Published in The Asbury Park Press on July 13, 1999
By JOHN A. HARNES
COASTAL MONMOUTH BUREAU
As they worked, the 100-foot-tall, 60-foot-diameter radar dish above them was motionless.
But if the volunteers’ efforts succeed, instead of becoming a rusting piece of history, the dish may be preserved as a working feature of an Information Age Learning Center the volunteers hope to see established at Camp Evans.
“We are going to get it working again,” Crawford said. He said it would be great if the dish could be used to help students monitor NASA’s next exploration mission to Mars – Red Rover, in 2001. “There is just so much history tied to this site,” Crawford said.
The radar dish was built on the site of the old Project Diana radar tower. From here, on Jan. 10, 1946, a team of U.S. Signal Corps scientists, under the direction of Lt. Col. John J. DeWitt and using calculations developed by Dr. Walter Samuel McAfee, focused a beam of high-frequency energy at the moon.
Traveling at the speed of light -186,000 miles per second – it took the powerful signal just 2.5 seconds to reach the moon and return. This experiment is regarded as America’s entry into the Space Age. ‘
Camp Evans, which had served as a satellite facility of Fort Monmouth, was ordered closed in recommendations by the 1993 Base Closure and Realignment Commission. Officials hope to see the first portion of the site transferred to Wall’s control later this year.
As the land is being transferred from the Army to civilian uses, it’s important to begin preserving some of the historic work that was done at the site, said Fred Carl, director of INFOAGE Inc., a not-for-profit corporation
that is working to establish the Information Age Learning Center.
Carl said his group wants to create a hands-on science center where visitors can experience the excitement electronic, communication, computer, radio, radar, satellite, telephone science and technology, while having fun.
The goal is to “foster an environment where corporations, professional groups, individual volunteers and the military can contribute to science education while preserving the site,” Carl said.
The first milestone passed by the volunteers was the acceptance of Camp Evans into the federal Save America’s Treasures program, Carl said.
President and Mrs. Clinton created the Save America’s Treasures program as part of the National Millennium Commemoration. While becoming an official Save America’s Treasures project does not provide direct funding, it is the first step to becoming eligible for future grants.
Also, the National Trust will be cultivating private donations for the overall program from corporation, foundations and individuals, which could bring additional financial assistance to local preservation efforts.
Using an initial grant of $5,000, which was donated anonymously, Carl said his group has already been very active.
“We have researched the history of the site, created a Web site (www.InfoAge.org), conducted oral history interviews, researched science center development and operation, developed and delivered presentations,” Carl said.
The Camp Evans site has been in the control of the military off and on since World War I. Historic and military records indicate that in 1913 and 1914 about 30 radio towers were built on the Marconi property in Wall, creating the first commercial transatlantic communication installation.
Scientists at the site worked through two world wars, the atomic age, the Cold War and the space race, to make numerous technological advancements in areas such as radar and communications.
Anyone interested in learning more about the group and its plans for the center, or making donations to help save New Jersey’s history, can write to: Information Age Learning Center, 2201 Marconi Road, Wall, NJ 07719.