Many of these parks were once part of New York City's harbor defenses, a role they played as recently as the Cold War. The remaining coastal fortifications are a unique historic resource that deserves to be protected and as open to the public as possible. Because these areas were involved in harbor defense, much of the land remains minimally developed, in contrast to adjacent parts of the metropolitan area's coastline. This means that the various parts of Gateway are also important wildlife areas. Finally, Gateway provides public access for the metropolitan area's beachgoers and related recreational activities.
However, such recreational facilities should not be expanded at the expense of Sandy Hook's natural ecosystems. I would not want to see expanded camping areas eat away at the unique maritime forest on Sandy Hook. I would not want to see expanded boating activities adversely affect the saltmarshes and coves along the bayside. Both Spermaceti Cove and the inlets at Plum Island (across from Lot B) are heavily used by waterfowl and other birds as migratory stopovers and throughout the winter. Any expansion of beach facilities, particularly at North Beach and including the addition of shade structures and concessions, should take care not to disrupt the breeding activities of endangered Piping Plovers and other beach-nesting birds.
The combination of natural ecosystems and historic structures make Sandy Hook unique, both in New Jersey and in the wider metropolitan area. I hope that the National Park Service will take care to preserve and enhance these resources. This post is based on a comment I submitted to the National Park Service yesterday. I encourage any birders that visit one or more of Gateway's park units to submit comments of their own. Comments do not necessarily need to be long or address every aspect of the alternative plans, but I do think it is important that the National Park Service hear from us.