The Starting Gate: Where the Journey Begins

Miles of shoreline at Gateway NRA offer wonderful recreational opportunities to visitors, very near major urban areas.

NPS Photo

The Foundation Statement

There’s a first step at the beginning of every journey. The first step in a park’s general management planning effort is creating a Foundation Statement. The Foundation Statement is used to guide current and future planning and management of Gateway National Recreation Area. This Statement is grounded in the park’s legislation and provides a shared understanding of what is most important about the park. The Foundation Statement defines each of the following elements:

Park Purpose

The park purpose is a specific reason why Congress and/or the president established the park as a unit of the national park system. The purpose statement provides the most fundamental criteria against which the appropriateness of all planning recommendations, operational decisions, and actions are tested. The purpose of each park is based in the enabling legislation and legislative history.

Park Significance

Guided by legislation and the knowledge acquired through management, research, and civic engagement, statements of significance define what is most important about the park’s resources and values. Each area of the park contains many significant resources, but not all these resources contribute to why the park was designated. The purpose and significance statements are used to guide planning and management decisions to ensure that the resources and values that Congress and the president wanted preserved are the first priority.

Fundamental Resources and Values

The National Park Service works to ensure that those resources and values that are fundamental to maintaining the park’s purpose and significance are preserved for public enjoyment. Understanding the fundamental resources and values that support each significance statement will provide managers and their staff with a focus on what is truly most important about each park. If the fundamental resources and values are degraded, then the significance of what is most important about the park may be jeopardized.

Other Important Resources and Values

Many resources and values are determined to be important in their own right even though they are not related to the park’s purpose and significance. These resources are particularly important to park management and planning and will be considered during the GMP process.

The Beginning

Gateway National Recreation Area provides a national park experience in the country’s largest metropolitan area. The park preserves a mosaic of coastal ecosystems and natural areas interwoven with historic coastal defense and maritime sites around New York’s Outer Harbor. Beaches, marshes, waters, scenic views and open space offer resource appropriate recreational opportunities to a diverse public, recognizing the importance to preserve these special places and leave them unimpaired for future generations.

Gateway was established “in order to preserve and protect for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations an area possessing outstanding natural and recreational features.” Legislation was signed into law in October of 1972 and signified the culmination of many years of effort by citizens, planners, activists, the National Park Service, and members of Congress. The park was created a full century after the establishment of Yellowstone, the nation’s first national park. The national recreation area was a reflection of an on-going evolution of the national park concept; from a system of parks preserving the natural wonders and scenic masterpieces in relatively remote and secluded areas, to a system that included the development of several urban-edge parks that balanced natural and cultural resources with appropriate recreational opportunities.

In the 1960’s, Congress recognized that a majority of the nation was living in urban areas, where many outdoor recreation opportunities were too distant for regular use. The ability to bring “parks to people” was assisted by a shift in federal policy allowing for the appropriation of federal money to acquire shoreline area for park designation. The coastal zone lands that make up Gateway were New York and New Jersey state and municipal lands, Army and Navy installations, and some privately owned lands. Park access via public transportation was an important element, and it was estimated that 10% percent of the U.S. population lived within a 2 hour drive from a Gateway site. Each year millions of visitors experience this urban recreation area by participating in the recreational, natural, and cultural opportunities that exists at the park’s wildlife refuge, holly forest, beaches, marshes, waters, and open spaces that stretch throughout three New York City boroughs and into northern New Jersey.

Cannon at Fort Hancock, Sandy Hook, Gateway National Recreation Area.

NPS Photo

Summer 2009 Newsletter

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Last updated: May 2, 2018

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