Gateway National Recreation Area begins its yearlong celebration of its 40th anniversary with the annual celebration of Fort Hancock Days, to be held on Friday, October 26 through Sunday, October 28, 2012. Fort Hancock Days commemorates the establishment of Fort Hancock as an Army base on October 30, 1895. Fort Hancock was added to Gateway as part of the park's Sandy Hook Unit by an Act of Congress signed into law on October 27, 1972.
"Gateway needs a whole year to celebrate our 40th anniversary," said Superintendent Linda Canzanelli. "The public can join the celebration this month at Sandy Hook, in May at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn and in the fall of 2013 on Staten Island." MillionTreesNYC will also help celebrate by planting native trees and shrubs at Floyd Bennett Field on Saturday, October 27.
On Friday, October 26 from 6:30 P.M. to 8:30 P.M., volunteers from the Army Ground Forces Association (AGFA) will conduct a lantern tour of the Fort, beginning at the Fort Hancock Museum and ending at Battery Gunnison, which was built in 1904. AGFA volunteers, wearing authentic World War II U.S. Army Coast Artillery Corps uniforms, will emphasize the fort's World War II years when Fort Hancock's population swelled to more than 12,000 soldiers and civilian defense workers. AGFA will focus in particular on 1943, when the Army converted Battery Gunnison from a disappearing gun battery into its present configuration as a pedestal mounted gun battery.
On Sunday, October 28, from 12 P.M. to 4 P.M., visitors can watch or join in helping AGFA members conduct gun drills at Battery Gunnison, to see how an original Model 1900 six-inch gun (actually over 25 feet long and weighing 10 tons) was aimed and loaded. An original World War II ambulance will also be on display, complete with period medical equipment and staffed by an AGFA volunteer Army nurse.
On both Saturday, October 27 and Sunday October 28 a Revolutionary War encampment will be located on the Parade Ground recreating soldier life. Meet the living historians from the War of 1812, Civil War, Spanish American War, World War I and World War II on Sunday, October 28, at the Parade Grounds, leading demonstrations for the public.
Battery Potter, America's first concrete disappearing gun battery, will also be open for tours from 12 P.M. to 4:00 P.M on Sunday. During World War II this battery served as a Harbor Entrance Control Post that controlled the movement of all ships entering into New York Harbor.
To learn about the affect war had on home life for military families, visit the History House located on the north end of Officer's Row in Fort Hancock on Saturday from 1 P.M. to 5 P.M. and Sunday from 12 noon to 4 P.M.
Fort Hancock protected the harbor area from enemy warships and warplanes from the time of the Spanish-American War through the nuclear age. During the Cold War, radar and Nike air defense missiles were the fort's last defense system. Former Army Nike veterans will conduct guided tours of Fort Hancock's Nike Missile Radar site at Horseshoe Cove on Sunday, October 28, from 12 Noon to 4 P.M. The fort was deactivated in 1974, two years after Congress named Sandy Hook as one of the park units of the new Gateway National Recreation Area. Visitors are welcome to visit Sandy Hook's beaches, trails and military history sites.
About Gateway National Recreation Area
Established in 1972, Gateway National Recreation Area has 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, America's oldest 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.