Recent comments

  • Appellate Court Upholds Lower Court Ruling on Development at Gateway National Recreation Area   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Water Witch

    Dear d-2:

    That’s more than a few questions, but I’ll do my best, and return to the issue if I leave it incomplete.

    You should understand that Mrs. Stanley/Coleman, who married Judge Coleman [retired from the NJ Superior Court] relatively recently, has long been active in local civic, political, and preservation issues. She was a founder and presently serves as President of the Monmouth Conservation Foundation. Her accomplishments are many, but in my view, and those of many active in support of “Sandy Hook” [as I will refer to the Sandy Hook Unit of the GNRA, including the Fort Hancock Historic District], her opposition to the restoration of Fort Hancock is not one of them.

    "My husband and I are the only ones giving money to Save Sandy Hook, unless we have an event," she said. "I'm not sure we can continue to support it alone.”

    I don’t claim that they alone are opposed; just that without their extreme advocacy the litigation that stalled progress would have been over a long time ago. She has been reported to have said that the best thing that could happen to the Fort buildings would be for them to fall down; apparently leaving the Hook to the terns, piping plovers, summer beach-goers, and British and Colonial Revolutionary soldiers' ghosts that inhabit it. The litigation that is now almost ended seems to have been geared only to that end. I disagree that they should be left to fall down. As Honor Graduate of a Vietnam-era Special Leadership Course at Fort Riley’s Noncommissioned Officers’ Academy [I was a draftee], who scrubbed the floors where Custer might have trod, I have a certain appreciation for the historic significance, and aesthetic integrity, of the Fort’s many buildings. Read Ms. Kreuzer’s article, and you may get some sense of it.

    Accepting that you agree that the best thing to do is preserve the buildings, as I do, the issue is really how to do so, and for what purpose. What may be unique here is the number of buildings involved in “the plan,” and the number already being put to use by the NPS and various not-for-profits. See the following from a July 9, 2004 NPS News Release:

    SHP will rehabilitate thirty-six of the one hundred buildings at Fort Hancock. The remaining sixty-four buildings will continue to be used by the NPS and by its existing government and non-profit park partners including the New Jersey Marine Science Consortium, Brookdale Community College and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Marine Fisheries Laboratory.

    In 1999, the NPS issued a request for proposals in an effort to halt the deterioration of buildings within a 140-acre portion of the 380-acre Fort. Twenty-two proposals were received and evaluated. SHP’s proposal was selected and an extensive assessment resulted in a finding of no significant impact on the 2,000-acre park from the proposed rehabilitation and re-use plan.

    In addition to Fort Hancock, the Sandy Hook Unit of Gateway National Recreation Area features some 2,000 acres of beautiful beaches and wildlife areas and hosts two and one half million visitors a year.

    Rutgers University’s Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences and Brookdale Community College are expected to expand on their marine/environmental science programs in the restored buildings, and other tenants are still being sought. But there’s not enough demand by tenants like these to take up all of the buildings, so, in my view, the Wassell plan offers the best solution.

    The major local paper, the Asbury Park Press, has taken a strong position against the project at the editorial level, although various staff writers on the subject and other smaller papers have been somewhat more balanced. The Press did give a full ½ page to my comment on the legal issues, Park Service Followed Laws on Fort Hancock Lease, on November 21, 2007, but I don’t know how to park a JPG file somewhere and link you to it. If you’re interested, you may be able to pull it from their archives, although it does look much better with the picture that they added. That comment, to which your knowledge of the NPS and various enabling legislation might cause you to take exception, was based on my experience as a practitioner in the field of administrative law. My particular specialty is Customs & International Trade, but many of the principles are identical; enough so that I knew, with a somewhat limited knowledge of the underlying facts and proceedings, that the lawsuit had virtually no chance of success from the beginning. I make my living suing or otherwise opposing the United States and various of its officials, and I know the abuses, or misuses, to which the law can be put. Read Judge Cooper’s opinion, and you’ll wonder why they started, if it wasn't for delay.

