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Jamaica Bay boat cruises reveal hidden city wildlife

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A sunset boat cruise around Jamaica Bay may be the best way for Queens residents itching to get out on the Atlantic Ocean after the long winter to see native animals, salt marshes and rare habitats.

Jamaica Bay Guardian Don Riepe, who is also president of New York's chapter of the American Littoral Society, will lead two tours through the bay Saturday, May 31, and Saturday, June 28. He said the cruises will include discussions with riders about Jamaica Bay's history, ecology and surrounding ecosystem.

"There will be lots of wildlife to observe," Riepe said. "And it will be right at sunset."

Riepe said the three-hour tour will begin at Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn at 5 p.m., travel through the bay to the backwater marshes behind John F. Kennedy International Airport, continue on into a portion of Nassau County, then past Breezy Point at the end of the Rockaway Peninsula to finish up back at Sheepshead Bay.

Jamaica Bay is just one part of the larger Gateway National Recreation Area, the only national park in the New York metropolitan area that includes more than 26,000 acres and includes portions of Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island and northern New Jersey.

Some of the wildlife on the tour Riepe said riders will see include peregrine falcons, geese, ducks, plovers, terns and gulls. He said some of the birds will be nesting and provide those on the boats a unique look into the wildlife at Jamaica Bay.

Riepe, who plans to use a private boat docked at Sheepshead Bay called the Dorothy B. VIII, has been running sunset tours of Jamaica Bay for more than 10 years. He said most of the people on the tours have never seen the full extent of the bay, but others on the cruises are habitual riders.

"They (the cruises) are meant to be informative and to raise the public's awareness of the bay's natural resources," Riepe said.

Wine, cheese and other snacks will be served on the tours, which cost $35 per person. Riepe said people interested in either of the tours should call the American Littoral Society at its headquarters at (718) 318-9344 or log on to its Web site at www.alsnyc.org.

Reach reporter Alex Davidson by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156

Posted 7:06 pm, October 10, 2011
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