Tilden and Riis Get Early Visitors


 In years past, Rockaway beaches, including Riis Park and Fort Tilden, attracted crowds eager to escape summer heat and find relief in the cool ocean. This year, as people emerge from several months of quarantine, the crowds have come early. 

With no lifeguards on duty, the beaches still remain closed to swimming (although that may not be stopping some people from the occasional dip) but the sand is full.

Even with limitations put on a day at the beach, it seems that Fort Tilden and Riis Park have been more packed than ever. Officials at Gateway have not counted visitors since March so crowds can be measured with an eye test only. The Riis Park parking lot, although only allowing cars in half of the lot, regularly fills up on weekends. A Fort Tilden parking lot off Beach 193rd Street, near Silver Gull, fills almost every day.

Back trails at Fort Tilden, again using the eye test, have more bikers, runners, and walkers than ever. With fewer options to enjoy the outdoors because of the pandemic, people from Brooklyn and Rockaway are seeking the relative quiet, fresh ocean air and space offered by Fort Tilden and Riis, at all hours of the day.

Although Gateway National Park ranked number four in the top ten of most visited parks last year, Fort Tilden, part of Gateway, is usually quiet now and has its peak come in July and August. This year, unofficially, it seems like Fort Tilden and Riis Park will set a record. 

 By Sean Boyle