Gateway National Recreation Area

Gateway National Recreation Area

History

HISTORY & CULTURE

Gateway National Recreation Area's three park units all trace the rich history of the nation and harbor. Historic forts, former airports, recreation areas and America's oldest operating lighthouse tell fascinating stories of defense, aviation firsts, navigational safety and healthy living.

Sandy Hook Light and Keepers Quarters

In June, 2006, the historic Sandy Hook Lighthouse Keepers Quarters opened as a visitor contact station for tours of the Sandy Hook Lighthouse, America's oldest light. The $650,000 rehabilitation of the Keepers Quarters was funded by the park's Friends Group, the Sandy Hook Foundation. The main floor has exhibits on New Jersey lighthouses, while the upper floors are offices and lodging for the Foundation and the NJ Lighthouse Society, the volunteer group that conducts Lighthouse tours for the NPS. Click here for Hours of Operation.

Hangar B at Floyd Bennett Field

Hangar B is the home to Floyd Bennett Field's Historic Aircraft Restoration Project (HARP.) Visitors to the hangar can see dedicated Volunteers In Parks working on the park's collection of historic aircraft. Many of the volunteers come to the project with decades of experience working on planes, either in the military, or in the civil sector, or both. The goal is to return these aircraft to nearly original condition. HARP volunteers are even building a full scale model of Wiley Post's Lockheed Vega, "The Winnie Mae" from scratch! The volunteers and park rangers are available to lead tours of the hangar and planes, and are more than happy to answer any questions. 

What makes a visit to Hangar B unique is that visitors can see, hear, and feel what it is like to be in a working airplane hangar. It is easy to imagine that is 1945, or 1965 during a visit to Hangar B.

Hangar B is open to the public Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For group tours, call (718) 338 - 3799.

Herbert Johnson

Robert Moses appointed Herbert Johnson as the first manager of Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in 1952.  Johnson spearheaded efforts to improve natural habitat at the park, and to make the area easily accessible to the public.

One of Johnson's first tasks was to increase the variety of habitats at the refuge in order to for it to be a sanctuary for the many types animals that make their home in the city, and for those that  move through on migration. Johnson worked with the transit authority to close off some saltmarsh areas to the flow of the tides, in order to create two fresh water ponds. Other marshes were filled with sediment and then planted with trees and shrubs to create woodland. These new habitats created new refuge for upland mammals and reptiles, fresh water fish and amphibians and other species not previously found in the park.

Johnson was an avid teacher and public advocate, in spirit and training.  He felt strongly that the Wildlife Refuge should be not just be a place for animals and plants but that it be a place of respite for people too. While he was working on habitat enhancements, he enlisted a small crew of volunteers to create a trail system for the public. He also developed environmental education programs for children of all grade levels and offered outdoor programs for city kids, year-round.