HIGHLANDS, N.J. -- Coastal Defenses Day highlights Fort Hancock’s military history and its role in the defense of New York Harbor from the American Revolution through the Cold War era. Visitors can tour Batteries Gunnison and Potter, the Mortar Battery, the Nike Missile Radar Site, the Sandy Hook Lighthouse and History House. Members of the Army Ground Forces Association
(AGFA) and NY-56 Nike Volunteers will join NPS park rangers in keeping sites open for the public.
In anticipation of Coastal Defenses Day, AGFA will hold a lantern tour the evening of Friday, May 18 and will also host a swing dance at Fort Hancock’s Chapel on Saturday, May 19 from 7:00 P.M. to 10:00 P.M. The fundraiser will begin with an introductory swing dance lesson. For more information, call 732-872-5970. History House will be open during the same hours.
Loading the Gunnison Gun.
Ocean Fun Day, Sunday May 20, hosted by New Jersey Sea Grant Consortium and sponsored by New Jersey Natural Gas, features hands-on exhibits, eco-tours, children’s activities and the ever-popular fiddler crab races from 11 A.M. to 3 P.M.
Events take place at Building 22 in Fort Hancock, home of the New Jersey Sea Grant Consortium (NJSGC). The event is designed to increase knowledge, conservation and sustainable enjoyment of the Jersey Shore. For more information about Ocean Fun Day, visit http://www.njseagrant.org/about-ocean-fun-days.
Visitors can enjoy events throughout the park, thanks to free open-air trolleys made possible by funding by the Sandy Hook Foundation, an official Friends organization with Gateway National Recreation Area.
For more information about Coastal Defenses Day, call 732-872-5970. Sites that will be open as part of Coastal Defenses Day include the following:
BATTERY GUNNISON/NEW BATTERY PECK: Volunteers from the Army Ground Forces Association wearing uniforms of World War II U.S. Army Coast Artillery soldiers will bring the battery back to life as it was in May 1943. Learn from living history historians how to load a six-inch caliber gun or be a gun pointer and learn how to track ships. Visit the battery’s restored plotting room, where enemy targets were tracked, and ammunition rooms to see how up to 800 projectiles and powder charges were stored. Open for tours from 12 P.M. to 4 P.M.
SANDY HOOK LIGHTHOUSE GROUNDS: Meet a Loyalist soldier to learn how the British Army and its supporters turned the lighthouse into a fort and guarded it against American attacks during the American Revolution.
Lighthouse tower climbing tours are also offered every half-hour from 1 P.M. to 4:30 P.M. Children must be 48-inches tall to climb the lighthouse steps.
MORTAR BATTERY: Across the street from the lighthouse, explore the first concrete mortar battery built for coastal defense in the United States.
Ranger and park volunteer-led tours will take you through the battery’s maze of dark, hidden tunnels to discover its history from the 1890s through World War II. Open for tours from 1 P.M. to 4:30 P.M.
BATTERY POTTER: Explore the massive, cave-like interior of America’s first concrete disappearing gun battery with a ranger or park volunteer to discover its role in coastal defense from the 1890s when Fort Hancock was established through World War II. Open for tours from 1 P.M. to 4:30 P.M.
HISTORY HOUSE (open until 4 P.M.): Located on the north end of Officers Row, the house was built in 1898 but is furnished circa 1941-1945, the busiest years in Fort Hancock’s long history. World War II-era living history historians will portray U.S. Army soldiers with their camp exhibit and select vintage army vehicles.
NIKE MISSILE RADAR SITE: Tour the site with former Army Nike veterans where radar tracked supersonic Nike Missiles. These nuclear weapons guarded the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area during the Cold War Era from 1954 to 1974. Open for tours from 12 P.M. to 4 P.M.
About Gateway National Recreation Area
Established in 1972, Gateway National Recreation Area offers more than
26,000 acres of marshes, wildlife sanctuaries and recreational athletic facilities, miles of sandy beaches; indoor and outdoor classrooms; picnicking and camping areas, as well as historic structures and military installations, airfields, a lighthouse, and adjacent waters around New York harbor. The park offers urban residents in two states a wide range of recreational opportunities year round. With more than nine million visitors a year, it is the third most visited national park in the country. For information about Gateway's upcoming public programs, see the park's Web site http://www.nps.gov/gate/index.htm