2013-06-07 / Columnists

IDEAS WANTED

Rockaway
By Rick Horan

This week’s column focuses on what possibly was a good idea back in 1972 that has since gone horribly wrong, Gateway National Recreation Area. The idea was for the federal government to take over parks, like Riis, that were once managed by New York City. The City was broke at the time and it seemed to make sense to transfer management to the recently established National Recreation Areas.

In short, Gateway has been a nightmare for Rockaway. Much of the good stuff that happens there is in spite of the Park rather than because of it. As is painfully visible and oft reported, they are not living up to their recreational primary mission or preservation for that matter.

Rockaway knows how it gets shortchanged by centralized policy making in City Hall and Albany. It’s even worse on the federal level. Gateway National Recreation Area (GNRA) policies are set in Washington, which has become the poster child for government waste and inefficiency.

Our problems however, may start closer to home with our elected federal representatives. Senators Schumer and Gillibrand have yet to respond to written inquiries sent more than two weeks ago. At least Congressman Meeks’ office answers their phones.

A dialog with the Congressman’s office on this subject began at a Rockaway Civic Association meeting back in March. Three months later they still have no progress to report in spite of my constant badgering. The latest status as of 6/5/13: “They (the Interior Department) are working on a written response.” It looks like they’re in store for the same run around we’ve been getting.

The original idea for the establishment of Gateway NRA and 17 other National Recreation Areas was a good one. I have excerpted some key areas, from the National Park Service Handbook of Administrative Policies for Recreation Areas, 1968, 69-72, below…

POLICY ON THE ESTABLISHMENT AND ADMINISTRATION OF RECREATION AREAS

The Recreation Advisory Council believes that: 1. Greater efforts must be made by Federal, State, local governmental, and private interests to fulfill adequately the steeply mounting outdoor recreation demands of the American people;

The Federal Government should provide leadership and stimulus to this effort, but does not have sole or primary responsibility for providing recreation opportunities;

Present Federal programs should be augmented by a system of National Recreation Areas made up of a limited number of areas where the recreation demand is not being met through other programs.

The system of National Recreation Areas should: 1. Provide for Federal investment in outdoor recreation that is more clearly responsive to recreation demand than other investments that are based primarily upon considerations of preserving unique natural or historical resources, the need to develop and conserve public lands and forests, or the requirements of major water resource development undertakings; 2. Be areas which have natural endowments that are well above the ordinary in quality and in order to provide a rational basis for planning and evaluating proposed projects where outdoor recreation use is the dominant or primary purpose, the

Recreation Advisory Council hereby sets forth the guidelines it believes should govern the selection, establishment, and administration of National Recreation Areas.

SECONDARY CRITERIA FOR SELECTION OF NATIONAL RECREATION AREAS

3. National Recreation Areas may include within their boundaries scenic, historic, scientific, scarce or disappearing resources, provided the objectives of their preservation and enjoyment can be achieved on a basis compatible with the recreation mission.

ESTABLISHMENT OF NATIONAL RECREATION AREAS:

National Recreation Areas shall be established by an Act of Congress.

Clearly Gateway is failing to follow the recreation mandate as described above. The community is being directed by Gateway instead of the other way around. To correct this situation we need to demand that our federal representatives either enforce the current guidelines or pass new legislation that mandates community participation in the management of urban National Recreation Areas like Gateway. Otherwise, our children will be fighting the same losing battle we’ve waged for the last four decades.

Got an idea? Write to me at: RickHoran@ideasimprov.com

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