    The local Congressman, Frank Pallone, was originally in favor of a restoration plan other than Wassell’s, that included new hotels and other structures. [one of the bases for the NPS’s choice of Wassell was no new construction] I even have a clipping somewhere with a picture of him standing in fron of an easel displaying the plan. You are far more dialed into NPS funding and the Washington scene than I am, so perhaps you can answer his role and other funding questions on your own. Pallone's flip from support to opposition doesn’t seem to have any logical cause, and his call for investigation where others have been held and found baseless would seem to be mere pandering. Obviously funding depends on leases, and leases depend on people having some assurance that they're going to be able to move in, so nobody except someone like Donald Trump is going to able to "front" the money. Do we want Donald? Despite the fact that she’s a Republican and he a Democrat, Pallone's switch could be based on some arm twisting by Mrs. Stanley/Coleman, who has over time had some considerable local political power. I leave conjecture on backroom deals to others.

    Access to the buildings is obviously going to depend on the use to which they are put. I took an oceanography course in one of them, although that's one that's not covered by the lease, and have been to the Theater [now much improved] and the Chapel. A restaurant in the mess hall, a B&B in one of the Officer’s Row houses, the Gym, the Theater, etc., will be “open” to the public, at a cost commensurate with the nature of their use. You surmise that my position is “based entirely on the idea that NPS has never opened many of these NHL buildings to the public, so nothing is being lost.” Not true; although I DO believe that it would be better to see them restored and landscaped as some sort of historical “exhibit,” rather than falling down, even if the interiors were to be entirely unavailable. The Parade Ground is a magnificent spot for picnicking or recreation; the walkways are great for hiking through [and there’s a new bike path the length of the Hook, paid for by NPS]; and all of this would be enhanced by a restoration.

    Neither the NPS nor the DOD saw fit to do much to support a public discussion of the merits of the plan, much to the consternation of the Sandy Hook Foundation, the official friends organization for the Sandy Hook Unit. Considering the substantial efforts expended [and money raised] by them to support Sandy Hook, which generates income that is “siphoned away” for other units within the Area, there is some feeling that they would be better off if Sandy Hook were its own NRA. Again, your knowledge of NPS financing would help you to understand this better than I.

    Although I am not privy to, or familiar with, the complete background on early efforts, it would seem to me that individual leasing and restoration of the 36 buildings, in addition to placing tremendous burdens on the NPS in having to undertake functions for which they may not be well suited, could have led to nightmare consequences, and tremendous multiplication of costs. I have seen the documentation on the Sandy Hook Foundation’s restoration of the Lighthouse Keepers’ Quarters, and between the DOI and the NJ SHPO, it’s frightening.

    Before I close, at least for the moment, I should advise that I sit on the advisory board to SHP, along with the Chairman of the Township’s Landmarks Commission; a Trustee of the NJ Conservation Foundation and former Vice-President of the Monmouth Conservation Foundation [of which Mrs. Stanley Coleman is President]; the President of the Sandy Hook Foundation; and the President of the Twin Lights Foundation [the closest other National Register Landmark]. [I have far lesser qualifications than these other people, but have been the long-time President of Monmouth Hills, Inc., the governing body for the landmarked 1895 Water Witch Club Historic District, which sits in the "Highlands of the Navesink," overlooking Sandy Hook]. All of these people, many of whom have labored for years to support Sandy Hook, are fully in favor of the plan. Like me, they all feel that it would be better if the government had stepped in years ago to restore these buildings. But unlike a lodge, or limited number of structures, there are simply too many, requiring too much money. Each one individually may not be much, but collectively, even now, they’re a knockout . . . at least to an old infantryman and mortarman. Restoration of the 19th century mortar battery, at a cost of over $1 million, is next on the Foundation's list. Do you wonder why I'm a supporter?

    If I’ve ducked any of your questions, come back and I’ll try to do better.

  • Steamtown National Historic Site Schedules Leaf Peeper Excursions in the Poconos   6 years 2 weeks ago

    I almost grew up in Steamtown when it was in Bellows Falls. I used to climb all over the trains, my father has endless hours of 8mm film of trains. I've yet to make it to the "new" location but my father just returned from a trip there. As a steam fanatic he will go again and maybe I'll make a weekend trip there sometime but he claims that the National Historic Site is a pale shadow of the Vermont attraction. While Bellows falls was a gorgeous location (right on the Connecticut River (remember the Steam Launch?)) I understand the collection in Scranton does not compare to what was in Vermont. If the National Park Service is going to do a Steam Train museum then do it right. (How about a Smithsonian Steam Train Museum?).

