ft hancock porch preservation skillsMIDDLETOWN, NJ —On Friday, April 22, representatives of Gateway National Recreation Area, New Jersey Youth Corps of Phillipsburg (NJYC), and The Corps Network will cut the ribbon on a new porch for Building 26, the headquarters for Gateway’s Sandy Hook Unit in Middletown. The ceremony will begin at 11 A.M.

Many of the historic building’s porches at the Fort Hancock and Sandy Hook Proving Ground National Historic Landmark were severely destabilized by Hurricane Sandy. Repairs to the porch of the Sandy Hook Unit’s Post Headquarters, however, were delayed as the park began planning for restoration of buildings needed for day-to-day visitor operations.

The work to carefully reconstruct the porch of Building 26 was made possible by the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s HOPE Crew, which stands for Hands-On Preservation Experience. In partnership with The Corps Network, this program trains young people in preservation crafts while helping to protect historic cultural sites on public lands across the country. At Sandy Hook, HOPE Crew partnered with NJYC Phillipsburg, a member of The Corps Network, the national organization of service and youth conservation corps. NJYC, which is funded through a grant from the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development. NJYC Phillipsburg takes on young adults who have dropped out of high school so that they can learn job skills and make better choices in life. The project earned NJYC Phillipsburg the ‘National Project of the Year Award’ from The Corps Network.

“HOPE Crew was pleased to give young people the opportunity to gain new technical skills and experience in preservation, while helping make the headquarters building safe and accessible to the public once again,” said Monica Rhodes, Associate Director of the HOPE Crew program.

Despite the distance from their home in Warren County, the group largely finished the porch before winter. The project was a break from NJYC Phillipsburg’s normal routine of trail maintenance and landscaping projects – as well as a considerable distance from their home in Warren County. Other than building picnic tables and benches, NJYC staff had limited experience with construction or wood working, so the demand of meeting historic preservation standards was daunting at first. “We were challenged both physically and mentally,” said Michael Muckle, Director of NJYC Phillipsburg. “We learned about historic preservation and about the region in which we were working. We also learned about ourselves and what we were capable of achieving.” Three Corpsmembers obtained their high school diplomas while engaged in the project, citing the work they performed as having been directly beneficial.

Pete McCarthy, Unit Coordinator of Gateway’s Sandy Hook Unit, concurred. “This pilot project shows that, given the time, materials and mentoring, we can indeed move our stewardship efforts forward in Sandy Hook and have a new generation of preservationists lead the way.”

Sandy Hook Unit has historic buildings available for lease. For more information, visit https://www.nps.gov/gate/learn/management/fort-hancock-rolling-rfp.htm.