• Get away to Gateway, where you can camp and stay healthy with heart-smart activities. Photo by Sebastiano Privitera; used by permission.

    Gateway

    National Recreation Area NY,NJ

Herbert Johnson

Herbert Johnson leading a school group tour in 1958

Herbert Johnson paved the way for environmental education at Jamaica Bay

NPS Archives

Robert Moses appointed Herbert Johnson as the first manager of Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in 1952. Johnson spearheaded efforts to improve natural habitat at the park, and to make the area easily accessible to the public.

One of Johnson's first tasks was to increase the variety of habitats at the refuge in order to for it to be a sanctuary for the many types animals that make their home in the city, and for those that move through on migration. Johnson worked with the transit authority to close off some saltmarsh areas to the flow of the tides, in order to create two fresh water ponds. Other marshes were filled with sediment and then planted with trees and shrubs to create woodland. These new habitats created new refuge for upland mammals and reptiles, fresh water fish and amphibians and other species not previously found in the park.

Johnson was an avid teacher and public advocate, in spirit and training. He felt strongly that the Wildlife Refuge should be not just be a place for animals and plants but that it be a place of respite for people too. While he was working on habitat enhancements, he enlisted a small crew of volunteers to create a trail system for the public. He also developed environmental education programs for children of all grade levels and offered outdoor programs for city kids, year-round.

Did You Know?

Aeiral view of the eastern portion of Jamaica Bay

At approximately 32 square miles and over 13000 acres, Jamaica Bay is the largest natural open space in New York City.