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Welcome to Camp Floyd!
Floyd Bennett Field will become a tent-building, s’mores-loving, ghost-story-telling camper’s paradise by 2013, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar promised Monday during a visit to the largely unused 387-acre former air field.
Salazar’s plan is the latest in a string of proposals to bring more activities to the largely vacant expanse, which has been run by the National Park Service for more than 30 years.
According to the plan, which is part of President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors recreation agenda, Gateway National Recreation Area will expand Floyd Bennett Field’s five camp sites to 90 — with enough room for both traditional pup tent campsites and recreational vehicle camp areas.
The expansion will make Floyd Bennett Field “the largest urban park campground in America,” Salazar noted.
At the same time, Gateway staffers and volunteers will reach out to under served communities, introducing families to the joys of camping. Gateway will supply the camping gear, as well as offer many camping programs.
If the plan is a success, the campground will be expanded to hold 600 sites, Salazar explained.
“We are planning to create a model for a new generation of Great Urban Parks in America,” Salazar said. “We want every citizen of the New York area — particularly the children — to have easy and accessible access to outdoor recreation and the cultural and historical heritage that makes this part of the country unique.”
Calls about the cost, the size of each campsite and just how much land will be needed for the plan were not returned by late Monday — key facts that have left some on the fence.
“Ninety campsites sounds like a lot,” said Assemblyman Alan Maisel (D-Mill Basin). “Just how big is each one supposed to be?”
Still others lauded Salazar’s plan.
“It sounds like a good idea,” said Councilman Lew Fidler (D-Marine Park). “It will be a beneficial use for Floyd Bennett Field.”
Floyd Bennett Field has been trying to find the right niche for decades. After joining Gateway National Recreation Area in 1972, the former airstrip hosted just a handful of festivals until the turn of the century, when Aviator Sports and Recreation was built on the southwestern side of the massive property.
Besides Aviator Sports and Recreation and a community garden, the rest of the park is empty, with a few vacant, dilapidated buildings peppered throughout.
But there hasn’t been a lack of ideas about the future Floyd Bennett Field — although none of them have been welcomed with open arms. Over the last year alone proposals have been raised to put a charter school inside the national park. There’s also been a pie-in-the-sky plan to bring commuter flights to Floyd Bennett Field.
Both plans have been panned by residents and community leaders.
©2011 Community Newspaper Group
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