  • Crews Remove Garbage From Marijuana Farms in Sequoia National Park   6 years 2 weeks ago

    New British Report: Cannabis Less Harmful Than Drinking, Smoking Tobacco

    I second Beamis' sentiments, and always have. Government should have no right over what I do with my body. Period.

  • Steamtown National Historic Site Schedules Leaf Peeper Excursions in the Poconos   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Ouch! Does Scranton really look that bad from the outside? Seriously...Jersey City? We can't possibly be worse than that. It's not as hip as some places, but it's trying.

  • Updated: Groups Claim Yellowstone National Park Officials Abdicating Responsibility Over Snowmobile Access Issue   6 years 2 weeks ago

    "The Park Service is asking Congress to manage the park and publicly telling they public they are going to shut down the park," says Kristen Brengel, who long has monitored the snowmobile issue for The Wilderness Society. "Basically they are saying they can’t do their jobs. They can’t manage and they can’t figure out how to allow the public in through their own authority.

    "...“This is purely political. They continue to debate what’s in Judge Sullivan’s ruling” rather than developing a plan that lives up to that ruling, she added.

    From what I've seen in the CHNSRA this summer, this seems to be the case throughout much of the NPS. This situation is strikingly similar to the ORV access issue in Cape Hatteras in many aspects. I applaud all sides for the revisiting of this issue. I only wish more open minds existed in the case of ORV access in the CHNSRA.

    With the snowcoaches and snowmobiles riding on the same roadbeds that millions of vehicles traverse during the non-snow covered months, how much impact can a few hundred of each of these types of vehicles truly have, especially when guided by the NPS Rangers? What are the daily numbers of autos allowed in, in comparison?

    It would seem that a balance could easily be reached through negotiations and further study. Not through lawsuits and congressional meddling.

  • North Cascades National Park – Forty Years on the Map, Seventy Years in the Making   6 years 2 weeks ago

    It's a little tangential, but North Cascades was incredibly influential on the life and work of Jack Kerouac (before it was a National Park). His book "The Dharma Bums" ends with him heading up to a mountain peak in the North Cascades to serve as a summer fire lookout, and the first third of his book "Desolation Angels" is an incredible meditation on the months he spent alone on that mountaintop. Anyway, just a small footnote to this interesting and well-researched history of the park.

  • North Cascades National Park – Forty Years on the Map, Seventy Years in the Making   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Suppose I will have to forgive you (being that you are not from these parts :-)) for not mentioning my hero Harvey Manning who was one of the most influential and outspoken advocates in the fight to preserve and establish Our North Cascades National Park.
    WWHD

  • Brucellosis Solution: Kill All Elk and Bison in Yellowstone National Park   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Not to mention, when we are killing all these elk and bison, what exactly are the bears, wolves, mountain lions, eagles and coyotes going to be eating? My guess would be cattle. Then the demand will come up: we must kill all the predators! Soon the greatest intact temperate ecosystem remaining in North America will be no more. Only a memory. A story to tell our grandchildren. Yellowstone will stand, much like the Monument Geyser Basin, as a great shadow of what once was. Slowly the economies of three states will start to dry up, as hunters, wildlife watchers and photographers will no longer swarm to Yellowstone with their millions of eco-tourist dollars. Some will still come for Old Faithful, but for most people facing ever increasing travel costs, Yellowstone will just be another of many pretty places, one that is somewhat out of the way.
    Every year they slaughter hundreds of bison that leave the park and send the meat off to food banks and Native Americans WITHOUT TESTING IT! This shows clearly just how big a danger to humans brucellosis really is in the modern world (not very). There is a logical solution to this problem. It lies with APHIS and in changing their antiquated, outdated rules.
    Regarding Yellowstone herds being too large: I spent a couple days in the Tetons recently. On my way down there (and back) I drove from the north gate of Yellowstone to the south (early AM on the way down, late afternoon/evening on the way back). With the exception of a dozen or so elk in among the buildings in Mammoth, I saw a grand total of six bison (down and back...4 and 2). That's it..total wildlife. In the Tetons I saw about 2-300 bison, several herds of elk, 6 moose, one grizzly bear, one beaver, three bald eagles and a herd of pronghorn. I spoke with an outfitter I ran into down there (eco-tourism) and he told me that they no longer even offer wildlife tours of Yellowstone anymore, because they can't find any wildlife to show their clients. All such tours are now in the Tetons, he said.
    As for bison hunting: Montana already has bison hunting. Now all we need is year around bison HABITAT. Then we can actually have bison to hunt, in a legitimate, fair chase. Not a stand-on-the-border-of the-park-and-shoot-any-animal-that-crosses-the-line-looking-for-food-not buried-under-the-ice-hunt.

