Published in The Herald of Wall Township on March 16, 1995 on Page A1, cont. A8

Web Editor note: ****Thanks to Larry Tormey for saving this article******

A few days after this meeting Re-use Committee Chairman Michael Fitzgerald gave me  call to explore the
museun concept further.   At my request he provided me a letter of authorization from the Township to
enable me to gather information on Science Centers with the towns endorsement.  Off I went….


By LOIS A. KAPLAN
STAFF WRITER

WALL TWP. – Though most Wall residents clearly want to protect Camp Evans’ environmentally sensitive areas, many also envisage the creation of cultural, social and other facilities at the local U.S. Army base now scheduled for closure in 1997.
     Since early 1994, a group of residents and business people appointed by the Wall Township Committee has been meeting behind closed doors to examine the base closure process with a view to acquiring ownership of the 215-acre property, all of which is located in Wall. And now, according to Frank Cuiffo, the Army’s Communications-Electronics Command (CECOM) public affairs officer and base closure chief, the likelihood of an “economic development conveyance” of Camp Evans to the township, with the purpose of creating jobs in the local area, has recently increased because Defense and other federal departments have failed to express an interest in the property.
     Recently renamed the Marconi Park (rather than Camp Evans) Re-Use Committee, the appointed body for the first time sought public input during a meeting at the Municipal Complex last Thursday.
     The meeting drew an audience of more than 80, some of whom advanced proposals ranging from seniors’ housing to an extension university to a communications museum.
     However, a second theme soon became evident.

How about the neighbors?
     Many in the audience appeared to believe that the township’s present Marconi Park Re-Use Committee does not represent what one resident termed “apolitical” sections of the community, and also that it does not include any of the homeowners close to the camp.
     A Monmouth Boulevard resident said a lot of traffic would be generated by any kind of re-use. As a result, he added, a traffic light would be needed at the corner of Monmouth and Belmar Boulevards.
     Responding to a request from Jim Stigliano, Sharpe Road, that there be “just one representative from  the immediate neighborhood,” Re-Use Committtee chairman Michael D. Fitzgerald said too many members could make the committee “unwieldy.”
     However, Township Attorney Roger J. McLaughlin said a neighbors’ subcomittee could be established, and Mayor Robert D. Peters assured the audience that the neighborhood would “be involved.”
     Board member Robert Hansen also emphasized the need to pay attention to the quality of life, including traffic issues, in surrounding neighborhoods.
     Earlier, an environmental coordinator from Fort Monmouth, Chris Kencik, said he would soon be seeking local people, including members of the township’s Environmental Advisory Committee, as members of a newly formed Restoration Advisory Board.
     In answer to a resident’s question, Kencik said the Restoration Advisory Board’s members “will represent the diversity of the community.”

Electronics museum
     Among those advancing suggestions was resident Fred Carl, who proposed an electronics and communications museum which would feature the on-site achievements of Guglielmo Marconi early in the 20th century. The museum, he said, could also highlight later developments at the base, such as the Diana radar project, the Vanguard missile and communications techniques for Operation Desert Storm.
     Carl also suggested seeking corporate sponsorship, incorporating communications technology achievements at For Monmouth and Holmdel’s Bell Labs, and inclusion of a bicycle path and facilities for baseball and soccer on the camp site.

Seniors’ housing
     Stigliano proposed converting any suitable existing buildings at the base into a self-contained village for senior citizens. Some of these buildings, he added, could be leased out for stores, medical offices, and possibly a nursing home. Some nearby areas, he added, could be set aside for seniors’ recreation.
     “In addition to keeping our seniors at home, rather than in Florida, Brick or Lakewood,” said Stigliano, “this project would also be a ratable for the township. It would help us complete our Mt. Laurel (affordable housing) obligations, produce revenue greater than the cost of additional services, and generate little traffic. Possibly some HUD money could be obtained to assist with the rehabilitation of existing buildings.”
     Re-Use Committee member M. Claire French responded that most on-site buildings are deteriorated, and that when the camp’s more than 100 fuel tanks are removed, lack of heating will speed building decay.

Federal and state offices
     Resident Gary Faraci proposed a government center comprising offices such as Social Security Motor Vehicles, Medicaid Internal Revenue and other federal and state agencies. This he said, would constitute a good use for existing buildings at Camp Evans with little negative impact.
     Some office-type buildings already exist at the camp, he said, as does ample parking. In addition, there is easy access from Routes 18, 33, 34, 35, 195 and the Garden State Parkway.
     According to Faraci, savings – as well as user convenience – could be achieved because many of these agencies currently occupy leased office space. In addition, he said, the center would provide jobs for local residents and generate additional revenue for local businesses.

     Other uses
     Resident Charles Sorkin proposed that the township form a partnership with Brookdale College or Rutgers University so that extension classes could be offered at what is now Camp Evans.
     “Perhaps they would upgrade the buildings in return for a lease,” said Sorkin.
     Sgt. Robert Jones then asked for a place to hold meetings and accommodate equipment for a youth training program formerly housed at Fort Monmouth. The program, he said, now has 40 Marine and Army cadets and expects to have 200 by 1997.
     Reading from a list of recently received re-use requests, Fitzgerald noted that resident Clifford Bloodgood, Central Avenue, had asked for a place to hold VFW meetings; that others had proposed bicycle paths. He also noted that resident Janice Grasso had asked if the Board of Education could use any of the buildings; and that the Old Wall Historical Society had expressed interest in the camp’s many .historical features.
     Fitzgerald added that the Monmouth/Ocean Food Bank has requested warehousing space, and Mrs. French noted that some commercial uses and a golf course had also been sugggested.

Environmental questions
     In lengthy opening remarks, coordinator Kencik said that any necessary environmental remediation at the property would be completed by the Army prior to any transfer of ownership to the township. He added that a copy of a preliminary assessment report on Camp Evans is now available for inspection in the Wall Township Public Library.
     With reference to chemical and radioactive materials stored for many years in three on-site buildings, Kencik said “all safety measures” have been observed. All buildings, he said, must be “surveyed, remediated if necessary, and released for regular use.”
      Responding to William Magara, Cammar Drive, who asked who would be responsible if contamination was discovered later, Kencik said the government would still have “some burden” if the problem were due to its activities.
     In answer to a question from Stigliano concerning guarantees that natural areas will be kept in their present condition, Kencik said that environmental considerations “will influence decisions,” but declined to provide additional assurances.
     Township Attorney Roger J. McLaughlin then noted that the township has requested that interim title to undeveloped portions of Camp Evans be transferred to the National Parks Service.

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