Fort’s recreational areas must remain public

There was a time, before the tragic events of 9/11, when the general public could enjoy some of Fort Monmouth’s recreational facilities.

As the Army now prepares to close the fort, Monmouth County and three towns have proposed that most of the recreational, open space and environmentally fragile areas be turned over to the county park system.

The members of the Jersey Shore Group of the Sierra Club support this plan because it ensures that critical and irreplaceable recreational and environmental open spaces and facilities are not lost when the fort closes.

The three towns – Eatontown, Oceanport and Tinton Falls — and the county note that the fort’s current 7,500 civilian employees may either remain in the area or move with their jobs and be replaced by new families who buy their homes.

However the population shifts, there still will be more than 20,000 people in the area whose recreational needs will need to be met.

Rather than let the fort’s recreational facilities shut down, creating a net reduction of recreational and open space in the county, the proposal calls for about 315 acres of surplus property to be deeded to the county park system under the federal “Lands to Parks Program.” Some of the areas would be operated cooperatively with the three towns.

At stake are 35 acres in the Charles Wood area of Tinton Falls, which includes a youth center and gymnasium, an outdoor pool and a picnic area. Another 135 acres in Oceanport and Eatontown include a fitness center with a gymnasium, swimming pool, handball courts and other facilities; a football complex, including a field, running track, bleachers and other structures; Lane Hall and an adjacent field area; and two picnic areas. A third area of 46 acres includes a 20-lane bowling alley and two baseball fields.

In addition to preserving these 315 acres and recreational facilities as public lands, the county proposal suggests that the 135-acre 18-hole golf course and clubhouse in Eatontown be sold with either a development easement or deed restriction to ensure that it continues operating as a golf course in perpetuity. The proposal also suggests a 70-slip marina on Oceanport Creek should be sold with the same use restrictions.

All these facilities would be open to the general public.

This proposal will go a long way toward ensuring that Monmouth County, with a population of 645,350, or 1,300 people per square mile, will meet its goal of having 7 percent of its developable land – 19,100 acres – preserved by the county for public recreation. At present, the county is 6,300 acres shy of that goal. Some experts estimate all the remaining developable land in the county will be built up within seven years. Faced with such unprecedented growth, we can’t afford to lose the recreational facilities we now have – especially since we taxpayers have already paid for them.

Dennis Anderson



Jersey Shore Group, NJ Chapter

Sierra Club