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Photos courtesy of Don Riepe
Photos courtesy of Don Riepe

Located near Jacob Riis Park on the Rockaway Peninsula, Fort Tilden offers its own kind of diversity. It’s a resting place for migrating birds, a hipster hangout during the summer, a historic district, and even a graffiti Mecca.

On Jan. 1, adventurous types will be able to check out the area with two experienced American Littoral Society naturalists, Don Riepe and Mickey Maxwell Cohen, during their Annual New Year’s Day Walk.

Set to kick off at 11 a.m., Riepe— who has been a tour guide for more than 30 years– informs that they will hike along the beach for about one mile, exploring the dunes, maritime forest, and even a fresh-water pond. They will go to a former military bunker and head up to a hawk observation platform which has panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean, New York Harbor, and Jamaica Bay.

Named after Samuel Tilden– the governor of New York in the late 1800s who lost the disputed presidential election in 1876– Fort Tilden was established in 1917 to protect New York Harbor during World War I and World War II. The barracks then harbored anti-aircraft guns and missiles during the Cold War, before being decommissioned in 1974 and transferred to the National Park Service.

In the 1990s, the Rockaway Artists Alliance and the Rockaway Theatre Company renovated some of the empty military structures into gallery spaces and a performing arts center. (Still, many dilapidated buildings are covered in graffiti.)

The tour will end at the Rockaway Artists Alliance gallery for champagne, coffee, and cookies.

Editor’s note: The hike will begin at a former chapel near the base of the Marine Park Bridge at 11 am. Parking is available, and the Q35 bus stops nearby. For more information, contact Riepe at (718) 474-0896 or donriepe@gmail.com.

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