New York State
Ornithological Association

For the birders and birds of the Empire State

ConservationFirst Posted 2002
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About Camp Hero
John Fritz, Conservation Committee Co-Chair
Published in the April 2000 issue of NY Birders

For those of you unfamiliar with the Montauk Area, Camp Hero was a former military base set upon a bluff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Several years ago a trade was undertaken whereby New York State Parks acquired the property in exchange for land in the Fire Island Lighthouse tract. Since that time access has been limited to surf fishermen, with permits, gaining entry through a locked gate on the southeast edge of the property.

More than a year ago, State Parks, under the direction of Commissioner Castro, formed the Camp Hero Advisory Committee in an effort to get public input on further use of this unique area. Before general access can be granted, a major study of the cleanup of hazardous waste had to be performed by the Corps of Engineers. When the area is deemed safe it will be opened to the pubic, hopefully within three years.

The question remains as to what uses will be allowed in the park since preservation of its unique character is a major concern. One of the many proposals offered is the construction of 10 to 15 all season cabins, to be built on the site where derelict structures are slated for demolition. The cabins would contain kitchen and bathroom facilities and be available for use the entire year. For out of town folks this could present a golden opportunity to spend quality time in an extremely desirable location at a reasonable cost.

There is strong opposition from the local population, expressing concerns over traffic congestion, sewage, water supply and vacant motel rooms. Several major sportfishing organizations have already expressed their support for this proposal. It is suggested that those in favor of building these cabins should make their wishes known to: The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, Empire State Plaza, Albany NY. 12238

Funding

On a related issue, one which deals with funding for projects such as making Camp Hero available to the public, where does the money come from? Here is one possibility.

The Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund was established in 1964 by Congress. The LWCF supports federal land acquisitions and on a matching basis, also supports state and local park development. Over the thirty years it was in existence the "state side" program generated $200 million dollars for New York, producing over $500 million in park projects. Unfortunately, between Federal fiscal year l996 through 1999 no funding was made available for the "state side" program.

The good news is that for the first time in four fiscal years, "state side" funding is back in the federal budget. While the amount is small for FFY 2000 ($2 Million for New York), it is promising for the future if we keep the pressure on. It would be best if legislation was created whereby there would be full and permanent funding for LWCF. The legislation that many are focused on is HR 701, the Conservation and Reinvestment Act. That legislation would deliver to New York, over $100 million dollars annually for "state side" LWCF, non-game species management, coastal management and historic preservation. Camp Hero would be eligible for many of the programs offered in HR 701.

Your help is needed if this bill is ever to become law. Tell your friends and certainly share yours thoughts with Congress.

Note:  Today (2007), the 415 acre park is open year-round.

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