|Clay Pit Ponds State Park Preserve|
|Location||83 Nielsen Avenue |
Staten Island, New York
|Nearest city||Staten Island, New York|
|Area||265 acres (1.07 km2)|
|Operated by||New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation|
|Visitors||25,343 (in 2014)|
|Website||Clay Pit Ponds State Park Preserve|
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.
Groundbreaking for a $1.3 million nature center on Nielsen Avenue was held on May 4, 2007. In October 2008, the center opened with exhibits on the history of the Charleston area and wildlife and plants found within the park. The 3,000-square-foot (280 m2) facility contains exhibit space, classrooms, and an outdoor pavilion.
The park is a 265-acre (1.07 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 purpose of the preserve is to retain the site's unique ecology, as well as to provide educational and recreational opportunities, such a nature walks, pond ecology programs, and birdwatching. Two hiking trails – the Abraham's Pond Trail and the Ellis Swamp Trail – are open to the public near the park headquarters, and horseback riding is permitted on five miles (8.0 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.