2010-11-18 / Front Page

Park service seeks input on future of Sandy Hook

Nonprofits interested in leasing told to contact Hook coordinator
BY LIZ SHEEHAN Correspondent

WEST LONG BRANCH — The National Park Service (NPS) is looking for tenants for the individual historic buildings at Fort Hancock.

Peter McCarthy, the unit coordinator of the Sandy Hook Unit of Gateway National Recreation Area, said at an open house at Monmouth University on Tuesday, Nov. 9, that the park service is moving forward and does not want the type of large-scale lease previously awarded to a developer. Instead, he said, the NPS is concentrating on individual buildings and universities or educational institutions as potential tenants.

The open house at Monmouth University was one of a series of open house meetings intended to help solicit input about the future of Fort Hancock, and the Sandy Hook Unit of Gateway National Recreation Area in general.

The NPS is collecting material to help formulate its General Management Plan (GMP), which will guide the park for the next 20 years.

There are three plans bring considered for the future development of Gateway: one, stressing coastal connections; a second, experiencing preserved places; and the third, discovering Gateway through educational, interpretive and recreational experiences.

McCarthy, who is the equivalent to the former superintendent of the park, said plans are being made to hold a charrette, or planning session, to explore ideas for the 31 historic buildings at the fort. He said the public would be involved in the process.

McCarthy said that if any nonprofits are interested in leasing one of the buildings, they could contact him for more information. He said that Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-6th District), who opposes commercial development on Sandy Hook, would be involved in planning for the fort.

Pallone has asked the National Park Service to appoint one person “to concentrate on the rehabilitation of the historic Fort Hancock buildings.”

Pallone made the statement in a press release on the day the NPS held the open house at Monmouth University.

In the press release, Pallone said that besides maintaining and improving Sandy Hook, “preserving the historic buildings at Fort Hancock and preventing commercial uses of the buildings has also been a top priority.”

The past management of the park “is the best example of how to manage the park in the future,” Pallone said.

He said that the last lease for 36 buildings in the fort failed and the “irresponsible lessee allowed the valuable historic buildings to deteriorate.”

This resulted in greater damage to the Fort Hancock buildings and “the need for additional resources to fully restore” them.

Pallone was referring to the 60-year lease granted to Rumson developer James Wassel by the park service in 2004, allowing him to renovate and commercially develop 36 buildings at the fort. Wassel was selected by the NPS as the sole developer of the site in 1999.

Last November, an arbitrator agreed upon by both the NPS and Wassel upheld the park service’s cancellation of Wassel’s lease after determining that the developer’s financial commitments were “insufficient to meet the purposes of the lease.”

Wassel was permitted to retain a sublease for three buildings in 2007, based on the canceled 2004 lease.

In the press release, Pallone said he encouraged the park service to restore the buildings one at a time and move away from large development proposals such as that planned by Wassel.

The park service is holding nine open houses to inform the public about future plans for Gateway, and to get input on what goals should be in developing these plans. Three have been held in Monmouth County. More information on the proposals for Gateway is available at www.nps.gov/gate and comments may be submitted through January 2011.

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