Today’s news:

Guardian named to watch over Jamaica Bay revival

A former national parks ranger will lead a two-year state pilot program aimed at preserving and restoring Jamaica Bay.

Don Riepe, a retired Gateway National Recreation Area district ranger who worked at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, was formally named Jamaica Bay guardian by Erin Crotty, commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation Oct. 2. Jamaica Bay is a part of the Gateway National Recreation Area, a federally managed national park.

“I am going to work to coordinate activities to help restore the bay,” said the Ozone Park native and graduate of St. John’s University. “I will focus on preservation, education and restoration.”

Riepe will manage the state-funded $310,000 educational advocacy program in an effort to promote the overall health and public knowledge of the bay, he said.

Jamaica Bay is part of the Jamaica Bay Unit of Gateway National Recreation Area, which takes in both boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn. The park has more than 26,000 acres in New York and New Jersey and more than 8 million visitors per year, making it the fifth most visited national park in the United States.

The Jamaica Bay unit houses the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge; Floyd Bennett Field, New York’s first municipal airport; the former U.S. Army base at Fort Tilden; and Canarsie Pier, a fishing and family picnic area and children’s playground.

Riepe, who has a master’s degree in natural resource management from the University of New Hampshire, said he will be coordinating his efforts with various city, state and federal agencies to preserve and restore the bay. He will work with the Port Authority, city Department of Environmental Protection, state DEC, Army Corps of Engineers, and local community boards to discuss and finalize a comprehensive plan for the bay at an Oct. 31 conference.

Riepe said he plans to begin his two-year tenure as guardian by working with the National Park Service on a program to help restore the bay’s dwindling marshes. He also said there are plans to modify the sewer system that dumps treated and untreated sewage directly into the bay.

Riepe said education will be a cornerstone while he is guardian. He plans to work with local schools, children’s groups and environmental organizations to distribute and gather information about the bay.

“We hope to be a resource,” said Riepe, who will have his own boat to personally oversee preservation and restoration efforts. “We want to educate the people on the value of restoring Jamaica Bay.”

Reach reporter Alex Davidson by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or by phone at 229-0300, Ext. 156

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