Shore lovers can now hit the beach and camp out on Sandy Hook — in one designated spot.
Camping in the Horseshoe Cove area of the Hook became an option this week when management at the National Park Service's Gateway National Recreation Area at Sandy Hook made it available to the public.
"Public camping started Aug. 6," Gateway Park Ranger Pete McCarthy said. "On Sandy Hook, we currently have eight operational campsites on Sandy Hook in the Horseshoe Cove area (at the end of the Hook, by historic Fort Hancock). Each of the eight sites can hold up to six people and are available for $20 a night rental Mondays through Thursdays. The sites, which are situated to accommodate tent camping only, include a grill, fire ring and area shelters."
One of the current eight has been set up to accommodate the handicapped, in compliance with the American Disabilities Act.
As part of a plan to phase camping onto the Hook, McCarthy said that within two weeks the hope is that Sandy Hook will go from having the eight sites to 15. And by September, he said, 20 sites should be operational. The sites will be open for use through Halloween.
"If you think about Sandy Hook and talk about being in a national park and what a national park experience is ... part of that is camping," McCarthy said. "It's a test case. Now we'll see where it goes."
Gateway National Recreation Area is comprised of three units in the tri-state area: Jamaica Bay (NY), Staten Island (NY) and Sandy Hook. For Gateway, the camping idea was first explored in Brooklyn, "where they put in 40 (tent) sites and 20 RV sites, for a total of 60," McCarthy said. "Think about it. You go into Manhattan for the day, do some shopping, exploring and you can camp overnight."
As for Sandy Hook, he said the Horeshoe Cove area is and always has been a naturally great fit for camp-outs.
Campers can reserve the sites for up to four days. For more information and to make reservations online, go to the Web site at www.recreation.gov.