  • Apostle Islands National Lakeshore Not Immune to Bear Problems   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Vince,

    Rangers do have the authority to issue warnings and citations, but they pretty much have to catch the violations in action. It is unfortunate that this bear managed to find a human-provided buffet, and you'd think rangers would be able to figure out who left the Spam behind.

    The obvious question now is what is the lakeshore planning to do with the bear? Destroy it or relocate it? If I can find out, I'll pass it on.

  • Apostle Islands National Lakeshore Not Immune to Bear Problems   6 years 2 weeks ago

    people or bear problem the damage is already done. They closed the island they say ,so are they patrolling 24 hours to stop boaters from just dropping in? It's unfortunate but if the bear is backing trained wildlife mangers into outhouses what are the chances that some boating day tripper won't trigger an attack? I think that this animals future is in serious jeopardy. They always say don't feed the bears but i wonder do the rangers have the power to fine people that they catch doing it?

  • Crews Remove Garbage From Marijuana Farms in Sequoia National Park   6 years 2 weeks ago

    So moonshining wouldn't offend you, since distilled spirits are legal? Besides, hard liquor is so much less deleterious to ones health and well being than the evil weed. Right?

    The simple fact is that if marijuana was legal these clandestine fields would not be cropping up (pardon the pun) on any of our public lands. Instead hemp and cannibis sativa would carpet the fruited plain from Hawaii to Virginia.

    The government, drug trading criminals and high finance all have a vested stake in keeping so-called "controlled" substances illegal. Their status as forbidden contraband reaps enormous profit and helps keep our current police state running along like a well oiled machine. The drug war is the wellspring of modern totalitarianism in the Western world.

    I suggest y'all wake up and smell the kine bud dude. Weed is way safer than a 12-pack of Miller High Life and much less filling.

    What an individual decides to put into one's own body is not something that is the business of government. Never was and never will be.

  • Apostle Islands National Lakeshore Not Immune to Bear Problems   6 years 2 weeks ago

    Sounds like you have a people problem, more than a bear problem. Where did he get the Spam?

  • Steamtown National Historic Site Schedules Leaf Peeper Excursions in the Poconos   6 years 2 weeks ago

    It's barely noticed because there are many other far more interesting and compelling places that tourists can visit than this drab corner of the formerly industrial Northeast. Empty factories and forlorn streets full of shuttered businesses might catch the notice of a black & white photographer looking for ample subject matter but beyond that this area is about as enticing as a cloudy day in Jersey City.

  • Uranium Exploratory Drilling Near Grand Canyon National Park is Halted Pending a Full Environmental Review   6 years 2 weeks ago

    To get a taste of the "Life and times" of this era of mining the S. Rim you might enjoy a personalize iMovie on Youtube.com/user/designsbydianne
    The book "Grand Canyon Orphan Mine" provides a look into the underground mining and the community life during the 50's and 60's. Written by the former "Orphan" Mine Supervisor, Maurice Castagne, P.E., who thought it important to preserve the history of this unique mine and the treasurable times we all experienced! Maybe they can clean up around it and leave it as historical land mark since its been there over 50 yrs. now. By the way Maurice, my dad is still alive, he's 83! Doing Great!

