Published in The Coast Star on May 23, 2002
Page 1, cont. page 6
Camp Evans, a 100-acre parcel of land in Wall Township, was identified for closure several years ago under the Base Realignment and Closure Program [BRAC]. The property will eventually be conveyed from the Army to the Department of Interior, and then to Wall Township, and 37 acres of the land will be used as a learning center by the non-profit education organization Information Age, focusing on Camp Evans’ long history in radar and telecommunications. Twenty-five acres will be used by Brookdale Community College as an expansion campus and the remaining property will be used by the township for recreation purposes.
Since 1995, Preservation New Jersey, a statewide private membership-supported historic preservation organization which was founded in 1978, has been publishing an annual list of 10 endangered historic sites across the state.
In a statement included with the list of endangered historic sites, Preservation New Jersey explained the criteria used to select the most endangered sites. The criteria includes: the historical significance and architectural integrity of the site; the critical nature of the identified threat; and the likelihood that inclusion on the list would have a positive impact on efforts to improve the site.
The statement specifically addressed the Army’s action to address mercury contamination in the sewers at Camp Evans.
The statement reads, in part, “The Army has been addressing a contamination issue by removing offending sewer lines with no evident intention of replacing them … The historic buildings will be useless without utilities, and if the issue is not resolved the deal could collapse, leaving this property – a potential National Historic Landmark – with an uncertain fate.”
According to Preservation New Jersey, the solution to save the historic sites on the list lies with forceful action by concerned citizens.
“There are many New Jerseyans who care deeply about protecting historical resources and about finding the right balance between growth and change on one hand and preservation and respect for the past on the other.”
Wall resident Fred Carl is one of those New Jerseyans who is passionate about preserving the historical value of Camp Evans.
Mr. Carl said the New Jersey Historic Preservation Office recommended Camp Evans for inclusion on the list of endangered historical sites, “because they’ve been involved for years. They know the buildings were in good condition in 1999, and they have been allowed to be stripped and vandalized. A valuable resource is being damaged, possibly beyond repair.”
Mr. Carl said the list of endangered historic sites is released each year in hopes of drawing public attention and interest to preserving historic sites throughout New Jersey.
Mr. Carl, who is affiliated with the Information Age Learning Center, said he is frustrated with the Army’s slow progress in com-pleting the remediation effort in preparation for the transfer of the land, and feels the Army simply does not care about what becomes of Camp Evans.
Mr. Carl said according to BRAC guidelines, the Army is required to turn over property that is ready for immediate re-use.
However, he said that without sewers, Camp Evans will not be prepared for use, and this places an additional burden on volunteers.
Mr. Carl said the mercury in the sewers was poured into the sewers by Army staff members who were not adequately supervised in the 1970s and 1980s. He said the Army has removed the old sewer pipes due to the mercury, and has refused to install new lines.
“The reality is, just like Army staff and contractors who poured mercury into the sewers, the Army BRAC staff are negligent in the discharge of their duties,” Mr. Carl said. “They do not care if the place is secure. They do not care, as they feel they are not accountable for the damage to the buildings … The BRAC office is the reason why Camp Evans is on the Preservation New Jersey list.”
Mr. Carl said that if the Army remains steadfast in its refusal to install new sewer lines, the responsibility for replacing the sewers at the 37-acre historic portion of Camp Evans would fall to Information Age.
“Why should a historic preservation organization be saddled with the damage caused by the Army,” Mr. Carl asked, adding that the non-profit organization had planned to open a building on Camp Evans to hold a fund-raiser, however, without working sewers, that just isn’t possible.
Mr. Carl contended that the buildings at Camp Evans were in good condition until the removal of the sewer lines began.
In addition, Mr. Carl said the Army is not acting to ensure that the existing structures at Camp Evans are maintained.
“The Army BRAC guidelines say the Army should keep the property secure from break in and patrol the buildings once a day,” Mr. Carl said.
As an example of what he referred to as “a dereliction of duty by BRAC staff,” Mr. Carl said that doors on some of the buildings in the historic district of Camp Evans have remained unlocked and wide open for weeks.
