2012-09-13 / Front Page
Public can comment on new Fort Hancock vision Sept. 18
Freeholder, local mayors among 20 nominated to advisory committee
MIDDLETOWN — The National Park Service (NPS) will hear public suggestions and comments on its proposed alternative visions for the future of Fort Hancock at an open house taking place 3 to 7 p.m. Sept. 18 at the chapel at Fort Hancock.
Plans for Fort Hancock are part of the NPS process of developing a new General Management Plan (GMP) that will determine the future development of the Sandy Hook Unit of Gateway National Recreation Area and the historic fort.
The park service schedule calls for implementation of an alternative redevelopment plan to begin by fall 2013.
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has nominated 20 individuals to serve on an advisory committee that will “provide recommendations for the historic reuse of more than 30 historic buildings in the Fort Hancock Landmark District,” said John Warren, acting public affairs officer for the park service, in a press release on Sept. 6.
Warren said members of the committee would meet four to six times over a year and have a two- to three-year term. He said the committee “allows in-depth involvement by community groups and regular input by the public.”
The reuse plan for the historic fort buildings previously chosen by the park services in 1999 awarded a lease to a Rumson developer to renovate and commercially develop at least 36 buildings at the fort.
The plan, abandoned by the NPS, was met with strong opposition from many local residents, the grassroots group Save Sandy Hook, and Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-6th District).
The NPS canceled the lease award when, after 10 years, the developer failed to secure financing for the projects.
According to Warren, 30 individuals applied to serve on the advisory committee. Those chosen include county and local officials Monmouth County Freeholder Lillian Burry; Mayor John Eckdahl, Rumson; Mayor Anthony Fiore, Middletown; Mayor Frank Nolan, Highlands; and George Conway, of Sea Bright, who is also secretary/ treasurer of Trap Rock Industries, Kingston.
Also on the committee are Dr. Howard Parish, vice chair of the N.J. Marine Sciences Consortium at Sandy Hook and past chair and current member of the board of directors of the Pocono Environmental Education Center, who is included as a representative of the natural resources community; Arthur Imperatore Jr., executive vice president of N.Y. Waterway; and Bill Wilby, former head of equities for Openheimer Funds Inc., representing the business community.
Cultural representatives on the committee are Mary Ellen Fouratt, executive director of the Monmouth County Arts Council; Col. Shawn Welsh, founding member of the Army Ground Forces Association, the sponsor of World War II-era reenactment programs held at Fort Hancock; and Daniel Saunders, administrator of the Historic Preservation Office, N.J. Department of Environmental Protection.
Gerald Glaser, an executive of the National Science Foundation, represents scientific resources; and Linda Cohen, who founded and directs Ocean Discoveries, a marine science program for schools, represents the educational community.
The real estate/restoration community has three representatives on the committee: Guy Hembling, president of Charles B. Hembling & Son, which has overseen several historic restorations including the Marine Sciences Consortium headquarters at Fort Hancock; Michael Holenstein of MAI Real Estate Appraisal; and Karlyn Wray, director for GMS, Prudential, Zack Shore Properties.
John Reynolds, who served 39 years with the park service including as deputy director; Lynda Rose, president of the Eastern Monmouth Area Chamber of Commerce; and Tim Hill, who was a member of the New Jersey Recreation and Park Association for 30 years, represent the recreation community.
The hospitality industry is represented by Margot Walsh, executive director of the Jersey Shore Partnership.
Regarding the powers of the committee, Warren said that the group “does not have free reign over Fort Hancock. The ideas they consider will need to be within the parameters set by the GMP as we progress toward a single draft preferred alternative plan for the entire park.”
The alternative plans that are under consideration for Sandy Hook include taking no action and continuing to manage Sandy Hook and Fort Hancock as the NPS is now doing.
Plan B, “Discovering Gateway,” provides for the adaptive reuse of the buildings at the fort for a wide variety of potential uses ranging from lodgings to restaurants, conference space and offices. This alternative is similar to the one to commercialize Fort Hancock proposed by the developer who failed to secure financing for the project and lost the lease for the historic buildings.
At an August information session about the alternatives for the GMP, Pallone said he would oppose this alternative, which he said sounded too much like the failed plan.
Plan C, “Experiencing Preserved Places,” would, according to the NPS, focus on efforts that would preserve the historic buildings at Fort Hancock and attract a historic preservation vocational school and other educational-related uses and improve the historic setting of the coastal defense structures at the fort.
The plan D alternative, Connecting Coastlines, would make Fort Hancock a “center for maritime-related interpretation and programming and coastal research,” while some buildings would be renovated to be used as lodging for visitors and more taxi and ferry use.
Information about the GMP and the alternatives is available at www.nps.gov/gate/parkmgmt/gmp- 2012.htm