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Proposed changes at Sandy Hook - and what YOU can do to protect this Important Bird Area

With the closure of our national parks as part of the government shutdown, we want to let you know about proposed changes at Sandy Hook - and what you can do to shape the future of "The Hook."

The National Park Service is soliciting comments on three alternate management plans for Gateway NRA, which includes Sandy Hook. The chosen plan will guide the development and management of Sandy Hook for the next 20 years. Simply put, Alternate A is "No Action." This option is only included because the NPS is required to include it - there is no chance this is the option that will be chosen. Option B is a comprehensive management plan that will, among other things, allow camping on the beach in areas used by nesting Piping Plover, Least Tern, Common Tern, Black Skimmer and American Oystercatcher; develop the bayside between Spermaceti Cove and Horseshoe Cove with a marina, water-based recreation and access, including equipment rentals (kayaks/canoes) and camping; and expand camping into natural areas, including drive-up, yurts, cabins and RVs (utility hook-ups). Option C, which MCAS is supporting, has been identified as the environmentally preferable alternative based on the analysis of impacts, which identified it as least damaging to the biological and physical environment and best at protecting and enhancing natural and cultural resources.

We encourage our members to read the analysis of the plans on the Gateway website and leave your comments. Deadline for comments WAS October 2, but with the government shutdown, it is now extended to 48 hours after the shutdown ends. Please, have a look and let the NPS know you want to preserve Sandy Hook as a natural area.

The Draft GMP/EIS can be downloaded at http://www.nps.gov/gate/parkmgmt/planning.htm.

Submit your comments

Here are some suggested talking points, courtesy of the NY Audubon website, to help you express your support for Option C.

Question 1: What ideas or proposals do you like about the preferred alternative in this Draft General Management Plan/Environmental Impact Statement (Draft GMP/EIS)?

I appreciate the elements of alternative B that reflect values and actions that are appropriate for a resource that is as ecologically important as Gateway.

Primarily, I like the planned efforts to conserve and protect the wildlife and habitat of Gateway, such as the work to restore and maintain the wetlands, woodlands, and grasslands, or the efforts to protect wildlife and vegetation through the elimination of social trails.  I also appreciate the inclusion of plans to control and eliminate phragmites and other invasive species occurring in natural zones throughout the park.

Alternative B includes an expansion of environmental education and volunteer opportunities. These plans reflect the important role that Gateway plays in nurturing an appreciation of nature and an attitude of stewardship. 

Question 2: Do you have any suggestions for improving the preferred alternative in this Draft GMP/EIS? If so, what are your suggestions?

I am concerned that many components of alternative B would conflict with the National Park Service Organic Act (U.S.C. Title 16 section 1), which states that “[t]he service thus established shall promote and regulate the use of the Federal areas known as national parks… which purpose is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”

As acknowledged in the draft GMP/EIS, many of the planned infrastructural developments and changes in land-use associated with alternative B would be likely to degrade the condition of wildlife, critical habitats, and natural resources throughout Gateway, and will ultimately diminish the potential for enjoyment of these resources by future generations.  In all such instances, these adverse impacts are unacceptable.

Specifically, the following aspects of the plan are a cause for concern:

  • Beach camping will have devastating consequences for Threatened & Endangered beach nesters. Sandy Hook contains the largest breeding population of Piping Plover in the state and has been recognized as a Globally Significant Important Bird Area.   
  • Disturbance by development of a recreation activity center, camping and piers on the bayside adjacent to the maritime holly forest, which is globally imperiled.
  • Disturbance in unenforced no-boating zone in Spermaceti Cove by various types of watercraft negatively affects Threatened & Endangered species and globally significant numbers of Greater Scaup.    
  • Camping expansion in Horseshoe Cove will disturb the maritime forest and red-cedar woodland, both globally imperiled.

The National Park Service continues to fail in preserving and protecting our natural resources at Sandy Hook. Their emphasis is focused on development and expansion for recreation while acknowledging and accepting the subsequent negative impacts to natural resources. We find removal of maritime forest and emphasis on
high intensity camping to be unacceptable and an abrogation of responsibility. The Sandy Hook Unit of Gateway is unique and warrants a different Alternative than the rest of Gateway: Alternative C.

Question 3: Do you have any other comments related to this Draft GMP/EIS?

The preservation of Gateway's wildlife habitat must be given first priority in the final General Management Plan, to ensure that Gateway continues to be a refuge for imperiled birds and other wildlife; it is the responsibility of NPS to work to protect these priceless resources. I am concerned by NPS’s expressed support for alternative B in light of the fact that NPS has acknowledged that many of the planned infrastructural developments and changes in land-use associated with alternative B would be likely to degrade the condition of wildlife, critical habitats, and natural resources throughout Gateway. Therefore, I strongly encourage NPS to adopt Alternative C: Experiencing Preserved Places as their preferred plan, as it is the environmentally preferable choice.

Ultimately, we will be remembered not for what has been built at Gateway, but what has been preserved. In the increasingly developed landscape of the New York City metropolitan area, the environmental integrity of Gateway only becomes more precious. I implore NPS to set an example of appreciation and not exploitation; choose Alternative C: Experiencing Preserved Places.

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P.O. Box 542 • Red Bank, NJ 07701
This site was last updated on 5 January, 2014
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