  • Crews Remove Garbage From Marijuana Farms in Sequoia National Park   6 years 3 weeks ago

    Growing marijuana in a national forest is a total lack of consideration, the last time I checked marijuana was actually an illegal drug, these guys had a lot of nerve to do that. It makes you think about what they are really capable of. On the other hand people don't really perceive marijuana as a dangerous drug, it is actually the most common illegal drug in US, this is ignorance in my opinion, if you are unsure about real marijuana effect you can always check a drug rehabilitation as the ultimate reference.

  • Are There Really 391 Units in the National Park System? You Won’t Think So After You Read This!   6 years 3 weeks ago

    Not to be picky but....for #7, correct spelling: Frederick Douglass. We're used to having to correct.

    [Ed. Nice catch; it's been fixed.]

  • Steamtown National Historic Site Schedules Leaf Peeper Excursions in the Poconos   6 years 3 weeks ago

    Northeast PA, specifically Scranton, has been known lately more for being the hometowns of Biden and Clinton and maybe for "The Office," but once upon a time Steamtown was it's claim to fame. As a local, I can see something needs to be done with Steamtown...it's a sad site, and very pathetic how it's barely noticed anymore. Maybe some successful leaf peeper excursions will revive the floundering historical site. Get out on that train, folks!!!!

  • Singer Dolly Parton Named Ambassador for Great Smoky Mountains National Park's Anniversary   6 years 3 weeks ago

    Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. I have always loved Dolly Parton's genuineness and coming from the heart her whole life. What a wonderful pick and a perfect choice. How many artists would write an entire album and donate the rights to a National Park? Beautiful. Even though it may be a few years before I can visit the area, I will get these wonderful souvenirs now!

  • Young Panther is Killed Crossing a Road in Everglades National Park   6 years 3 weeks ago

    Vehicle collisions...are the leading causes of panther deaths. At least several panthers are killed on south Florida roads each year.

    Sounds like cars are far more lethal to endangered species and wildlife than concealed weapons. How come I don't hear anyone calling for cars to be banned in parks?

  • How Far Should National Park Rangers Go To Safeguard Your Life?   6 years 3 weeks ago

    George summed up a key to many visitor incidents when he noted, "Despite all the warnings and instructional material about the dangers in the parks, we still have visitors recklessly approaching wildlife, climbing over barriers to the edge of cliffs and bluffs, and ignoring other danger signs." Those attitudes also relate to the previous post about life jackets and education. If they prove to be successful, programs which would encourage increased use of safety devices such as life jackets would certainly be a plus. As always, it comes down to priorities for limited funds and personnel. Does a park like Indiana Dunes cut back on lifeguards, rangers or some other activity to fund safety education, and hope for the best? Not an easy answer.

    I spent quite a few years at parks with heavy water-based activity, including Lake Mead, Buffalo River and Big Thicket, and it was an uphill battle to convince people to wear life jackets, even when conditions were clearly less than ideal. Looking back, I'd agree that more time spent on proactive safety education programs would have been a plus, but the reality is that most of the time we were just trying to deal with "the tyranny of the urgent."

    As an example, at Lake Mead I worked at an area that was quite busy 7 days a week about 7 months out of the year, and on weekends year-round. We had 2 rangers available for a "sub-district" covering a huge piece of real estate. That meant if we were lucky enough to get in our 2 days off duty each week, there were 4 days of the week with only 1 ranger on duty to cover the full 24 hour shift; on busy weekend days, we each worked either an early or late shift. When the "train got off the track," the nearest help from other rangers was 30 miles and 45 minutes away - if we were lucky. I hope that doesn't sound like whining - we didn't, we just hung in there and did the best we could. I'm afraid that in some (most?) parks, things haven't changed a lot in terms of available staffing.

    A couple of posters commented about the ranger's job being to "protect the parks from the people." That's certainly a key role - and a challenging one. When I started my NPS career way back in 1971, I was taught that the "protection" aspect of a ranger's job had three main elements: protect the park from people, people from the park, and people from each other. All three certainly continue to occupy a lot of a park employee's time and energy.

  • How Far Should National Park Rangers Go To Safeguard Your Life?   6 years 3 weeks ago


    Excellent comment, wise words Mr. Anoymous.

    At the same time, life guards also have a place, and can warn the public in the event of riptids or particularly dangerous surf. Some public high-use beaches should have life guards, and parks should not have to choose between resource protection projects and an appropriate level of life guards.

