Feds plan massive urban campsite at Floyd Bennett Field — with private help

Feds plan massive urban campsite at Floyd Bennett Field — with private help
AP Photo / Carolyn Kaster

In the next few years, camping at Floyd Bennett Field may be brought to you by Bass Pro Shops and L.L. Bean.

The National Park Service’s bold plan to turn the 387-acre former airfield into the country’s largest urban campground is expected to cost about $10 million — and will need an influx of cash from private corporations, federal officials announced this week.

“We are definitely going to pursue the possibility of having private partners,” National Parks Service spokesman John Warren explained. “When the campground grows, we’re also going to have concessionaires providing supplies and other necessities.”

The plan is in its infancy, so it remains unclear which private companies will be approached. But L.L. Bean, purveyors of rugged, durable outerwear, would be a good choice. Calls to the Freeport, Maine-based company were not returned.

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar visited Floyd Bennett Field on June 13, announcing plans to expand the airfield’s five campsites to 47 by the July 4 weekend and 90 by 2013.

Some sites will be dedicated to RV camping — even though there will be no electricity.

The feds are going to need the extra sites — interest in camping at Floyd Bennett Field has increased significantly since Salazar’s announcement was made, Warren said.

“We’ve had families camping at Floyd Bennett Field for years, but not a lot of them,” Warren explained. “Now our phones are ringing quite a bit.”

Warren couldn’t provide exact numbers, but said that more and more people are flocking to Floyd Bennett Field now that they know camping facilities exist.

“It’s not your traditional camping experience,” Warren said. “[Camping in Floyd Bennett Field] is like New York — unusual and cutting edge.”

The campsite expansion may be a boon for Floyd Bennett Field, which has been trying to find its niche for decades.

After joining Gateway National Recreation Area in 1972, the former airstrip hosted nothing but a few festivals until the turn of the century, when Aviator Sports and Recreation was built on the southwestern side of the massive property.

But besides Aviator Sports and a community garden, the rest of the park is largely empty, with a few vacant, dilapidated buildings peppered throughout.

Several people have floated plans to improve Floyd Bennett Field, but none have been welcomed with open arms: over the last year alone proposals have been raised to put a charter school inside the national park. There’s also been a pie-in-the-sky plan to bring commuter flights to Floyd Bennett Field.

Both plans have been panned by residents and community leaders.

To learn more about camping in Floyd Bennett Field, one can visit www.nps.gov/gate/planyourvisit/camping-at-gateway.htm.