Wolfe's Pond Park
Wolfe’s Pond is unusual because it is a freshwater pond that is only yards from the saltwater of the ocean. It was probably once an inlet of the sea, which supported very different life than it does today. But over time, the wind and waves pushed sand and clay into the mouth of that inlet, blocking the flow of saltwater into the pond. The outflow into Acme Pond, combined with years of rain and runoff, have transformed the pond from saltwater to freshwater.
In the 19th century, this pond was crucial to the activities of the oystermen who harvested Raritan Bay. They would bring their shellfish to this pond to wash them—not only cleaning off debris, but also reducing their catch’s salt content and thereby improving flavor. To protect the freshwater pond from storm damage, the oystermen would periodically repair the natural barrier separating the pond from the sea. When Parks acquired the pond in 1929, a permanent dam was constructed to protect it from such erosion.
In 1933, local residents complained that access to the beach and pond was blocked by bungalow dwellers, who were allegedly friends of the Parks Commissioner. Indeed, there were more than 90 summer homes set up around the pond. After a court battle, the buildings were razed and the park opened to all. London plane trees (Platanus x acerifolia), pin (Quercus palustris) and willow (Quercus phellos) oaks, and honey locusts (Gleditsia triacanthos) were planted. A boathouse, bathhouse, stairs to the beach, parking lot, playground, and picnic area were also constructed for public enjoyment.
The vegetation of the pond is very diverse, including sweet pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia), highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum), serviceberry (Amelanchier), and wine raspberry (Rubus phoenicolasius). These plants provide ample food for many birds, such as yellowthroats (Geothlypis trichas), redstarts (Setophaga ruticilla), and other warblers (Parulidae). In the pond, wood ducks (Aix sponsa) and mallards (Anas platyrhyncos) feed on aquatic plants, such as arrow arum (Peltandra virginica), swamp rose mallow (Hibiscus moscheutos), and buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis). Red winged blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus), black-crowned night herons (Nycticorax nycticorax), and great blue herons (Ardea herodias) hunt for fish and frogs along the pond’s edge. The belted kingfisher (Ceryle alcyon) can easily be spotted diving from a branch overhanging the pond to catch its pray below.
During the winter of 1992, storms destroyed the dam that separated Wolfe’s Pond from the sea. Mayor Giuliani and Borough President Guy V. Molinari funded the $1,200,000 construction of a new pond embankment and beach protection. This included the installation of a planted berm and a new weir. The unique Wolfe’s Pond will remain a distinct freshwater pond, near the ocean, for years to come.