Groups of nature lovers on Upstate Excursion will definitely enjoy seeing a stop at this outstanding educational resource and wildlife sanctuary at the top of their itinerary. New York City acquired the refuge land in segments, between 1974 and 2001; due to the hard work and dedication of concerned Staten Islanders, the area gradually saw its amazing transformation from a tragic wasteland filled with abandoned old cars to the gloriously peaceful wildlife refuge awaiting visitors today. Six kettle ponds formed by a retreating Wisconsin glacier teem with fascinating marine life – curve billed glossy ibis, black crowned night heron, wood duck, owls, osprey, water lilies and turtles – and the surrounding woods and wetlands are chock full of native species; nature enthusiasts regularly flock to the area to observe the thriving park ecosystem. A visitor’s center lies just inside the park entrance, and offers several classrooms, a library, exhibit areas and public restrooms, picnic tables, two observation decks and a mist net for bird banding – the ideal place for the bird watchers amongst you to partake of their hobby! Three different trails traverse the refuge, and broad strokes of wildflowers, including wild columbine, Black-eyed Susan and Jack-in-the-Pulpit happily tint the landscape. Urban Park Rangers and Friends of the Blue Heron-a fabulous community organization whose goal is connecting New Yorkers to the natural world in their own backyards through environmental education, outdoor recreation, wildlife management and active conservation – offer guests a wide variety of arts and educational activities and programming including nature walks, crafts, zoo animals and special holiday events.