The National Park Service is seeking public comment on revising its general management plan for Gateway National Recreation Area (Gateway) to guide the park for the next 20 years.  In NJ, Gateway includes the Sandy Hook unit.  There are three concepts being offered for consideration.  Each of these concepts has a component of historic preservation.

In the way of background, approximately 10 years have been wasted by the NPS in their failed attempt to lease 36 building in Fort Hancock to a developer who sought to sublease these building to private businesses.  Had this plan succeeded many of these building and outdoor areas surrounding them would have been restricted from public use.  It would also have resulted in increased commercial truck traffic throughout the peninsula, noise from commercial air conditioning systems permeating the parade grounds in summer months, loss of parking for recreational areas near the Fort and so on.  These are impacts that would be of concern if they were to occur anywhere, but should be of greater concern since they would be occurring in a park.  And in this case, Sandy Hook is one of the only stretches of publicly owned, non-commercial oceanfront land on left on the Jersey shore.

There is another important impact that would be felt in the nearby communities if private commercial development is permitted on Sandy Hook since local property taxes are not assessed on federal lands.  Commercial property owners would be competing to attract businesses to communities where property taxes will add to the cost of a lease.  This creates an advantage for leases on national park property.  The result is that the public loses in all respects -- restricted public use, diminished park quality, and loss of revenues in our towns.

The NPS is seeking your comments through January 31, 2011.  Let your thoughts be known.  Your comments can be made at: www.parkplanning.nps.gov/ by clicking on Gateway NRA and then General Management Plan.  Let them know proposing another plan to privatize Sandy Hook is not the way to go.

Preserving our history is extremely important, but it should and can be done in a manner that doesn’t jeopardize other interests such as recreation.  The manner in which we choose to preserve history must not -- in turn -- diminish the rationale for it in the first place.  If a corporate park is created in a national park in order to preserve history, the history that we hoped would be conveyed by those efforts will be for naught.

 

Stephen Szulecki

Highlands, NJ