Future Of Fort Hancock In Hands Of Advisory Committee [AUDIO]
The future of Sandy Hook's Fort Hancock lies with a panel of local stakeholders.
The Fort Hancock 21st Century Advisory Committee consists of local lawmakers, business leaders, and other representatives who are chosen by the Secretary of the Interior and are tasked with creating a general management plan that will determine the experience of future visitors to the park.
The twenty-person panel met Wednesday and Thursday in the Ocean Place Resorts and Spa to discuss their duties and hear comments from the public.
Much of the discussion from the public involved the fear of more commercial interest in the base, which sits within Gateway National Park, as well as the future of the roughly thirty long abandoned military housing buildings referred to as "Officer's Row."
Linda Canzanelli, superintendent of Gateway National Recreation Area, notes there are already private/public partnerships within Sandy Hook, adding they have to also consider the financial aspect of renovation.
"The Federal Government and the taxpayer dollars just aren't enough to preserve the buildings so we need to find other ways of being able to do it."
She adds any public private partnerships wouldn't detract from the Fort or Sandy Hook's cultural value.
"Fort Hancock makes up about one percent of Sandy Hook so we're talking about a very small area."
Adding all of the options are on the table, including tearing the buildings down, saving some of them and saving all of them through public/private partnerships.
Though much of the damage from Superstorm Sandy affected the infrastructure and roads in Sandy Hook, resulting in the park's closure, the future of the mostly dilapidated buildings remains a focus.
Much of the federal funding for Fort Hancock would be coming from the Sandy Relief Bill, which is still awaiting passage by the Senate and President.
Canzanelli notes their committee is chartered for two years, however she acknowledges the need for a "sooner rather than later" mentality.
"The buildings have been vacant and empty for a long time and if we have any hope of saving them we need a plan from the committee really quickly."
One of public to speak out in favor of preserving the buildings was CJ Gutch, who notes they are "irreplaceable pieces of history."
He points out while leveling them may seem like the easier solution, "At the end of the day I think it's about making sure we still have these buildings, as opposed to losing them because once they're gone we can never get them back."
Highlands Councilwoman Lisa Ryan spoke on behalf of the economic interests of Sandy Hook and Fort Hancock have for the borough.
"Much of the income in my town of Highlands is generated by visitors of Sandy Hook. Our town is a clamming town and we are also known for our restaurants."
Carol Balmer, former deputy mayor of Holmdel explained access and public information will need to be vital during the general management plan.
"The public should be involved in this process from the get go. The prior developer, everything was done behind closed doors and by the time the public got involved it was a done deal."
Noting the claims of building mixed used public/private operations and other ventures on an area so susceptible to storm damage is irresponsible.
"You don't build on areas that are going to be demolished by Mother Nature."
More information, meeting minutes, and background material can be found online.