    But on the big picture, Mr. Anoymous, you've nailed it. Parks and protected places should provide education programs for people to learn how to conduct themselves in the nature.

  • How Far Should National Park Rangers Go To Safeguard Your Life?   6 years 3 weeks ago

    Until the National Park Service addresses the over arching questions "why don't visitors do what they know they should do" it will continue to struggle with visitor use management. Yes, the National Park Service mission is as much about managing the visitor as it is the resources. Understanding human behavior and treating the public like adults is an answer. If the park service continues to react to the accident, not look at what led to the accident, then the accidents will continue to happen. When people enter National Parks there is a sense that they will be taken care of. If they understood that dangers exist they would be more inclined to prepare themselves for it. Drowning statistics in National Parks are staggering. For the most part visitors who drown in National Park Sites do so because they failed to wear a life jacket. Yes, life jackets do save lives. If boaters/swimmers understood that choosing not to wear one increased the likely hood of drowning oh say by 99.9% they might consider putting one on. When a person gets "in trouble" in the water it is a life or death situation that must be dealt with immediately. Being a good swimmer in a pool does not convert to open water. In open water you cannot swim to the edge of the pool or bounce off of the bottom. Only people who have trained themselves to deal with the threat of drowning have a small chance to survive. The general population do not train themselves to survive a drowning event. The stress that overtakes their body and mind prohibits them from making rational decision; their brains are shut off, as demonstrated by the thrashing around in the water that takes place prior to sinking under. Don't hire more life guards, partner with organizations that teach water safety, establish life jacket loaner or give away programs and teach the public to take care of themselves. Oh and by the way, this will decrease the amount of risk Park Personnel assume because someone decided not to wear a life jacket and let them get back to the business at hand, protecting the parks from the people.

  • Appellate Court Upholds Lower Court Ruling on Development at Gateway National Recreation Area   6 years 3 weeks ago

    Dear Water Witch:

    Please clarify by just answering a few specific questions, relating to your rebuttal. It is important for us to understand if your comments are balanced and take all facts into account, or if you are just an advocate of the developer and opponent of the Colemans.

    [First, please be assured that I think, and other historic preservationists think, that the private use of these structures via Wassel's proposal was, and is, the best proposal on the table. I also think you are right on with the dock issue. BUT whether this is a good or bad precedent to the ENTIRE NATIONAL PARK SYSTEM is the troubling issue.] OK, here are a few clarifying questions, since you seem to know the details of this project pretty well, I am sure you can give us direct answers:

    1) On the idea that the Coleman's on on their own and represent only a personal vendetta: a) can you tell us the editorial position of the local paper on this issue? b) what is the position of the local US congressman on thiis issue? Has that congressman, outside this issue, generally voted for NPS budgets in the past? c) at the public hearing the Congressman arranged at the park, at which the coleman's spoke, are you really saying that only they in that room opposed the Wassel plan, and that the entire sentiment supported the NPS and Wassel?? d) If you believe the Coleman's are own their own with no public support, why in the world would the Congressman and the local paper be carrying their water on this?

    2) You make a large point about the public access to the buildings. a) will every building identified as a 'contributing structure' in the National Historic Landmark be open to public visits? b) or, will some of the restored buildings function pretty much as a high-tech industrial park: ie: offices, CLOSED to public visits? c) Is the Ft. Hancock National Historic Landmark specifically cited in the authorizing legislation for Gateway NRA as a primary park resource, and a reason for the establishment of the Nat. Recreation Area?

    3) Has the NPS requested the funding from Congress to restore these structures using NPS construction funds, rather than or before seeking private dollars to turn them over to private development?

