Bunker Ponds Park
Bunker Ponds Park
At various times over the past million years, global cooling allowed massive glaciers to form over much of the northern United States. These ice sheets surged southward from Hudson Bay in Canada, collecting boulders, cobbles, gravel, and soil on the way. As temperatures began to rise 12,000 years ago, the last glacier receded from Staten Island. As the ice melted, the debris was deposited throughout the landscape. This process created the rolling landscape that is characteristic of Staten Island today. The kettle pond in this park was created as the glacier dragged debris across the ground and thereby dug out a hole. As glacial ice melted, runoff filled the newly formed hole with water, making a pond.
William T. Davis (1862-1945) and Charles W. Leng (1859-1941) surveyed this area for an 1896 map. The location is referred to as Bunker Hill, and while the pond is depicted, it is not specifically identified. In his studies of the spot, Davis found various artifacts including arrowheads and spear points, and thereby concluded that the site had been a Lenape Indian settlement. Davis, a renowned naturalist and entomologist, co-founded the Natural Science Association of Staten Island. He was largely self-taught, but nonetheless made huge contributions to the study of Staten Island's community and natural history. His 1892 memoir Days Afield on Staten Island catalogues the island's plants and animals, while Staten Island and Its People, which he coauthored with Leng in 1930, is one of the greatest recordings of Staten Island history.
The Department of Real Property assigned this property to Parks on December 30, 1994. Local residents had feared that the land was going to be privately developed, so they asked Parks to take it over so as to preserve its natural beauty. The site's boundaries are Hylan Boulevard, Arbutus Avenue, Huguenot Avenue, and Shore Avenue. The last of these, Shore Avenue, has eroded and no longer exists (even though it still appears on maps of the area). Where it had run is now waterfront, giving Bunker Ponds Park some sea frontage. Swain Avenue is named for a family that resided here as early as 1706. At the time, seven Swain males were heads of their own households, with eleven boys among them. They sustained the name, and Swains continued to be active on Staten Island for years to come, particularly with the Church of St. Andrew, which is located in Richmond Town on the corner of Old Mill and Arthur Kill Roads. That church is particularly interesting because it was probably the birthplace, and certainly the baptismal place, of Mother Elizabeth Seton (1774-1821). Seton was made a saint in 1975-the first American in history to be canonized.
Located across Huguenot Avenue, Intermediate School 7 (Elias Bernstein Intermediate) uses this park in its science enrichment program. With its variety of wildlife, the park affords students the opportunity to observe plants and animals in their natural habitat. The swamp is home to the spring peeper (Pseudacris crucifer), the smallest species of frog on Staten Island. There are also red-backed salamanders (Plethodon cinereus), green frogs (Rana clamitans melanota), painted turtles (Chrysemys picta), and garter snakes (Thamnophis). In July and August, swamp loosestrife (Decodon verticillatus) blooms its bright pink wildflowers. Many bird species stop in Bunker Pond Park to rest, but two particularly frequent visitors are mallards (Anas platyrhyncos) and wood ducks (Aix sponsa). Others birds that can be seen are the great blue heron (Ardea herodias), black-crowned night heron (Nycticorax nycticorax), little heron (Butorides striatus), snowy egret (Egretta thula), crow (Corvus), cardinal (Cardinalis), black capped chickadee (Poecile atricapillus), northern oriole (Icterus galbula), rufous sided towhee (Pipilo erythropthaimus), and the great crested flycatcher (Myiarchus crinitus).
This park's woods contain red maples (Acer rubrum), sweet gums (liquidambar styraciflua), pin oaks (Quercus palustris), white ash (Fraxinus Americana), scarlet oaks (Quercus coccinea), white oaks (Quercus alba), black birch (Betula occidentalis), and several species of hickories (Carya). Yellow pond lilies (Nuphar advena) and bladderwort (Utricularia) thrive in the pond itself. The latter is especially interesting because it is a carnivorous plant; it traps and digests tiny animals such as insects and worms. There are also several species of fish, including bluegills (Lepomis macrochirus), green sunfish (Lepomis cyanellus), catfish (Siluriformes), and eels (Anguilliformes).