Group continuing fight against privatizing fort

Grassroots citizens’ organization Save Sandy Hook held its first annual meeting recently and members re-elected Judith Stanley Coleman of Middletown as chairwoman and Ben Forest of Red Bank as vice chairman.

The group was founded about a year ago to oppose the National Park Service plan to lease to a local real estate developer 36 Fort Hancock buildings that the group said the NPS allowed to deteriorate for 29 years.

Carole Balmer of Holmdel was elected corresponding secretary, James M. Coleman of Middletown, recording secretary, and Ron Gumbaz of Middletown, treasurer.

Stanley Coleman told the group the NPS is ignoring protests about the plan to allow commercial use of some of the 36 historic structures.

"The fact that almost 2,000 people have signed our petition against the plan proves that the more people know about privatizing the fort and letting businesses operate there, the more concerned they become," she said.

She also said the NPS has ignored the opposition expressed in the press by Gov. James McGreevey, Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and state Senate co-President John Bennett III (R-12th District).

Stanley Coleman said the challenge to SSH is to explain to the public "why this is a disastrous deal for taxpayers."

The development plan, Stanley Coleman said, "will bring the fort under commercial control and will adversely impact recreation and conservation at Sandy Hook.

"It is absurd that after 130 years of protecting our natural and historical resources from commercial exploitation, we must now turn these precious resources over to the very business interests we kept at bay — just because the Park Service can’t do its job of protecting the buildings," she added.

Other SSH board trustees elected were James Allen of Tinton Falls, Trudy Ditmars of Colts Neck, Balmer, George Moffatt of Oceanport, Rosemary Bagwell of Middletown, Tara Ryan Killeen of Highlands, and Patricia and Peter O’Such of Fair Haven.