One and a half years have passed since the National Park Service last held General Management Planning (GMP) meetings concerning the future of Sandy Hook, which produced nothing, except criticism from the public for the 3 day, secret/closed meeting conducted at National Park Headquarters at Ft. Hancock. What was discussed and / or decided at this secret meeting was never revealed by the NPS. When pressured by the news media and the public, the NPS said they would issue guidance and a report on the secret meetings proceedings in August of 2011. This never happened! Surprise-business as usual for the NPS.
However, according to John Warren, the NPS Public Information Officer for Gateway National Recreation Area, the results of the secret/closed 3 day meeting held in January 2011, were “integrated into all the other comments” received from the prior GMP meetings.
I have to hand it to the NPS, I could not conceive of a better ploy to conceal what was the outcome of the secret meeting. It was reminiscent of Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Purloined Letter.” Doing so made it virtually impossible to discern the Government/NPS views from the public’s comments/recommendations.
Despite the current round of GMP meetings, the National Park Service continues to ignore what may be the most important aspect of the excess buildings at Gateway National Recreation Area, particularly those here at Ft. Hancock at Sandy Hook. The Government program for out-leasing excess government buildings to private entities, especially commercial businesses, for the purpose of the Government receiving rent, conflicts with existing law and National Park Service regulations. Under NPS statutes and implementing regulations, the only commercial ventures allowed on National Park land are those that enhance the recreational experience of park patrons.
This legal conflict concerning the use of the public’s National Park property cannot be ignored. It must be addressed, and resolved, prior to proceeding with any such future program involving National Park Property.
As for the DOI announced establishment of Gateway National Recreation Area Fort Hancock 21st Century Advisory Committee, how will it impact the GMP for Sandy Hook Unit, if at all?
Please note: White House approval of said committee does not make it the law of the land. The White House cannot even get a budget passed, so why should White House backing of said committee have any real import/prominent role in formulating plans for Ft. Hancock? The legal conflict still exists.
I look forward to seeing the NPS solve this dilemma.
Peter P. O’Such, Jr.
Fair Haven, NJ