Mt. Loretto Unique Area
- Open for recreation: Year-round, from dawn to dusk
- Fee: Free
- Contact Information:
- DEC Region 2 Long Island City Office: (718) 482-4900 (M-F, 8:45AM - 4:45PM); email@example.com
- Emergency, Law Enforcement & Rangers: (518) 408-5850 or 911
- Environmental Educator: (718) 482-6404
- Location: Staten Island, Richmond County
- Map: View the Mt. Loretto Map || View same map in PDF (183 KB) || Google Earth || State Lands Interactive Mapper
Mt. Loretto Unique Area provides nature lovers with more than 200 acres of forest, grasslands, wetlands, and coastal shoreline on the southern shore of Staten Island. These habitats make it a beautiful area to hike and one of the best places to spot migrating birds in the area.
Butler Manor Woods, located within Mount Loretto Unique Area, encompasses roughly 18 acres of wetlands. It is a remarkable parcel of land that truly complements and beautifies the incredible ecological diversity already found within Mount Loretto.
General information on hiking includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules & regulations
Grasslands at Mount Loretto Unique Area
Mt. Loretto Unique Area features three hiking trails: Wetlands Trail, Grassland Trail, and Beach Loop. The Wetlands Trail includes a self-guided interpretive trail brochure (PDF, 608 KB), with eight stops along the trail. Some of the stops talk about the bird life at Mt. Loretto or the wildlife found at a pond, while others discuss the importance of wetlands, both tidal and freshwater.
Purchase a Trail Supporter Patch to provide funding for maintenance of trails and other facilities.
General information on fishing including fishing tips with links to seasons, rules & regulations
Mt. Loretto Unique Area features a freshwater pond with an accessible fishing pier. The area also offers a mile of shoreline for saltwater fishing on Prince's Bay.
General information on watchable wildlife including tips for viewing wildlife and links to other watchable wildlife locations
Mt. Loretto Unique Area is a New York State Watchable Wildlife site, where wildlife can be spotted year-round. With five ecosystems - marine/coastal, grassland, forest, and tidal and freshwater wetlands - Mt. Loretto offers a wide array of habitats for bird species on Staten Island and lots of opportunities for birders.
Wildlife to Watch
- Purple martens
- Bald eagles
- White-tailed deer
- Striped bass
Where to Watch
- Three nature trails: the Wetlands Trail, Grasslands Trail and Beach Loop
- Mile-long coastline
General information on biking includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules & regulations
Bicycles are allowed only on asphalt surfaces; this includes the asphalt surface portions of both the Wetlands trail and the Grassland trail.
General information on paddling includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules & regulations.
A view of the bay
Kayaks, canoes, and other non-motorized watercraft are allowed on the seashore but cannot remain overnight. Mt. Loretto Unique Area does not have an official kayak/canoe launch. However, paddlers are permitted to carry their crafts to the beach on walking trails.
Lemon Creek Marina (leaves DEC website) offers a shorter portage for paddlers.
With five ecosystems - marine/coastal, grassland, forest, and tidal and freshwater wetlands - Mt. Loretto offers tremendous educational value. Organizations what wish to use the Mt. Loretto property for an event (walk, cleanup, or program) must contact the environmental educator prior to publicizing the event. Permits are required for any event on the property involving more than 8 people. Permit applications. The Environmental Educator can be reached by phone 718-482-6404 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Grasslands make up most of the Unique Area. Some grassland bird species are in decline because nesting habitat is disappearing; three of these species include the bobolink, common meadowlark, and savannah sparrow. All of these species like moist fields with small to moderate height vegetation, characteristic of the fields at Mt. Loretto. The eastern meadowlark has not been observed on Mt. Loretto in many years, but bobolinks have been spotted with increasing frequency.
Freshwater Wetlands at Mt. Loretto
Coastal/marine habitat is the second largest habitat zone at Mt. Loretto. A narrow sand and cobble beach fronts the property for roughly a mile of coastline, and the property includes 49 acres of underwater lands. A tidal inlet on the eastern end of the property links Prince's Bay to the tidal wetlands. This inlet brings saltwater into the tidal wetlands. The course of the inlet changes with the wind and waves.
The freshwater wetlands on Mt. Loretto make up 16 acres of the property and are part of a larger wetland system, the Tottenville Freshwater Wetland. Wetlands provide flood water and stormwater control, wildlife habitat, watershed protection, erosion and sediment control, and aesthetics. Mt. Loretto's wetlands are low marshes in an open field and contain species such as sedges, rushes, bulrushes, red maple, willows, arrowwood, and highbush blueberry
General information on accessible recreation includes links to other locations with accessible recreation opportunities and information on permits for motorized access.
Mt. Loretto Unique Area has several accessible features: a parking lot with a trail leading to Mount Loretto Pond, with an accessible fishing platform.
Accessible fishing platform
Additionally, an accessible portable toilet is available at the parking lot during operating hours.
From Goethals and Verrazano Bridges:
- On I-278, take the exit for 440 South (West Shore Expressway). Take the last exit (exit # 1) on 440 South (just before the Outerbridge Crossing). At the end of the ramp there will be a traffic light; make a right. At the next intersection, take another right. At the traffic light, make a third right. This puts you on Page Avenue. Follow Page Ave until Hylan Blvd (go through four traffic lights, the fifth light is Hylan Blvd.) Take a LEFT on to Hylan Blvd and the parking lot for Mt. Loretto will be about 3/4 mile along Hylan Blvd on the right side.
