Saw Mill Creek Marsh

Saw Mill Creek Marsh

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

A marsh is a wet area of mineral soil located around the edges of a lake or on the floodplain of a river. The marshlands of the Arthur Kill River on the western side of Staten Island were created by the receding of the Wisconsin Glacier 10,000 years ago and the slow accumulation of sediment and organic soil.

The Saw Mill Creek area was a resource to the Lenape Native Americans as well as to entrepreneurial colonists. The abundance of food present on the western shore’s salt marshes of Staten Island explains the Native Americans’ attachment to the Saw Mill Creek Marsh. They harvested oysters from the creek and cultivated corn, squash, and beans.

The first recorded owner of this marsh was Richard Merrill, and it was passed down successively through generations of Merrills. It was originally called Maggie’s Creek. The oldest landmark was the grist mill owned by Richard Merrill. It was erected in the early 1800s and used to make flour from the grains that were grown on local Staten Island farms. Over the years the mill had many different managers and served different functions ranging from a fort, a mineral paint factory, and a feed factory, but was always owned by the Merrill family. A second mill was constructed some time after the Revolutionary War (1776-1783). Both mills were removed by 1850 so oysters could be freshened on the creek’s mud flats. Today wading birds such as herons and egrets rely on these flats for food and shelter.

Saw Mill Creek Marsh was named after the brackish creek that carves through the park and empties into the Arthur Kill River behind Prall’s Island. The land was originally obtained for development and zoned for manufacturing at a time when marshes were considered wastelands. The land was handed over to Parks in 1994 by the Department of General Services. Saw Mill Creek Marsh reaches from the shoreline of the Arthur Kill River to an upland field halved by Chelsea Road near Bloomfield Road. The park is a favorite spot for sharp-tailed sparrows (Ammodramus caudacutus), egrets (Egretta spp.), herons, and birds of prey including falcons (Falco spp.), Northern harriers (Circus cyaneus), Turkey vultures (Cathartes aura), and other bird species as well as White-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus), muskrat (Ondatra zibethica), Eastern cottontail rabbits (Sylvilagus floridanus), and raccoons (Procyon lotor).

Restoration of salt marshes and wetlands are important to the survival of many species of birds, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals. The Salt Marsh Restoration Team is a special Parks team whose goal is to restore salt marshes and wetlands through native species planting and exotic and invasive species removal. With the help of city and state agencies, the Salt Marsh Restoration Team has received numerous grants to restore Saw Mill Creek Marsh. A $52,800 state grant was awarded to the team to help reclaim six acres of marsh and an additional $67,200 was provided toward the task by the City as well.

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