Interior Secretary Envisions "Largest Urban Campground In America" At Gateway National Recreation Area

The Jamaica Bay Unit of Gateway National Recreation Area could be the hub of the "largest urban campground in America" under President Obama's America's Great Outdoors initiative. NPS photos.

If you've ever visited the greater New York-New Jersey metropolitan area, one of the last thoughts that would spring into your mind would be, "Let's go camping here!" But that's a vision shared by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis.

During a visit to New York City last week the two announced that as part of President Obama's America's Great Outdoors initiative they would like to nurture a public-private partnership to oversee development of the "largest urban campground in America" in and around the Jamaica Bay Unit of Gateway National Recreation Area. Such a campground could be a hub for "bikeways, kayaking trails in the Bay, an environmental education center for schools and community groups that will grow stewards for the Bay."

The Park Service’s Great Urban Park initiative for New York City is one of the major open space and urban park initiatives that the agency will launch in cities around the country under the president's initiative.

“Over the last two years, we have reopened the crown of the Statue of Liberty, jump-started the landmark restoration of Ellis Island, and begun to bring the refuges and wetlands of the Harbor back to health,” Secretary Salazar said last Thursday during a visit to New York City. “With President Obama’s Great Outdoors Initiative, now is the time to build on the progress we’ve made and pursue a bold vision for the outdoor spaces and national parks in New York City, so that the city’s green spaces, waterways, and cultural landmarks are healthy, connected, and accessible to every child in school, every resident, and every visitor from around the globe.”

Between now and mid-March the Interior secretary wants Director Jarvis and the superintendents of the national parks in New York City – working in collaboration with the City of New York and local partners -- to develop an action plan for the Park Service’s Great Urban Park initiative for New York City.

Aspects of the initiative include:

* Together with local and state partners, establish a greenway system connecting the communities around Jamaica Bay. In collaboration with a public/private partnership, the Park Service will develop a park in and around Jamaica Bay that would include the largest urban campground in America, connections from public transportation to greenways and bikeways, kayaking trails in the Bay, an environmental education center for schools and community groups that will grow stewards for the Bay, and restored landscape elements that reflect the aviation heritage of Floyd Bennett Field.

* The National Park Service will undertake urban design plans for Floyd Bennett Field on Jamaica Bay that is surrounded by the most dense and diverse population in any national park area. NPS will also work to revitalize the community gardens at Floyd Bennett Field as a tool to increase urban residents’ access to fresh vegetables, and to the outdoor gardening experience.

* The National Park Service will explore whether and how to relocate the security screening checkpoints at Battery Park so as to maintain tight security at Ellis Island and other Harbor parks, while also improving the open spaces and views at Battery Park.

* The Park Service will establish a goal of having every school child in New York connect with the national parks in New York harbor during his or her school career.

* Working with medical and education professionals, the Park Service will coordinate the development of new podcast and Junior Ranger programs that promote physical activities in the outdoors that the whole family can enjoy within New York City and Northern New Jersey.