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State wants to turn Camp Hero State Park into a camping destination

The state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation is accepting proposals to develop the Montauk site through Oct. 4.

The radar tower at Camp Hero State Park

The radar tower at Camp Hero State Park in Montauk. Photo Credit: Newsday Photo/Daniel Goodrich

Montauk's Camp Hero State Park could soon become an overnight destination — for anyone bold enough to defy its somewhat spooky reputation, that is.

The former military base is where conspiracy theorists say the U.S. military experimented with mind control, imported  space  aliens through a wormhole and tried to teleport a Navy destroyer all the way to Philadelphia. (These theories have not been proven.) It is one reason "Stranger Things," the Netflix series, initially was called "Montauk." 

Now the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation is looking for companies and organizations to develop the 415-acre site, prized for its surf fishing and towering bluffs, for traditional campers or glampers who prefer a more luxurious experience.

The parks department will select the new overnight sites to ensure they are sustainable and do not mar the park's landscape, history and environment, said George Gorman, Long Island deputy regional director for the state parks department.

The department is willing to consider many different kinds of places for vacationers to stay: tents and yurts, including ones designed for glamping; traditional cabins and cottages; prefabricated units; recreational vehicles; and portable or trailered units, Gorman said.

Demand for the new South Fork accommodations could be intense, parks officials say.

"The reason that we are contemplating this is because the Hither Hills campground in Montauk is our most popular campground destination in the state," Gorman said. "There is an unbelievable number of families that we turn away every year because we fill to capacity."

And the Montauk park's attractions are clear: "The whole of Camp Hero has astounding views of the Atlantic Ocean," Gorman said.

The base was named for Maj. Gen. Andrew Hero Jr., the son of a Confederate soldier who served in France during World War I before becoming the chief of the Coast Artillery Corps from 1926 to 1930.

During World War II, Montauk was considered a prime place where German saboteurs could land without being detected. In response, Camp Hero was expanded and designed to look like a typical New England fishing village from the air. Massive guns, 16 inches wide and 60 feet long, were installed and connected by a 500-foot long tunnel, a feature that perhaps inspired modern conspiracy buffs. The Cold War-era radar tower that was visible for miles also might have fired their imaginations.

Cabins opened in May at Wading River's Wildwood State Park on Long Island Sound have been a runaway success. All weekends are booked through autumn. A handful of cottages overlooking the Great South Bay could also open as soon as Labor Day at East Islip's Heckscher State Park, parks officials said.

Unlike those locations, Camp Hero has none of the staff or infrastructure needed to support the new accommodations, which is why a public-private partnership is being sought to build and run the concession.

The deadline for submitting proposals is Oct. 4.

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