Gateway Improvements Under Way

first_imgSANDY HOOK – Sandy Hook and Fort Hancock are undergoing positive changes and upgrades that will have a significant effect on the park’s future.Representatives of the National Park Service (NPS) and the Fort Hancock Advisory Committee participated in a Two River Times editorial board meeting on March 24 to discuss developments at Gateway National Recreation Area at Sandy Hook and the Fort Hancock, the former and historic military installation at the park’s northern tip. They joined staff members of The Two River Times to discuss the park’s ongoing Sandy recovery work, other developments and park improvements in the works, along with the hopes of the NPS and its advisory committee concerning the rehabilitation of some of the aging and deteriorating fort structures.“We have our challenges there,” said Jennifer T. Nersesian, superintendent of the NPS Gateway division. Nersesian was talking specifically about the Fort Hancock efforts, but her comments could have been about the entire park as the federal agency continues to work on its infrastructure after it was smacked around by Superstorm Sandy on October 29, 2012, and it works on a viable public/private partnership to renovate and preserve the fort buildings.Joining Nersesian was Peter McCarthy, Sandy Hook unit coordinator; Daphne Yun, a NPS public affairs specialist; and Gerry Glaser, who co-chairs the Fort Hancock 21st Century Advisory Committee, as well as serves as a member of the board of trustees of the Sandy Hook Foundation, the official friends of the park group.The advisory committee has 20 members, made up of various stakeholders, from government education and the private sector. The NPS established the committee in 2012 to investigate ways to hopefully save the aging structures by establishing partnerships that would lead to the restoration of the buildings without necessarily requiring taxpayer dollars.The Park service had sought requests for expressions of interest for a pilot program that would allow six buildings formerly used as officer’s living quarters to be developed for possible for-profit bed and breakfast businesses, residential use and for not-for-profit office space. “There was a very high level of interest,” from parties for the program, Nersesian said, with the park service getting 40 responses, 19 of which were for residential uses.The NPS subsequently has been seeking formal requests for proposals for the six structures, with the deadline for those set for April 17, Nersesian said.“We want to see a real vibrant community out there,” Glaser said. And this pilot program is a means of “testing the waters for what the community would like to see there,” Glaser added.But any agreement would require potential tenants to undertake restoration of the structures to conform to the U.S. Department of Interior historic guidelines. Any costs incurred by the tenants would be taken into consideration in the lease agreements, Nersesian said.Under federal law, lease agreements can be as long as 60 years, she added.Ongoing work for the beach areas include redoing the park’s telecommunications infrastructure and overhauling the sewerage system, both impacted by Sandy, with the sewerage system upgrade expected to take another couple of years to complete, Nersesian and McCarthy said. In addition, the Park service is working on a pre-Sandy project, building another portion of the multi-use paved path that runs most of the length of the approximately seven-mile park and is a popular feature for joggers, walkers and cyclists.Work is underway on repairing the boardwalk that runs through the park’s 64-acre maritime holly forest. And plans are in the works to repair and adapt the park’s Sandy-damaged History House site to better withstand storms. “This is not just about fix it and get it up quick,” but to prepare it for the long-term use, Nersesian said.Sandy Hook had sustained considerable damage from Sandy, battering structures and infrastructure along with eroding the beach areas, as the park was hit with as much as 13-foot tidal surges, park representatives and federal officials said at the time. Despite the damage, most of the park was sufficiently repaired and open and available to the public by May 2013.For the summer there will again be commuter ferry services from New York City to the park, provided by SeaStreak, and the Park’s camping grounds will be available from mid-April to Sept. 30. The bicycle rental service will again be on-site for this summer season, according to McCarthy.For the next two summers, however, park visitors will have to again settle for food vendor trucks, McCarthy said. Work is continuing on the buildings that had housed the now-defunct Sea Gulls’ Nest restaurant and bar and the other food serve areas damaged by Sandy. But the NPS is working on a plan for its future use, McCarthy said.Another change park visitors could see is an increase in parking fees in 2017. For the season running from Memorial Day to Labor Day, daily parking is proposed to increase from $15 to $20, and seasonal parking $75 to $100.Local, state and federal lawmakers had been critical of the fee hike, but Nersesian insisted the fees are competitive with other area beach costs.Gateway National Recreation Area at Sandy Hook is situated on a barrier island in Middletown, separating Sandy Hook Bay on its west and Atlantic Ocean on the eastern coast. It became a federal park in the 1972 when Congress established the Gateway National Recreation Area, making it one of three locations in the New York/New Jersey region providing recreational opportunities for largely urban areas.McCarthy has said previously the park gets approximately 2.2 million visitors a year, with roughly 2 million coming between Memorial and Labor Day. –By John Burtonlast_img

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