion of salt water from the bay. A boat house, bath house, stairs to the beach, a parking lot, playground, and picnic area were constructed. Additional parcels of land expanded the park to its present acreage.”
Wolfe’s Pond is currently in disarray, following Hurricane Irene. The storm blew open the berm separating the fresh body of water from the Raritan Bay.
LEMON CREEK PARK
Lemon Creek Park lies between Prince’s Bay and Pleasant Plains, and runs parallel to Hylan Boulevard. It you know how it got its name, please let us know. In 1830, the freshwater stream was known as Seguine’s Creek, and in 1895, it was called the Little North River.
But shortly thereafter, says Parks, the name of Lemon Creek began to appear on maps and remained, although the origin of the unusual name is not known. Lemon Creek is fed from a watershed that begins two-and-one-half miles from the creek.
The main source is a small freshwater pond near Woodrow Road, known as Porzio Pond. The water travels over and under ground to Lemon Creek, which carries it down to Prince’s Bay, and ultimately into the Raritan Bay.
The 104-acre park, bounded by Hylan and Sharrott, Bayview and Seguine avenues, was acquired by the city in 1962. Additional segments totaling 4.8 acres were added in 1983 and 1984. Five years later, the Seguine Mansion and its 2.1-acre site overlooking the Raritan was acquired.
The house, a stately Greek Revival structure built in 1838 by Joseph H. Seguine, reflects the classical architecture and thriving commerce of mid-19th century Staten Island.
The parkland is home to swans, mallard ducks and black ducks, and it serves as a lay-over point for numerous migratory birds and, in early October, monarch butterflies, according to the Parks Department.
One of the only purple martin colonies in New York City can be found in Lemon Creek Park. These birds, which live in open woodlands, are the largest in the swallow family.