NEW YORK — Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today proposed a series of first steps to link parks and other open spaces in the New York City to enable local communities, and especially young people, to connect to the natural beauty and history of the region.
With over 13 million visitors annually, national parks in New York Harbor generate $1.8 billion and provide over 6,200 jobs for the region. Under President Obama's America's Great Outdoors initiative, the National Park Service - in partnership with New York City and New Jersey agencies and local communities - will invest in opportunities to increase access to the parks through an extensive New York Harbor trail and greenway network.
“What we are doing in New York will create a model for a new generation of Great Urban Parks in America,” Secretary Salazar said. “This initiative will not only strengthen local economies, but will provide citizens of the New York area -- particularly our young people -- with better access to outdoor recreation and the cultural and historical heritage that makes this part of the country unique.”
“Helping people get outside and be active is a great way to not only experience these amazing places but get a little exercise at the same time,” said Jonathan B. Jarvis, Director of the National Park Service. “A seamless network of parks and historic sites will serve as an invitation for people to come on out and have some fun and learn something new about their community.”
Salazar spoke at Floyd Bennett Field where the National Park Service is developing the largest urban park campground in America. Over a two-year period beginning in 2011, the campground will expand from 5 to 90 sites, including both traditional campsites and RV sites.
“One of the major goals of the America's Great Outdoors initiative is to provide better access to parks and outdoors spaces for the 80 percent of Americans that live in urban areas,” said Will Shafroth, Counselor to the Secretary for America's Great Outdoors. “This project at Floyd Bennett Field and the larger collaboration between the National Park Service and partners in the New York City area is an example of the great work we can do in cities across America.”
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 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.
Salazar said the proposed Center for Urban Ecology would potentially be located at Fort Tilden. It will 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.
In addition, Salazar proposed to complete the transition, already underway, to the use of new and social media platforms to reach new, younger audiences with the stories of the region and America's historic and cultural heritage. For example, historic sites overseen by the National Park Service will be featured in six free smart-phone applications and multiple video podcasts from the service's official iTunes store.
The proposals are included in a report The National Parks of New York Harbor: Creating a Great Urban Park. The report can be found here.