“They have a guard on duty at the gate. The person in charge of security is not doing their duty and not properly supervising the security staff. What funding does it take to close and lock the doors,” Mr. Carl asked.
Mr. Carl said volunteers have requested permission, in writing, from the Army to enter Camp Evans and paint the exterior of buildings in the historical preservation district of the property. Even though he said volunteers have agreed to sign liability waivers, their requests have been denied.
Fort Monmouth spokesman Henry Kearney disputed Mr. Carl’s assertion that the Army is required to replace the sewers. Fort Monmouth, an Army base in Eatontown, is overseeing Camp Evans as it is prepared for transfer.
Mr. Kearney agreed with Mr. Carl’s assertion that the Army has no plans to restore the sewer lines removed from Camp Evans. However, Mr. Kearney said that the Army is complying with BRAC regulations and added that the National Historic Preservation Act of 1968 does not require the Army to replace the sewer system.
“I realize that the Information Age people have a different view,” Mr. Kearney acknowledged.
“The Defense Department policy prohibits the Army from spending taxpayer dollars to improve or upgrade facilities that are being conveyed,” Mr. Kearney said.
Mr. Kearney said the decision was made to remove the sewers at Camp Evans based on a recommendation made by a technical advisory team comprised of advisors from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection [DEP] and the Environmental Protection Agency [EPA].
Mr. Kearney said that from the outset of the Army’s remediation effort at Camp Evans, which began in 1994, the Army has “aggressively pursued” the environmental concerns and has kept Wall Township, the public and Brookdale Community College informed along the way. He said the Army has spent approximately $22 million in its remediation effort at Camp Evans in its effort to “always do the right thing.”
“We haven’t flinched in our resolve to tackle the environmental problems [at Camp Evans],” Mr. Kearney said.
To ensure that all affected parties are kept informed of the activity at Camp Evans, Mr. Kearney said the Army has been working with the township, Monmouth County, the DEP, the New Jersey Historic Preservation Office, and the EPA, and has held public meetings.
Mr. Kearney said the Army’s decision not to grant the volunteers’ request to paint the buildings, even though they agreed to sign liability waivers, was related to the remediation project at Camp Evans. He explained the Army’s concern centered on volunteers who may not have received environmental training to be unintentionally exposed to hazardous chemicals.
Turning his attention to matters of security, Mr. Kearney said the Army “has taken appropriate measures and implemented normal controls for a vacated property.”
Addressing Mr. Carl’s concern about doors of Camp Evans buildings remaining wide open, Mr. Kearney said BRAC guidelines require one entrance to each building remain accessible. However, he said that does not mean doors should be left wide open. He said the door may have been opened to allow a contractor to enter the building, however, he said Army policy is that when an open door is discovered, it must be closed.
He said the Army has locked buildings inside and outside of the fenced area, and has boarded doors and windows in an effort to prevent vandalism.
However, he said the buildings at Camp Evans are vacant, and vacant buildings have traditionally attracted vandals. Mr. Kearney acknowledged that vandals have cut the fence and removed the plywood in order to gain entrance, to some buildings. He said that once this damage has been found, the fence is repaired and the doors and windows are boarded up again.
Mr. Kearney said a guard is on duty at Camp Evans during “normal duty hours.” He declined to elaborate on what constitutes normal duty hours, citing security reasons. He did say that the Army has a security force capable of responding to Camp Evans 24 hours a day in the event of an emergency.
Furthermore, Mr. Kearney said unannounced patrols of Camp Evans by the Fort Monmouth Security Force are conducted regularly.
Mr. Kearney said that in light of the current national security concerns, the Army is giving closer attention to the main post at Fort Monmouth and the nearby Charles Wood Area.
“With the national security priorities, that’s where we have, to deploy our security personnel,” Mr. Kearney said.
Mr. Kearney said approximately two-thirds of the property is already in the process of being transferred to Wall Township.
On May 3, the Department of the Army signed paperwork to transfer a large portion of Camp Evans to the Department of the Interior, which, in turn will transfer the title of ownership over to Wall.
page created April 4, 2004