Published in The Asbury Park Press on March 17, 2000
by W. Raymond Ollwerther, Executive Editor
Remnants of the technological advances that made Camp Evans a vital defense research installation now pose a financial obstacle to opening an education center designed to celebrate its accomplishments. The culprit is mercury, used by technicians to developing radio and radar systems at the camp in Wall. The cost to get rid of traces of the chemical that may have leaked into sewer lines: about $3 million.
The Army can use federal cleanup money to remove the sewer pipes, but it can’t tap the treasury to replace them. A waiver from regulations that distinguish remediation of a closed military facility from improvements to the property is unlikely. Because a sewage system is needed to serve the historic buildings central to the proposed Information Age center, private funds will be needed to hook these buildings to public sewers running nearby.
To hear officials of Infoage Inc., the nonprofit group working to open the center, describe their dream, it’s a project that deserves support. The learning center will be an interactive display on the history of communications. It will include pieces of the first electronic computer, an Apollo 14 computer, a B-52 electronic defense system and Intel computer chips.
It will remind the world of the role Camp Evans played in telecommunications research and development. The camp is perhaps best known for its radar tower, where in 1946 Signal Corps scientists beamed high-frequency energy at the moon for the first time. Radio inventor Guglielmo Marconi is responsible for some of its buildings.
The sewer problem should not deter InfoAge from its commitment, even if it means opening the center in phases (as each building is linked to sewer lines) rather than all at once. Once completed, it has the potential of becoming a must-see for natives, especially schoolchildren, and a significant attraction for visitors. Any addition to the Jersey Shore tourist map is welcome.