Designer Hopes to Bring 'Glamping' to Rockaway With Throwback Tent Camp

By Katie Honan on May 20, 2014 7:33am 

 A rendering of the vision of Camp Rockaway. The location is not confirmed, but designer Kent Johnson said he's open to establishing the luxury camp in many places on the peninsula.
A rendering of the vision of Camp Rockaway. The location is not confirmed, but designer Kent Johnson said he's open to establishing the luxury camp in many places on the peninsula.
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Camp Rockaway

ARVERNE — A surfer and designer is looking to take the "rough" out of roughing it — creating a throwback camp in the Rockaways that marries staying in a tent and the experience of staying in a hotel.

Kent Johnson, 37, owns Milktrout, a design and building consulting firm, and is now raising money through Kickstarter to help further his vision for Camp Rockaway, a luxurious camp site on the peninsula.

After learning about the many "tent cities" that sprung up in Rockaway in the early 1900s for city dwellers who couldn't afford to rent a summer home or a room in one of the area's high-priced hotels, Johnson came up with the idea.

"[Rockaway] was the playground for New Yorkers, of all socio-economic backgrounds," he said.

His idea for the camp is to create a rustic, yet full-service space for people to keep the beach fun going, with strong tents from a Colorado company that works with hunters.

The accommodations — called "glamping" because it removes the usual "roughing it" found in usual camp sites and makes the experience more glamorous — will feature a queen sized bed, linens and breakfast, and there will be bath houses with toilets and showers.

"Bring your surfboard, bring your bike, bring your boogie board — but everything else we'll have set," he said.

Kids will have the option to stay in pup tents on their own platforms, and Camp Rockaway will be flexible with putting spaces together for families and parties.

He also hopes to bring entire groups down, like STOKED, a group that introduces young people to surfing. He also imagines that the space will attract bird watchers who are visiting the nearby sanctuary.

Johnson has already invested money in research and designing his vision of what Camp Rockaway can look like, but is now raising money to move on to the next phase, which requires filling out documents for approval with the Department of Buildings.

The $50,000 he hopes to raise in the Kickstarter campaign will go towards permits and finalizing plans, he said.

He doesn't have an exact location yet, although the designs depict the modern-day "tent city" along Jamaica Bay in Arverne.

"It can be put anywhere," he said, and he hopes to work on the campsite, which will have 10 tents, through the winter.

If all goes to plan, the big soft opening will be Memorial Day 2015 — allowing people to spend more time in a place he thinks is the most unique in the city.

For more about Camp Rockaway, visit its Kickstarter page.

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