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Meredith Woods

Meredith Woods

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

Meredith Woods lies next to the West Shore Expressway between Meredith and Ridgeway Avenues, with an addition on Glen Street between Parish and South Avenues. The park was originally called Neck Creek Marsh because its wetlands are drained by Neck Creek. It was renamed Meredith Park for William T. Meredith, a property owner in the Chelsea neighborhood. In 1998, Commissioner Stern changed the park name to Meredith Woods. Despite its current name, this parkland contains only a few trees on fill soil and is almost entirely salt marsh.

Salt marshes play a critical role in the support of human life, acting as natural filtration systems by trapping pollutants that would otherwise contaminate our bays and oceans. Salt marshes have the ability to absorb fertilizers, improve water quality, and reduce erosion. These areas were formed by barriers of glacial sediment, which protected bays from the ocean’s waves. While these waters were calm enough for vegetation to take root, the presence of saltwater made survival difficult. One species, however, saltmarsh cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora), was able to colonize the flat expanses of sand and silt, which were covered twice a day by the ocean’s tides. This specialized grass spread and, when it died each year, left a peat layer that raised the surface of the marsh. This enabled a variety of plants with less salt tolerance to colonize the peat, creating what is called a high marsh or salt meadow. Meredith Woods contains salt meadow and salt marsh, as well as freshwater and brackish marsh.

Salt marshes are home to a very wide variety of species, and the volume of life present is remarkable. The birds of Meredith Woods include seaside sparrow (Ammodramus maritimus), sharp-tailed sparrow (Ammodramus caudacutus), northern harrier (Circus cyaneus), and clapper rail (Rallus longirostris). The fiddler crab (Uca) and ribbed mussel (Geukensia demissa) have developed a mutually beneficial relationship with the saltmarsh cordgrass. While the crabs and mussels benefit from feeding on decaying matter trapped within cordgrass roots, cordgrass gains from the fiddler’s burrowing, which aerates the soil, and the mussel’s excretion, which provides necessary nitrogen. Local amphibians include diamondback terrapin (Malaclemys terrapin) and southern leopard frog (Rana sphenocephala utricularia), a state-listed species of concern. Many egrets, herons, and ibises, which breed on nearby Prall’s Island, forage on the salt marsh in Meredith Woods.

This park connects the neighborhoods of Chelsea and Travis. Travis, in west central Staten Island, was originally the site of an Indian settlement. Among the many names it has had since is Linoleumville, for the American Linoleum Company that owned an important factory in the area. After the factory shut down in 1931, residents voted to change the name to Travis. Chelsea, an area in northwestern Staten Island, was formerly called Prallstown, for the Prall family that was granted land in 1675. During the American Revolution, some called the neighborhood Peanutville because residents stored nuts for ferry riders. Chelsea remains largely undeveloped, containing only a few old one-family houses and some businesses, including the Teleport communications complex. The rest of Chelsea is mostly open marshland.

In the last 200 years, humans have filled over 80% of the city’s original salt marshes for construction. While other marshland in the area remains threatened with development and destruction, Parks’s control of Meredith Woods ensures the survival of this vital ecosystem. However, the protected Meredith Woods covers only a small fraction of the approximately 250 acres of marsh near Neck Creek.

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