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Officials: Campers welcomed back to Heckscher State Park

A renovated campground reopens this summer at Heckscher

A renovated campground reopens this summer at Heckscher State Park. Credit: Shelby Knowles

Come back, campers: For the first time in nearly a decade, Heckscher State Park in East Islip reopens its campground — newly renovated — to tents, trailers and recreational vehicles, starting July Fourth.

“The campground will enhance Heckscher State Park’s appeal to families and outdoor enthusiasts looking for adventure along Long Island’s shoreline,” said state Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid in a statement.

Concerns about the West Nile virus mosquitoes can carry led Suffolk County health officials in 2010 to advise parks to close during the nighttime hours. Heckscher’s campground was shut on July 17 that year.

However, the county health department a few years ago revised its West Nile guidelines, instead recommending that people minimize their activity during the night, in addition to taking other precautions, such as covering up and using repellent.

And like many state parks, Heckscher is in the midst of a rebirth, after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo made up for years of underfunding during recession-era budgets with $900 million of public and private investments.

Heckscher’s upgrades, according to George Gorman, Long Island regional director for parks, and David Auguste, Heckscher park director, cover everything from the sewer system to a renovated bathhouse with hot showers for the campers, a new welcome center for them to check in, new grills and water fountains designed for the disabled — and 69 new concrete sites for the campers with pine picnic tables.

A bike path along the shoulder of the loop road through the park is being built; this autumn, work should start on a new playground for the campers.

Officials said they also hope to soon open the last few of the 15 one- and two-bedroom cottages. Those cottages, which first welcomed visitors last summer, have proved their drawing power both at Heckscher and at Wading River’s Wildwood State Park.

“This park is being reborn,” said Auguste. “It’s great,” he said, noting the campground was both highly rated and quite popular until it was shut, even drawing people who attended concerts at Jones Beach State Park.

The fees are quite reasonable: $18 to $22 a night, according to the state park’s website. The cottages, which offer a more luxurious, “glamping” experience, cost from $1,350 to $1,920 a week. Wildwood’s cottages are a bit less: $1,050 to $1,500.

Each cottage includes a kitchenette with a refrigerator, stove, microwave, coffee maker, toaster and other basics, a screened-in porch with a sleeper sofa, Adirondack chairs, and dining table and chairs, officials said.

And park officials are pondering additional ways to help outdoor lovers enjoy Heckscher.

One of the biggest questions is the future of Heckscher’s pool, which drew about 400 people a day before it was closed in 2010, imperiled by shoreline erosion and leaking as much as 20,000 gallons of water a day.

Camping reservations can be made online at http://newyorkstateparks.reserveamerica.com/ or by calling toll free 800-456-CAMP.

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