    4) You say that "even if the NPS could find the money to restore these buildings, it couldn't come up with better uses for them than Mr. Wassell has." My understanding is: NPS never offered that alternative to the public, but would have required any not-for-profit to cover the cost of restoration and pay market-based leasing costs. a) Are you saying that if the NPS HAD restored these buildings FIRST and THEN issued an RFP for ideas for appropriate uses consistent with park purposes or educational program, you are convinced NO GOOD IDEAS for exciting uses, consistent with park purposes, could ever have been imagined or proposed? Is it not true that local universities and environmental groups had attempted to explore with the NPS some public use of these building, but because the NPS would require them to pay for restoration and a market lease, that attempt failed?

    b) Is it true that in the 1970's the NPS budget office came up with a list of 4,000 historic structures, including iconic lodges at Yellowstone and Glacier, that would have to be bulldozed because NPS lacked the money, presented that list to Congress, and ultimately, didn't Congress find a way to fund all those projects, rather than bulldoze them? Why was the NPS willing to pressure Congress then, but Sandy Hook was not?
    c) Do you agree Sandy Hook has a reputation of being neglected by the management of Gateway NRA, who live and work in New York, and who make the New Jersey segment a low priority? Do you think that if Sandy Hook were an independent NRA with its own independent superintendent, that there WOULD have been a funding request for Ft. Hancock? Do you think the reason Gateway does not request funds for Sandy Hook is because this big conglomerate is making the New York projects the priorities instead?

    Although there is no specific mandate in the Gateway law to protect as historic structures Floyd Bennett field or other parts of the Jamaica Bay, NY, part of Gateway, hasn't a lot more money been spent their, than on these NATIONAL LANDMARK structures in Sandy Hook??

    [Here is what the Gateway law says, plain English: "In the Sandy Hook . . .Units, the Secretary shall inventory and evaluate all sites and structures having present and potential historical, cultural, or architectural significance AND SHALL PROVIDE for appropriate programs for the preservation, restoration, interpretation, AND UTILIZATION OF THEM." Development advocates get out from under this mandate by the historic leasing law, that permits, but obviously conflicts with, the intent of the Act of 1916]

    In the absence of your answers, it seems to me your case is based entirely on the idea that NPS has never opened many of these NHL buildings to the public, so nothing is being lost. It seems to me you are avoiding the question that the purpose of parks is both to protect a site and provide for their use by the public.

    It seems to me conscientious people would agree it is vital that the NPS seek congressional approval for this, and acknowledge it as an exception to appropriate policy, for unique reasons. Otherwise you will see more and more privitization, for exactly this justification, on primary park resources throughout the country.

    If NPS was not going to ask for the money, it could at least have asked for congressional authority for this lease, to prevent this very dangerous precedent. I think if NPS is straight about all this, and less adversarial, it would do better with its proposal.

  • Appellate Court Upholds Lower Court Ruling on Development at Gateway National Recreation Area   6 years 3 weeks ago

    The debate on Fort Hancock has included much comment on “using historic leases to displace public use of prime park assets” which, in the case of the Fort, is completely wrong. The grounds of Fort Hancock have been, and will continue to be, freely used by the public. The 60 buildings subject to the lease have not been used by anyone for more than 30 years, and have been left to deteriorate because of a lack of sufficient funds, even for basic maintenance. As Barky and MRC have correctly stated, using Fort Hancock as an example in the debate over “privatization” of the parks is a mistake. It displays a lack of knowledge of the physical nature of the Fort, how it fits into Sandy Hook as a whole, and what its use has been heretofore and will be under the restoration plan.

    If you turn to Kurt’s article of June 30, 2007 [sorry that I’m not good on links] you will see that the Fort covers only a small fraction of Sandy Hook. His brief item of July 11, 2007 will take you to Terese Loeb Kreuzer’s July 10, 2007 report of a day-trip using the ferry service from New York. This article is particularly informative, covering the Fort as well as Sandy Hook as a whole. Ms. Kreuzer’s visit itself points out Kurt’s error in stating that “the NPS would spend $2.2 million on a new dock so he [the developer] could ferry conferees over to Fort Hancock from Manhattan.” I believe, and could be wrong, that the amounts already allocated for this facility come from transportation funds and not the NPS. But more importantly, this dock is not something new, but a replacement for the rickety wooden structure that now serves the ferries on which Ms. Kreuzer traveled, nearly all of whose passengers are headed for the beaches, and not Fort Hancock. There are plenty of beaches at Sandy Hook, but limited parking. Park goers, after a long drive, must often be turned away before noon on summer weekends as the lots fill. If memory serves, ferry trips roughly doubled from 2006 to 2007, from 6,000 to 12,000. A rebuilt dock will facilitate this service and allow more people to use the beaches on weekends, in addition to providing an alternative to the automobile for future visitors to, or employees of, Fort Hancock. Many local residents now use these ferries to commute to or visit New York. What’s wrong with traveling the other way? Are we now against public transportation?

