‘Jamaica Bay Advocates’ Effort Aims at ‘One Unified Voice’ for Jamaica Bay Gateway National Park
By Harold Egeln
The huge Jamaica Bay Gateway National Park Recreation Area, encompassing over 9,155 acres mostly in Queens and also in Marine Park in Brooklyn, has seven million visitors annually, and lots of friends and fans within and outside its 32-square mile area, and many advocates, now with the additional big boost and voice of the Jamaica Bay Advocates, an initiative that began in late 2014.
“Working together, we aim to network with and help mobilize the community for our goal, which is to create one unified voice for Jamaica Bay. Our role is for action and advocacy,” said activist Elizabeth Bowler and organizer of the initiative, which had a launch party celebration in February. “Our purpose is the help further empower local residents, business people and civic organizations.
Bowler is the Northeast Program Manager for the nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), the organization that proposed and launched the advocacy project initiative. Helping Bowler is Cortney Worrall, Regional NPCA Director, and working right along with NPCA Regional Director Bowler is Loren Cosgrove un charge of the NPCA “Find Your Voice” project.
The advocates’ goal, Bowler said, includes involving local elected officials, merchants and residents. The three areas for the advocates are: to build awareness about park issues, seek more park funding and help explore ways to enhance the park experience for its visitors. The advocacy group, she said, is working to help “strengthen, protect and restore the park for future generations.”
The strategic plan to accomplish this goal is fourfold, she explained. There will be advocacy workshops such as one already set, the “JBA Civic Voice Lessons Workshop” to provide skills training for young advocates, arranging meetings with local elected officials whose districts include Jamaica Bay, working with the Wounded Veterans Project that includes an upcoming paddling tour of the bay, and involving Floyd Bennett Field, the historic early aviation airport.
“We are working to immerse ourselves with this incredible community, and its riches of resources in both the park area and its people,” said Bowler. For the past six months, the JBA, as essential to its public outreach, has been introducing themselves and sharing ideas for cooperative work at local community meetings and centers, and before civic groups.
Already in motion before the Jamaica Bay Advocates began and on which to build connections, is the Jamaica Bay Greenway community-based planning project for creating a 28-mile network of paths for bicyclists and pedestrians, the Jamaica Bay Greenway. The proposed greenway’s purpose is to enhance people’s use and enjoyment of the park, with destinations that include Floyd Bennett Field, the Canarsie Pier, Fort Tilden, Rockaway Beach, Jacob Riis Park and the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.
“We are not part of the national gateway park itself. But we are gladly working with it in a support and watchdog role,” explained Bowler. “It is our job as advocates to facilitate interdisciplinary collaboration and communication in concert with the entire Jamaica Bay community, and to include local activists in our work as advocates and help empower young people as skilled advocates for this wonderful parkland, bay and wildlife refuge.”
This is a landmark decade, because a century ago the National Parks System started in 1916, followed in 1919 by the National Parks Service, laying the structure for the national parks existing at that time, and the many more to come, up into the creation of the Gateway National Park and Recreation Area , an area molded in history by the War of 1812, early pioneering aviation and World War Two.
Meanwhile, the Jamaica Bay Greenway project is holding its final round of workshops, in Howard Beach and Ozone Park (May 13), Rockaway Park and Broad Channel (May 21), Sheepshead Bay and Marine Park (June 3), and Canarsie and Spring Creek (June 10).