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Mount Loretto Unique Area

Mt. Loretto Unique Area locator map

hiking icon fishing icon fishing pierwatchable wildlife iconbiking paddling iconaccessible facitilies iconrestrooms iconparking icon icon key

  • Open for recreation: Year-round, from dawn to dusk
  • Fee: Free
  • Contact Information:
    • DEC Region 2 Long Island City Office (M-F, 8:45 AM - 4:45 PM), (718) 482-4900; reg2lands@dec.ny.gov
    • Enforcement Matters: (518) 408-5850 (24/7) or 911
    • Region 2 Environmental Educator: (718) 482-6404
  • Location: Staten Island, Richmond County
  • Map: Mount Loretto Map (PDF) || Google Earth || DECinfo Locator
Watch a clip about Mount Loretto and check out other clips on DEC's YouTube Channel.

Mount 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.

Grassland
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 Mount Loretto. The eastern meadowlark has not been observed on Mount Loretto in many years, but bobolinks have been spotted with increasing frequency.

freshwater wetlands
Freshwater Wetlands at Mt. Loretto

Coastal
Coastal/marine habitat is the second largest habitat zone at Mount 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.

Freshwater Wetland
The freshwater wetlands on Mount 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. Mount 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.

Featured Activities

Hiking

hiking icon

General information on hiking includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules and regulations.

grassland
Grasslands at Mount Loretto Unique Area

Mount 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), with eight stops along the trail. Some of the stops talk about the bird life at Mount 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.

Fishing

fishing
fishing

General information on marine fishing including fishing tips with links to seasons, rules and regulations.

Mount 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.

Check out Getting Started Fishing in New York City for tips, tricks, equipment, regulations and downloadable brochures.

Watchable Wildlife

watchable wildlife

General information on Watchable Wildlife including tips for viewing wildlife and links to other watchable wildlife locations.

Mount 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 - this area offers a wide array of habitats for bird species on Staten Island and lots of opportunities for birders.

Wildlife to Watch
horseshoe crab and landscape
horseshoe crab and landscape
Where to Watch
  • Three nature trails: Wetlands Trail, Grasslands Trail and Beach Loop
  • Mile-long coastline

Biking

biking

General information on biking includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules and regulations.

Bicycles are allowed only on asphalt surfaces; this includes the asphalt surface portions of both the Wetlands trail and the Grassland trail.

Paddling

paddling icon

General information on paddling includes how-to and safety tips and links to rules and regulations.

beach, bluffs
A view of the bay

Kayaks, canoes, and other non-motorized watercraft are allowed on the seashore but cannot remain overnight. Mount 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.

Environmental Education

With five ecosystems - marine/coastal, grassland, forest, and tidal and freshwater wetlands - Mount 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. The Environmental Educator can be reached by phone (718) 482-6404 or by email at reg2lands@dec.ny.gov.

Accessible Features

accessible facilities
restrooms icon

General information on accessible recreation includes links to other locations with accessible recreation opportunities and information on permits for motorized access.

Visitors of all abilities have the opportunity to explore several parts of Mt. Loretto Unique Area. Mobility features include an accessible fishing and viewing platform near the entrance of the property, a pavilion looking out over the bluffs to Prince's Bay, and a newly completed Beach Access Trail which brings users right to the ocean for a view of the highest ocean facing bluffs in New York State.

fishing platform
Accessible fishing platform

Additionally, an accessible portable toilet is available at the parking lot during operating hours.

Directions

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 Avenue until Hylan Boulevard (go through four traffic lights, the fifth light is Hylan Boulevard.) Take a LEFT on to Hylan Boulevard and the parking lot for Mount Loretto will be about 3/4 mile along Hylan Boulevard on the right side. Or, off the Verrazano Bridge, you can take the exit for Hylan Boulevard and follow that south until you come to Mount Loretto (the parking lot will be on the left coming this way).

  • Mount Loretto Unique Area parking lot: (40.509370°N, 74.218136°W) Google Maps (leaves DEC website)

All coordinates provided are in decimal degrees using NAD83/WGS84 datum.

Rules, Regulations, and Outdoor Safety

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.

All users of Mt. Loretto Unique Area must follow all State Land Use Regulations and should follow all Outdoor Safety Practices for the safety of the user and protection of the resource.

Prevent Lyme disease. Check yourself, children, and dogs for ticks after you enjoy the trails at Mount Loretto.

Watch out for poison ivy. Mount 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.

***Stay Safe - Bring a Friend When Visiting the Property***

Pavilion at Mt Loretto
Mt Loretto Pavilion

Illegal activities are strictly prohibited on state property.

Specific Rules

  1. No littering - this is a "Carry in, Carry out" facility. There are no trash cans and you must take your trash out with you when you leave.
  2. Park vehicles only in designated areas.
  3. Vehicles are not allowed beyond the parking area and cannot remain on the property overnight.
  4. Horseback riding is limited to the beach area only.
  5. Fishing is allowed in compliance with State regulations.
  6. 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.
  7. Dogs must remain on a leash at all times and owners must pick up after their dogs.
  8. Bicycles are allowed only on asphalt surfaces. Riding on non-asphalt surfaces is prohibited.
  9. Prohibited activities include:
    1. Use of ATVs, snowmobiles, and other off-road vehicles
    2. Use of remote-controlled and model airplanes
    3. All fires, including camp grills and cooking fires
    4. Collection of plants, wildlife, and/or cultural material
    5. Introduction or release of plants and wildlife
    6. Removal and/or defacement of state property
    7. Hunting and trapping
    8. Use and discharge of any firearm or weapon
    9. Playing of radios, loudspeakers, or other sound equipment
    10. Alcoholic beverages
    11. Camping
  10. Jet-skis and other motorized watercraft are not allowed within 100 feet of shore.
  11. Kayaks, canoes, and other non-motorized watercraft are allowed on the seashore but cannot remain overnight.
  12. A Temporary Revocable Permit is required to perform the following activities at Mount Loretto Unique Area:
    1. filming
    2. activities taking place between sunset and sunrise
    3. placement of geocaches
  13. Visitors must comply with all DEC posted notices and DEC personnel instructions.

Planning and Management

Prince's Bay lighthouse
John Cardinal O'Connor Lighthouse

DEC has developed a Draft Southern Staten Island Unit Management Plan (PDF) which describes the proposed management activities for these lands. In addition to management objectives, the UMP contains detailed information on natural features, recreational infrastructure, geology, natural and human history, habitats, wildlife, fisheries and much more.

If you have questions and/or comments about this UMP, please email us at r2.ump@dec.ny.gov.

One of the main management goals at Mount Loretto is to improve and maintain nesting habitat for grassland birds. DEC's 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.

History

Mount Loretto Unique Area is also home to the John Cardinal O'Connor Lighthouse (formerly Prince's Bay Lighthouse). The lighthouse 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, Mount 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 Mount 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 and New Jersey, the US Department of Justice and 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 DEC's Open Space Conservation plan, which serves as the blueprint for the State's land conservation efforts that have conserved nearly a million acres of land.

Volunteers

DEC encourages volunteers who wish to help with trail maintenance, interpretive materials, invasive plant removal, garbage removal and wildlife habitat improvement to contact DEC for details at (718) 482-4942.

Nearby State Lands, Facilities, Amenities & Other Information

State Lands and Facilities

Where to Find Nearby Amenities

  • Lodging and dining opportunities as well as gas, food and other supplies can be found in the nearby community of Staten Island.

Staten Island Tourism (leaves DEC website) can provide information about other recreation, attractions and amenities in this area.

Numerous guidebooks 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.