A little duck walks around the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuse. Source: peterjr1961 / Flickr

A little duck walks around the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. (Source: peterjr1961 / Flickr)

The Obama administration is looking to transform Jamaica Bay and other parks located in urban areas, into hotspots for hiking, biking, boating and camping, putting them on par with the nation’s most popular national parks like Yellowstone and Yosemite. The Queens Chronicle is reporting that the US Department of Interior and the National Parks Service (NPS) announced a general management plan for Jamaica Bay and the Gateway National Recreational Area that would turn the area, especially the Brooklyn parts, into major hubs for outdoors activity.

The Queens Chronicle described some of the plans proposed by the NPS:

Among the ideas being proposed in the NPS’s preferred plan are increased opportunities for camping in and around the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge and means of connection, such as bike lanes and trails, between sites around Gateway like Charles Park and Hamilton Park, which would also be eyed for “small-scaled” visitor centers that may include food and bicycle vendors — a plan proposed by the Parks Department to Community Board 10 in April that was shot down because board members wanted to see the park, notorious for being dilapidated and dirty, given an overhaul first.

Many of the drastic changes were proposed for parts of Brooklyn, such as Floyd Bennett Field, Plumb Beach and Canarsie Pier, and the Rockaways, where Fort Tilden would become a major hub for park activities…

The plan also includes suggestions for improving infrastructure, and dealing with the post-Sandy reality of flood risk. In the proposal the NPS outlines plans to construct new buildings to meet the flood elevation criteria set by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and build roads that have sufficient drainage and can be passable in a flood.

NPS’s management plan also calls for increased public transportation — including ferries and better train service — to the area to bring visitors in from Manhattan and Downtown Brooklyn.

While environmentalists were pleased on the NPS’s plans to get people excited about the parks, Don Riepe, president of the American Littoral Society, cautioned that conservation should remain the top priority when it comes to the parks.

“My only concern is that I feel that there should be a major focus on protecting natural resources,” Riepe told the Queens Chronicle. “The recreation is fine. I think they should get their house in order. I’m asking ‘Who is going to manage it? Are the resources going to suffer?’”

Park of the Obama administration’s goal in pouring money into urban park environments is to get city kids to connect with nature.

The plan also stems from the Obama administration’s desire to pour more resources into federal parkland in or close to major cities — part of the White House’s larger plan to bring inner-city children to the outdoors.

In October 2011, then-U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Mayor Bloomberg signed the agreement in Marine Park, Brooklyn that allowed the two entities to coordinate management of Gateway, which was created in 1972 as an attempt to protect and restore New York’s coastal wetlands that had been severely damaged by industrial pollution during the previous century.

“We are asking ‘How do we connect urban populations to the outdoors?’” Salazar said in 2011. “New York may be the greatest opportunity we have.”

The Queens Chronicle laid out information for the public comment period and other open house meetings for the federal plans:

Public comment is being accepted on the proposal online at parkplanning.nps.gov, where the entire plan can be downloaded and read. Open houses discussing the plan are scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 20 from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Ryan Visitor Center in Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn and Tuesday, Sept. 10 from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.

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  • Barbara

    Of course NPS’s preference is Alternative B, the one that will bring more Aviator Sports-type recreation to the park. You know, idiotic tomato fights and stuff people will have to pay for. What NPS wants to do is give us more of the in-your-face commercialism that New York is all about. Why on earth does NPS think New Yorkers want their “great urban park” to be something they already get in their day-to-day existence? Why do they not see that what New Yorkers lack is open space, peaceful surroundings, and a readily-accessible natural experience that a park is meant to provide?

    I’m all for the hiking, biking, boating and camping that Gateway could provide to all of us and I understand that necessarily will involve concessionaires but I dread the implementation of these forms of recreation that NPS is likely to pursue in their “partnerships”. “Partnerships” as they are being implemented in parks, botanic gardens, museums and other organizations that are supposed to be publicly funded are nothing more than for-profit entities getting their claws into new markets and ultimately calling the shots that we the owners of the park, the taxpayers, ought to be calling. Do you really want to see the names of corporate “partners” plastered all over the park? If it means settling for just cleaning the place up and putting in some good trails and campsites, then so be it – better that than an Urban Outfitters or Sports Authority or Modell’s or REI smack in the middle of the park.

    And notice how our friends at NPS don’t bother to tell you that they feel that putting an industrial gas metering and regulating station in the hangars is a park improvement that fits right in with their management plan. Yeah it fits right in because our parks are being sold to the highest bidders. If they call this a park improvement, imagine what other “improvements” are in store for us. It may sound like a good idea now because the hangars are going to be “rehabilitated” but can you say “encroachment”?

    • bagels

      I agree. Right now you can ride your bike around Floyd Bennet and enjoy the air and the quiet. It’s so therapeutic and it seems so far removed from city living. Then, you can go over the bridge and ride around Fort Tilden or Riis Park.

  • kg

    Right, so that when the city dweller connect to nature, they can wake up the next day to find out that the National Park Service and the Jamaica Bay Wildlife So-Called Refuge has sent their beloved wildlife to the gas chambers, as they recently did to hundreds of Canada geese. This type of thing traumatizes communities and if anything, drives people away from nature. I know that once I have developed a connection to the wildlife of an area, to know that they are slaughtered…that is too much to take, and I will avoid that place.

  • kg

    That picture looks like a gosling. Maybe it was one of the goslings that were killed by the USDA when the Jamaica Bay “Refuge” allowed its wildlife residents to be killed.

  • Jordan Homer

    I would agree with this one. This will promote the place and gives people more choices to spend time with. http://www.veristream.com/

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