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Jones Beach State Park: destination for metropolitan area visitors

July 5, 2013—Jones Beach State Park, the splendid and iconic Long Island mainstay designed by Robert Moses to provide the public access to oceanfront beauty and recreation today remains a beloved destination for New Yorkers throughout the metropolitan area. More than 80 years after it first opened, the beach-front park welcomed 5.3 million visitors last year, drawing heavily from Nassau County and New York City’s five boroughs.

According to a report issued by the Open Space Institute’s Alliance for New York State Parks, visitors to Jones Beach are ethnically diverse: the park continues to serve a core Long Island constituency, and nearly half of all visitors reside in New York City. The report, The Pulse of Parks: Visitation Demographics at Jones Beach State Park, is based on a survey and interviews conducted in July, 2012 by the Public Spaces Research Group at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

“The findings of this report underscore the vast appeal of Jones Beach, both in terms of geography and ethnicity,” said Erik Kulleseid, executive director of the Alliance for New York State Parks. “It is remarkable how this magnificent park, after decades of social and demographic adjustments, changes in usage and challenges associated with its aging infrastructure, today remains true to its public access roots.”

“The core of State Parks’ mission is connecting New York’s increasingly urban and diverse population to the outdoors; to active, healthy lifestyles; to our natural and cultural treasures,” said Rose Harvey, commissioner of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. “The report demonstrates just how extraordinarily well Jones Beach is succeeding. Nearly nine decades after it opened, Jones Beach remains vital to the New York City region’s way of life.”

Kulleseid noted the tremendous work completed by park officials and staff in repairing significant damage to the park caused by Superstorm Sandy. “Efforts to rebuild following Sandy were nothing short of remarkable. At the same time,” he said, “Jones Beach remains in need of $50 million in repairs and updates not related to the storm. These findings indicate that continued public investment in Jones Beach is warranted.”

Key findings of the report reveal that 49 percent of beach-goers reside in New York City; 30.6 percent from Nassau County; and less than 5 percent from Suffolk County. The New York City visitorship is led significantly by residents of Queens (26 percent) with Brooklyn (9 percent), the Bronx (7 percent) and Manhattan (6 percent) following. 

The report further demonstrates that park visitorship is ethnically diverse, with 46 percent of patrons self-identifying as white; 33 percent as Latino/Hispanic; 10 percent as African American and 11 percent as “other.”

In addition to identifying demographic information of park-goers, the report captures individual visitor feelings and attitudes toward Jones Beach.  Interviews with patrons reveal meaningful connections that visitors have with the park. “From people whose families have been returning for decades to those who appreciate the park’s welcoming diversity, Jones Beach remains a valued and beloved destination,” said Kulleseid.

This sentiment is especially true for those who maintain a lifetime of happy memories from their visits to the park. “Jones Beach has a special meaning to me because it makes me think of my childhood, just going with my family as a child and swimming, all of us being together,” said a woman from Roslyn Heights. “It makes me feel like a kid again.”

Meanwhile, New York City residents place a special value on the park’s natural offerings so close to their urban homes. “Without Jones Beach, I wouldn’t live in New York City,” said a Bushwick resident. 

The park’s grandeur, with its rich history, art-deco structures and miles of white beaches are also appreciated by patrons. “When you are walking in the park, you feel that you are walking in something great,” said one of the survey respondents.

“Hearing those sentiments today, remind us all that Jones Beach is an exceptional and valued destination. It is both part of the fabric of Long Island and essential to city-dwellers,” said Kulleseid. “Its various constituency groups and their deep-seeded affection for Jones Beach warrants continued investment and support from New York State.”

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