Park Service challenged to return to its roots

Group opposing fort
development plan adopts NPS motto as its own

By gloria stravelli
Staff Writer

Group opposing fort
development plan adopts NPS motto as its own
By gloria stravelli
Staff Writer

Save Sandy Hook, a grassroots organization formed to oppose a National Park Service (NPS) plan to allow private development at Fort Hancock on Sandy Hook, has adopted the mission statement of the park service as its own.

The symbolic gesture is an effort by the citizens’ group to remind the public that the agency’s mission is to preserve public lands, not commercialize them, according to Judith Stanley Coleman, president of Save Sandy Hook.

"We feel that going back to the origins of the United States National Park Service will help us all remember what the park service is supposed to be all about," she said.

The group also renewed its call for an independent evaluation of a plan to allow Sandy Hook Partners, LLC, to lease, rehabilitate and reuse 36 historic buildings at Fort Hancock. Save Sandy Hook is also advocating formation of a task force to ensure continued public access to Sandy Hook.

With a slight modification to the original NPS mission statement, Save Sandy Hook has defined its mission as helping to "conserve the scenery and the natural beauty, the wildlife and the best historic objects at Fort Hancock and Sandy Hook, and to provide for the enjoyment of the same as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations."

Naturalist and conservationist John Muir convinced President Theodore Roosevelt of the need to preserve the nation’s wilderness treasures for future generations, Stanley Coleman said.

"It was exactly the present plans of the NPS to lease 36 former Army buildings at Fort Hancock to a private developer for commercial development that Muir and President Roosevelt tried to guard against," she said.

"Their foresight has resulted in a national park system that protects some of the most beautiful natural areas in this country and the nation’s most important monuments and historic sites," Stanley Coleman added.

"We believe Sandy Hook, which is the property of people of the United States, is too valuable to the public interest to be turned over to private speculators," she said.

Stanley Coleman, who also is president of The Monmouth Conservation Foundation, said Save Sandy Hook doesn’t accept the argument that privatization of the buildings is the only viable alternative to letting them continue to deteriorate. under NPS stewardship.

"The NPS proposal to rehabilitate the 36 military buildings at Fort Hancock by privatization, which means commercialization, flies in the face of 130 years of our nation’s tradition of conserving what is important to us," Stanley Coleman said. "Fort Hancock can be preserved without selling it to the highest bidder."

"We all agree that the current situation at Fort Hancock cannot continue, allowing the unused buildings to continue deteriorating due to the lack of regularly scheduled maintenance by the NPS. We also agree that buildings under NPS control that are not needed by that organization could be leased to other appropriate organizations with usage that do not commercialize our parkland.

"We believe, however, that the buildings at Fort Hancock, part of the National Historic Landmark status of Sandy Hook, are an important exception, and should be treated as such by the NPS.

"Aesthetically and ecologically," she added, "Sandy Hook also has a quiet beauty, charm, and ambiance that is unmatched in the metropolitan area, and no decision about the future of this valuable recreational gem should be made in haste to meet the questionable administrative needs of the NPS bureaucracy.

"That is why we are going back to the beginning, when the National Park System was first begun, to remind ourselves of what our real purpose should be at Sandy Hook and Fort Hancock — preservation and appropriate use, not commercialization."

According to Stanley Coleman, Save Sandy Hook is seeking support in its efforts to block the park service plan for the redevelopment of Fort Hancock, which they say could significantly affect the area. The group can be reached at Save Sandy Hook, P.O. Box 265, Lincroft, NJ 07738, or via e-mail at sandyhook@aol.com.