Gateway National Recreation Area is a collection of preserved open space that spans two states, with units located in Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island, New York as well as Sandy Hook, New Jersey. A virtual oasis in an overcrowded area, the park's units generally attract city dwellers that are looking for a respite from urban life.
The pieces of this unusual recreation area do not sit beside one another but are scattered over many miles. The Jamaica Bay Unit, which extends into both Brooklyn and Queens, is a beautiful area that lends itself to nature study, but it's also rich in history. Guests can visit historic Fort Tilden and Naval Air Station (NAS) Rockaway, which were both opened in Rockaway, Queens in 1917. In this portion of Gateway, guests will also find Floyd Bennett Airfield, a former U.S. Navy facility.
Recreation in the Jamaica Unit includes swimming at Jacob Riis Park (summer only), walking and hiking along the trails at the Jamaica Beach Wildlife Refuge, biking on the runways of Bennett Field, horseback riding, archery, and model airplane flying at a specially-designed location at Bennett Field. In addition, the Aviator Sports and Recreation Center offers indoor ice skating, hockey, a climbing wall, gymnastics, basketball, and outdoor sports fields. Birding is also excellent here and nature enthusiasts can even chose to camp at one of four rustic sites near Bennett Field. There's also a Wildlife Refuge Center here, which offers exhibits on the natural history of the area.
In the Staten Island portion of the Gateway National Recreation Area the centerpiece is Great Kills Park. At this park is a summertime ocean beach with lifeguards as well as a marina with boat launch ramp. Surf and shore fishing is available at Great Kills as well as at nearby Miller Field. A multi-use path at Great Kills Park can be used by hikers/joggers and cyclists.
Historic Fort Wadsworth is also part of the Staten Island Unit. This fort was active during the American Revolution, the War of 1812, and the Civil War. Historic reenactments are often held here and a Visitors Center provides information on the history of the fort and surrounding area. Also located near the fort is Miller Field, a U.S. Air Force facility that opened in 1921. The field now serves as a local park and includes ball fields and other opportunities for recreation.
On the New Jersey side, the Sandy Hook Unit of Gateway National Recreation Area is the site of America's oldest operating lighthouse, built in 1764. Recently restored, it is open to the public on weekends. The lighthouse is part of historic Fort Hancock, a former U.S. Army military installation that played an important role in the defense of NY Harbor throughout World War II. Guests can visit the fort's small museum.
Recreationally, Sandy Hook offers a large beach area with lifeguards on duty during the summer, surf fishing, hiking on designated trails, non-motorized boating and windsurfing, walking/biking/skating on the 5-mile multi-use trail, and picnicking. Concessions that offer snacks as well as a full-service, sit-down restaurant with outdoor deck are available for hungry visitors.
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