    At least Kurt didn’t have the temerity to call Save Sandy Hook a “grass-roots” organization. I can’t do any better than a commenter on the local newspaper’s report of the 3rd Circuit’s decision:

    SSH claims to be a “grass roots” environmental org.

    Its address is Judith & Stanley [sic] Coleman’s giant house situated on an environmentally fragile bluff overlooking the Navesink River.

    Their house & landscaping must cause erosion of the bluff and some runoff from their property must make it’s way into the Navesink.

    Their carbon footprint must be significant too!

    Some “grass roots” Environmental Org!

    This opposition has been virtually a personal vendetta, funded by the Colemans. They had no case from the beginning, as Judge Cooper so ably demonstrated in her opinion. Their continuing to drag it out over five years, and more, would seem to have been motivated solely by a wish to kill the project, and the buildings, through delay. All that will have been accomplished is making restoration much more expensive.

    Readers should recognize that all of Sandy Hook is now open to the public, with the exception of the Coast Guard installation on the bay side. Some of the buildings also are, including the restored Lighthouse and Keepers’ Quarters, which saw 17,000 visitors last season. Visit the Sandy Hook website, or that of the Sandy Hook Foundation, where you can link to the Winter 2007 edition of their newsletter, the Sand Paper. It describes jitney service through the Park, including the Fort.

    Visit the Fort Hancock Museum, Battery Potter, and History House, a restored home on Officers' Row. The Sandy Hook Lighthouse, Keepers' Quarters and Barn tell the story of the lonely life of a sentinel of the sea. Most sites are open weekends with extended summer hours.

    The Sand Paper also contains several before and after pictures of the Fort’s 1941 Chapel. Restored, it has become popular for weddings and other local functions. Or visit the developer’s website, the Fort at Sandy Hook, to see their plans for the rest of the Fort. The theater as restored by them is also now available for use, both under long-time arrangements that the NPS has had with some local groups, and for new scheduling by the lessee. One can denigrate these uses as “commercial,” but I will gladly pay the price of a theater ticket to enjoy that facility, and have last year and this coughed up contributions to the Fort Foundation for Arts and Education, and seen exhibitions in the Chapel. If I knew how, I’d link you to a color picture of the interior . . . it’s a beautiful job. All done pursuant to the Department of the Interior’s guidelines for historic preservation, and the even stricter ones of the New Jersey State Historic Preservation Office.

    In sum, the restoration of Fort Hancock will not shut out the public; it will open it to far more, and more enjoyable, use. If you have to pay for a hamburger in the Mule Barn, so did the WWII soldiers who used it as an Enlisted Mens Club. And if access to a former barracks converted to classrooms, offices, and laboratories for Rutgers University is limited, so is it for such facilities at their New Brunswick campus. The Wassell plan was the only one that offered to retain and restore all of these buildings as a unified whole, adding no new construction. The gym stays a gym; the bakery stays a bakery [or a kitchen]; offices stay offices; residences stay residences. The specific use of each building is subject to approval by the NPS. And if the many thousands of soldiers that populated the Fort in its heyday are gone, I will be glad to see them replaced 24/7 by hundreds, or thousands, of civilians, coming and going in these buildings, with their windows sparkling out over the water at night. Far better that than to watch these buildings slowly deteriorate, as I have for 30 years. I live here, and probably know Fort Hancock and the issues involved better than most who have commented. I can appreciate the debate on NPS funding, and in fact wholeheartedly agree with Kurt and others on it, but take it somewhere else. It doesn’t apply here, because even if the NPS could find the money to restore these buildings, it couldn’t come up with better uses for them than Mr. Wassell has.

  • Are There Really 391 Units in the National Park System? You Won’t Think So After You Read This!   6 years 3 weeks ago

    Add one more category: Homestead National Monument of America. The only "National Monument of America'"