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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Ocean Breeze Park

The same day I visited Eibs Pond Park I stopped by two other Staten Island natural sites, Brady's Pond (the supposed public access to which I couldn't find) and Ocean Breeze Park, a large tidal meadow near South Beach. Aside from an athletic complex in one corner, the park has precious little for the breezes to waft over. All I found walking its paths were big stretches of nothing.

Entering from Quintard Street, which was under heavy construction, I found sandy paths, some of them flooded.

ocean breeze park staten island nyc
ocean breeze park staten island nyc

A big hump of asphalt was a mystery.

ocean breeze park staten island nyc

At first I thought I was the only human being in the park. But I did pass one couple walking the sandy paths (and avoiding the watery ones).

ocean breeze park staten island nyc

The Parks Department website explains that Ocean Breeze Park's 136 acres were "originally part of a vast tidal meadow through which a network of winding tidal creek channels traversed." It seems the creeks don't want to take no for an answer.

ocean breeze park staten island nyc

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Eibs Pond Park

One of Staten Island's little-known treasures is 16-acre Eibs Pond Park, a wetland nature reserve set surprisingly amid drab housing developments in the Park Hill neighborhood. At three acres the biggest kettle pond in the city, Eibs Pond centers a 16-acre protected wetlands area.

eibs pond park hill staten island nyc kettle pond

(Forest Park and Blue Heron Park also have kettle ponds, water-filled depressions left by a retreating glacier.)

The entrances and signage reflect the park's homespun nature. Officially a New York City park only since 1989, it feels like the kind of reserve you might find in a distant suburb.

eibs pond park hill staten island nyc
eibs pond park hill staten island nyc

A dirt path circles the pond. On my first approach, something fairly large jumped off a rock into the water with a loud splash, but my eyes weren't quick enough to see what it was. It didn't surface. At least not nearby. But I think it must have been a mammal.

eibs pond park hill staten island nyc

I did see a red-winged blackbird. They're common in New York City's wetland areas.

eibs pond park hill staten island nyc red-winged blackbird

A crude boardwalk bridge crosses the center of the wetland.

eibs pond park hill staten island nyc

Residue of a complicated past litters the park. The Eibs family watered their horses and dairy cows here in the 1800s. Spending the summer of 1843 nearby, Henry David Thoreau, according to the Parks Department website, was inspired to write that "The whole island is like a garden," meaning Staten Island I think. In the early 20th century D.W. Griffith shot Birth of a Nation's Civil War battle sequences around the pond.

Then it became a water hazard for a golf course, and hosted curling competitions in the winter. During World War Two the site hosted Italian prisoners of war.

eibs pond park hill staten island nyc
eibs pond park hill staten island nyc

A major restoration around the turn of the century gave us Eibs Pond Park roughly as we see it today. Tangles of trees and vines lend it a dense, murky, vaguely dangerous air, heightened by its small size, its evidence of occupation by the homeless, and, when I visited on a warm spring weekend, its emptiness.

eibs pond park hill staten island nyc

On the other hand, the layout doesn't lend itself to lounging about, or to any sort of recreation. Unless you're a mysterious possible-mammal with a penchant for sudden dives into the pond. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

eibs pond park hill staten island nyc forever wild