2009-06-12 / Top Stories

Coin-Hunter Seeks Reversal Of Gateway Prohibition

City, Long Beach Allow Metal Detectors
By Howard Schwach

Metal detectors such as this one are used at many area beaches, but are banned by Gateway National Recreation Area. Metal detectors such as this one are used at many area beaches, but are banned by Gateway National Recreation Area. Far Rockaway resident Edward Singer has a passion for sweeping the local beaches with his metal detector, looking for errant coins and other longforgotten property.

For more than 20 years, he prowled the beaches of Long Beach, Rockaway and what is now Gateway National Recreation Area, plying his passion.

No longer, however.

While he can still probe the secrets of Long Beach and Rockaway, access to the beaches of Riis Park and Breezy Point have been restricted by a federal regulation that bans metal detectors.

"I was using metal detectors ten years before the city transferred the beaches to the federal government," Singer says. "They stopped us for a year, and then issued permits to those of us who wanted to search the beaches. After five years, they stopped issuing the permits and banned us from the beach. Then, we got the help of Congressman Scheuer, and for 20 years, we used the metal detectors there with no problems. In 1999, they threw us off the beach again, and we haven't been able to get back."

The November 26, 1979 issue of the Federal Register, a newspaper in which the government promulgates new regulations, says, "Regulations in effect at the Gateway National Recreation Area prohibit the possession or use of mineral or metal detecting devices. This rule will allow the possession or use of such a device on the Jacob Riis Beach."

The rule, which would have allowed the use of a metal detector from Bays One to Fourteen, was supposed to take effect on December 26, 1979, but apparently was never put in place.

"If you go to Riis Beach now," Singer says, "you'll wind up with a summons and they'll confiscate your metal detector."

Brian Feeney, a spokesperson for the National Park Service, says, however, that the Antiquities Act trumps everything else, and that act prohibits removing anything found under the surface, whether it be soil or sand, from a national park.

"It doesn't matter whether it a century old arrowhead or a 30-year-old coin, it can't be removed from a national park," Feeney said. "I don't know the progression of the 1979 rule, but the rule is that metal detectors are outlawed because nothing can be removed from the park."

Singer scoffs at the thought that there is anything of either historic or great financial value under the Riis Park sand.

"There is nothing old, nothing of historic value [at Riis Beach]. All the beaches there are filled in and dredged. Because of the westward sand drift, the beaches are constantly shifting. There is no reason to keep us out."

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