- Or, off the Verrazano Bridge, you can take the exit for Hylan Blvd and follow that south until you come to Mt. Loretto (the parking lot will be on the left coming this way).
GPS coordinates: 40.509370°N, 74.218136°W, Google Maps (leaves DEC website)
Rules, Regulations, and Outdoor Safety
Prevent Lyme disease. Check yourself, children, and dogs for ticks after you enjoy the trails at Mt. Loretto.
Watch out for poison ivy. Mt. Loretto is home to all three forms of poison ivy: the free-standing, woody plants; the hairy, woody vines; and the small ground plant. To stay itch-free, remember the adage, "leaves of three, leave it be." (Add in "hairy vine, no friend of mine" and you are covered on the poison ivy front.)
Practice Leave No Trace Principles (leaves DEC website) when recreating on state land to enjoy the outdoors responsibly; minimize impact on the natural resources and avoid conflicts with other users.
- No littering - a "Carry in, Carry out" facility
- Park vehicles only in designated areas
- Vehicles are not allowed beyond the parking area and cannot remain on the property overnight.
- Horseback riding is limited to the beach area only.
- Fishing is allowed in compliance with State regulations.
- Pedestrians and dogs are to remain on designated trails at all times. No one is allowed off trail or asphalt without a permit and escort.
- Dogs must remain on a leash at all times and owners must pick up after their dogs.
- Bicycles are allowed only on asphalt surfaces. (Riding on non-asphalt surfaces is prohibited)
- Prohibited activities include:
- Use of ATVs, snowmobiles, and other off-road vehicles
- Use of remote-controlled and model airplanes
- All fires, including camp grills and cooking fires
- Collection of plants, wildlife, and/or cultural material
- Introduction or release of plants and wildlife
- Removal and/or defacement of state property
- Hunting and trapping
- Use and discharge of any firearm or weapon
- Playing of radios, loudspeakers, or other sound equipment
- Alcoholic beverages
- Jet-skis and other motorized watercraft are not allowed within 100 feet of shore.
- Kayaks, canoes, and other non-motorized watercraft are allowed on the seashore but cannot remain overnight.
- A Temporary Revocable Permit is required to perform the following activities at Mount Loretto Unique Area:
- activities taking place between sunset and sunrise
- placement of geocaches
- Visitors must comply with all DEC posted notices and DEC personnel instructions.
How We Manage Mt. Loretto Unique Area
John Cardinal O'Connor Lighthouse
One of the main management goals at Mt. Loretto is to improve and maintain nesting habitat for grassland birds. The DEC management program now mows the meadows in late October, long after nestlings fledge. This practice will guarantee the preservation of open fields for many species.
Mount Loretto Unique Area is also home to the John Cardinal O'Connor Lighthouse (formerly Prince's Bay Lighthouse). The light house and attached keeper's cottage were constructed in the 1860s on the highest point of Staten Island's southern shore. Today the lighthouse cottage serves as the residence for the local forest ranger.
In 2006, Mt. Loretto Unique Area was expanded with the purchase of Butler Manor Woods, a roughly 18-acre wetland area. The property receives its name from the Butler family, who owned almost 100 acres of the original land during the early 1900s. Prior to that, in the 1880s the Catholic Archdiocese of New York had used the property, which also included Mt. Loretto, to minister to the hungry, homeless and disabled children and adults who lived in and around the area. The property was purchased through funding and collaborative efforts between the Trust for Public Land, the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, the US Department of Justice & the US Environmental Protection Agency, and grants secured by Senators Schumer and Clinton, Congressman Fosella, and the support of Congressman Jose Serrano. The area is a part of the NYSDEC's Open Space Conservation plan, which serves as the blueprint for the State's land conservation efforts that, over the past several years, have conserved nearly a million acres of land.
DEC has developed a Draft Southern Staten Island Unit Management Plan (PDF) (1.25 MB) which describes the proposed management activities for these lands. Each UMP addresses specific objectives and actions for public use and forest management. If you have questions and/or comments about this draft UMP, please email us: email@example.com.
DEC encourages volunteers who wish to help with trail maintenance, interpretive materials, invasive plant removal, garbage removal and wildlife habitat improvement. Please contact DEC for details at (718) 482-4942.
Nearby State Lands, Facilities, Amenities & Other Information
State Lands and Facilities
- North Mount Loretto State Forest
- Lemon Creek
- Clay Pit Ponds State Park Preserve (leaves DEC website)
Staten Island Tourism (leaves DEC website) can provide information about other recreation, attractions and amenities in this area.
Numerous guide books and maps are available with information on the lands, waters, trails and other recreational facilities in this area. These can be purchased at most outdoor equipment retailers, bookstores, and on-line booksellers.
Additional information, outdoor equipment, trip suggestions and guided or self-guided tours may be obtained from outdoor guide and outfitting businesses. Check area chambers of commerce, telephone directories or search the internet for listings.
Consider hiring an outdoor guide if you have little experience or woodland skills. See the NYS Outdoor Guides Association (leaves DEC website) for information on outdoor guides.
More about Mt. Loretto Unique Area:
- Trail Map of Mt. Loretto - Mount Loretto Unique Area has three trails, one of which is a self-guided interpretive trail.