Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. Wednesday released the following statement at the Gateway National Recreation Area's second of three open houses on the General Management Plan which took place at Brookdale Community College in Lincroft. Congressman Pallone has long been an advocate of maintaining and improving Sandy Hook Park. Preserving the historic buildings at Fort Hancock and preventing commercial uses of the buildings has also been a top priority, and according to Pallone past management of the park is the best example of how not to manage the park in the future.
In addition to improving Fort Hancock, Pallone has secured over one million dollars in funding to extend the multi-use path system throughout Sandy Hook Park to allow cyclists, in-line skaters and other pedestrians greater access to all parts of the park.
"I would like to thank the National Park Service for hosting this series of open houses on the General Management Plan (GMP) for Gateway National Recreational Area.
"Sandy Hook continues to face challenges and setting the direction of how the park will be managed over the next two decades will play a big part in how the National Park Service meets those challenges. One of my major concerns continues to be the protection and rehabilitation of Ft. Hancock. Ft. Hancock has been named a National Historic Landmark. It is not always the case that a community has an opportunity to utilize a historical landmark such as Ft. Hancock and I am committed to working with the National Park Service and the community to make certain that opportunity continues.
"The last 20 years have provided us with an example of how not to move forward. The large lease that was established for 36 of the buildings failed. While the irresponsible lessee allowed the valuable historical buildings to deteriorate, it was the local community's ability to enjoy the historic landmark that paid the unfortunate cost. Today we are faced with even greater damage to repair and the need for additional resources to fully restore the historic buildings. I believe the course forward should move away from large development plans like Sandy Hook Partners that encourage commercialization and towards a more efficient building by building rehabilitation strategy.
"As I have met with community members and visited Sandy Hook I have heard concerns over the current condition of Ft. Hancock and how restoration will be accomplished. I share many of these concerns and have been in contact with the director of the National Park Service. I have requested that an individual be appointed to concentrate on the rehabilitation of the historic Fort Hancock buildings. I believe that the appointment of an individual whose responsibilities include overseeing rehabilitation efforts at Fort Hancock and improvement projects at Sandy Hook will ensure future generations continue to enjoy the benefits of the park.
"I have also encouraged the National Park Service to move forward as soon as possible with restoration on a building-by-building basis. This approach will facilitate an efficient rehabilitation process that also allows the National Parks Service to engage organizations which will enhance the contributions the park makes to the local community.
"Through my years in Congress I have fought to provide Sandy Hook with resources to ensure that the public has a positive experience and can continue to enjoy the benefits the park has always provided. I have secured funding to build the multi-use path so patrons can go for a run or ride their bike through the park, funds to repair the historic gun batteries so tours can continue, and funds to restore the beaches so patrons can enjoy a day on the beach. I remain committed to fighting for the resources Sandy Hook needs.
"Once again, I thank the National Park Service for hosting these town halls. I look forward to seeing how community input shapes the final GMP. I also remain committed to working with the National Park Service as they continue to move forward in ensuring Sandy Hook benefits the public it was established to serve."