Camping in Brooklyn: Floyd Bennett Field Expands Campsites

Brooklyn’s Floyd Bennett Field airport is scheduled to expand its current campsite creating an introduction for New Yorkers to live healthier.  The airport which was at one time used by many famed pilots, most notably Amelia Earhart and Howard Hughes, will develop 90 tent and RV sites within the next two years.  Currently, only five tent sites are available.  Expansion plans for Floyd Bennett Field is part of an initiative to link parks and other green spaces in New York City allowing residents and visitors to enjoy nature more accessibly.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced development plans on June 13 while visiting the future site at Jamaica Bay.  Secretary Salazar stated during the tour that the campsite “will create a model for a new generation of great urban parks in America.”   Though paved sidewalks of Brooklyn is a far cry from what most nature lovers would consider natural beauty, Secretary Salazar and others helping with development plans hope to change people’s views of the locality. 

The Floyd Bennett campsite expansion project falls under President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoor initiative launched last year.  Developers are working to link gaps in the New York Harbor trail along with expanding ferry services.  The project hopes to capitalize on the ever growing popularity of “staycations,” showing New Yorkers they don’t have to travel far for a taste of nature.

With the Q35 bus stops within walking distance, the 1930s municipal airport is anything but remote.  However, 57,800 acres of land creates hidden tranquility in the middle of New York City’s downtown lights.  Camping enthusiasts believe that despite lack of remoteness the area still has potential to draw in novice campers and hikers.  Many think convenience will be key in luring coach potatoes and inexperienced campers to the outdoors.  Those not ready to plunge into wilderness still has the Manhattan backdrop for comfort.

Since 1972 the airfield has been part of Gateway National Recreation Area (Gateway NRA), an organization dedicated to preserving historical and cultural areas.  Floyd Bennett Field is one of three park units tracing New York City boroughs and parts of New Jersey’s rich history.  In conjunction with the National Park Service, developers estimate sites will grow to 600 by project’s completion creating the largest urban campsites in America.  Public Affairs Specialist at Gateway NRA and camping enthusiast, John Harlan Warren, stated in an interview with MotorHome magazine that national parks play a vital role in preserving and promoting natural history.  He continued saying, “if we’re going to preserve our natural resources in the future, we need to have people know how important they are.”

According to a survey constructed by the Department of the Interior over 13 million people visit New York Harbor’s national parks annually.  Popular activities include bird watching in restored grasslands, hiking, cycling and participating in Brooklyn’s largest community garden.  Visitors taking advantage of the parks produce approximately $1.8 billion dollars for the region.  However, developers still face a large hurdle in convincing tourist and residents alike, New York City is more than just Broadway lights.

Staff of Gateway NRA will host camping workshops to give novice campers basic wilderness experience.  “Explore the Urban Outback” takes place monthly teaching techniques such as pitching a tent, building a safe fire, kayaking and hiking.  The program itself is free with an exception of a $20 a night camping fee.  However, interested parties must signup via the Gateway NRA website.

Camping in Brooklyn provides a unique experience for any level of experienced (or non-experienced) camper.  Under a blanket of night sky visitors to the park can enjoy both an unobstructed vista of bright stars and the quintessential Manhattan skyline.  

Photo Credit:  nps.gov/gate/planyourvisit/index.htm        

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