2011-06-17 / Top Stories

Interior Secretary At Floyd Bennett Field

Promises Place For Rockaway Community
By Howard Schwach

Secretary Ken Salazar speaks with Supervising Ranger Suzanne McCarthy, who is responsible for educational programs at the park. Secretary Ken Salazar speaks with Supervising Ranger Suzanne McCarthy, who is responsible for educational programs at the park. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar on Monday came to Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn to open a new camping program and to propose a series of first steps to link parks and other open spaces in the New York City metropolitan area “to enable local communities, and especially young people, to connect with the natural beauty and history of the region.”

During a short press conference after Salazar’s announcement, the secretary was asked about Fort Tilden and the National Park Service’s commitment to the Rockaway community.

“To have a successful park, you have to bring in all the city’s communities to utilize all the park has to offer,” Salazar said. “We’re not trying to drive anybody out of our parks.”

Local officials, however, clarified the fact that the NPS is no longer subsidizing any groups that use the park, and that the Rockaway groups would have to pay their share in order to use Fort Tilden.

When the local official was asked about the terms “appropriate uses” and “limited organized recreation” in the plans being drawn up by the NPS, he said that those terms were in only one of four “possibilities” and that there was still a long time to go “before worrying about that.”

In a report issued to coincide with Salazar’s visit, entitled “Floyd Bennett Field: The Next Jewel in New York’s Urban Park Crown,” the NPS speaks once again of “appropriate uses” and urges that both the Sanitation Department and the NYPD facilities in the park be “minimized.”

On Monday, Salazar said that the new park proposals for increased camping areas in Floyd Bennett Field fall under President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative, and include completion of the extensive New York Harbor trail and greenway network in partnership with New York City and New Jersey agencies and local communities.

Salazar also proposed establishing a Center for Urban Ecology to coordinate and seek private funding for the efforts of the 17 agencies and non-governmental partners on the Jamaica Bay Task Force.

“These are concrete steps we are planning to take under the America’s Great Outdoors initiative to create a model for a new generation of Great Urban Parks in America,” Salazar said. “We want every citizen of the New York area – particularly the children – to have easy and accessible access to outdoor recreation and the cultural and historical heritage that makes this part of the country unique.”

Over a two-year period beginning in 2011, the campground will expand from 5 to 90 sites, including both traditional campsites and RV sites.

The campground may ultimately contain 600 sites. Staff and volunteers will engage in special outreach to underserved communities around the area, introducing families to camping skills, providing equipment, and offering campfire programs, kayaking and swimming opportunities.

Salazar said the proposed Center for Urban Ecology would potentially be located at Fort Tilden. It would serve as a hub for resident and visiting scientists and feature laboratories, a library, lodging, office space, vessels and docking areas.

The completion of the missing links to finish the extensive New York Harbor trail and greenway network will include the development of a one-mile section through Jacob Riis Park that connects the Rockaway peninsula with the Jamaica Bay Greenway.

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