One of the true treasures of Staten Island in the Greenbelt – a system of parks that are connected by trails and provide all types of recreational opportunities for visitors and residents alike. The Greenbelt occupies space right in the heart of Staten Island, and visiting it lets you feel like you’re stepping into a different world as you turn off the bustling commercial streets that encircle it into the tranquility of the forest and wetlands.
Greenbelt Nature Center
The best place to start your exploration of the Greenbelt is at the Nature Center located at 700 Rockland Avenue. This facility is open year round and offers plenty of excellent programs and exhibits that will capture the imagination of explorers of all ages. This is also a great place to pick up one of the many trails that traverse the Greenbelt and to learn about the wildlife that can be found in the region.
The main parks that make up the Greenbelt are Willowbrook Park, High Rock Park and Latourette Park and Golf Course. The parks stretch from Bulls Head in the northwest to Todt Hill in the north east and down through Oakwood and Richmond Town in the southeast. There are a variety of trails and terrains to be explored, and the different trails are marked and described on the trail map available from the Greenbelt Conservancy.
The Freshkills Park is also being developed and will slowly open in pieces over the next few years. This project will continue for the next 30 years or so, eventually transforming this former landfill into a park nearly three times as big as Central Park. It will feature some amazing views of the city and the surrounding areas, as well as a diverse range of habitats for visitors to explore and wildlife to inhabit.
There are nature programs for toddlers every Wednesday through December 19th at the Greenbelt Nature Center. Children from age two to four can begin to learn the joy of the outdoors through creative play, hands-on activities, stories, games and more.
There is also a 10 mile organized walk on October 27th sponsored by the Protectors of Pine Oak Woods. This annual event is a great way to start exploring the Greenbelt. It runs from 9:45am to 3:45pm, and it starts and ends at the Nature Center.
If you’re not up for braving the crowds at the mall on the day after Thanksgiving, head over to the Greenbelt instead. There is a two hour Turkey Be Gone Hike starting at 10am and a family-friendly sing along at 1:30pm to help ring in the holiday season.