Reeds Basket Willow Swamp Preserve
Borough: Staten Island
Habitat Type: Forest, Freshwater Wetland
Reed’s Basket Willow Swamp Park is a steep wooded site, which slopes down to an open swamp. In 1978, the Reed’s Basket Willow Swamp was designated as a protected freshwater wetland by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, ensuring its preservation under state law.
The upland portion of the swamp is mostly closed canopy beech-oak forest with intact native shrub and herb layers that include maple-leaved viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium), lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium), and pinkster azalea (Rhododendron periclymenoides). These plants are all indicators of mature forest with undisturbed native soils. The forest which covers nearly half the area of the park is predominated with young oak (Quercus spp.), interspersed with birches (Betula spp.), tulip magnolias (Liriodendron tulipifera), hickory (Carya spp.), and chestnut trees (Castanea spp.). Hiking trails, such as the yellow trail found on Ocean Terrace at the top of Emerson Court, guide explorers through the woods.
The swamp is a breeding habitat for dusky (Desmognathus fuscus) and northern red salamanders (Pseudotriton ruber), both rare on Staten Island and extirpated from the other four boroughs. A common plant that can be seen in the swamp are common reeds, or phragmites, a member of the grass family. They thrive in both brackish and fresh water marshes, and can grow to be 12 feet tall. Phragmites often invade wetlands at the expense of other native marsh plants.
This park’s unusual name is inspired by the Read family, owners of the land for several generations. John Read (1786-1849), started a family tradition when he decided to try his luck at basket making, and planted the swampy land around his farm with purple willow trees. The willow tree buds every spring, at which point it is at the peak condition to be harvested. The sap flowing under the bark makes it easy for farmers to peel the bark off the trunk. After the bark has been removed and soaked in water, it is cut into strips and woven into the distinctive baskets.
Public Transit:The S60, S53 (from Bay Ridge, Brooklyn) and S93 stop at Clove Road and Howard Ave. Walk south over the expressway on Clove Road and turn right onto Ocean Terrace. You will pass Deer Park Preserve on your right. Reeds Basket Willow Swamp Preserve is on the left at Oceanview lane.
By Car: From the Staten Island Expressway (278) from Brooklyn, exit onto Narrows Road N. Make a left across the highway at Clove Road. Make a right on Narrows Road South/Ocean Terrace. The preserve is located on the left at Oceanview Lane. From 278 toward Brooklyn, exit onto South Gannon Ave at Exit 11. Take South Gannon Ave to Manor Road. Make a right on Manor Rd and then a left onto Ocean Terrace. The preserve is on your right at Oceanview Lane.