High school volunteers work to restore historic site / app-2007-07-19
The Asbury Park Press July 19, 2007 By Alex Biese (Staff Writer) Page 9
Above, Jeff Hertz, 17, of Commack, N.Y., saws wood trim for the ceiling. At right, teams of high school volunteers work to restore Camp Evans in Wall. Steve Goulart (left) of Red Bank gives some painting pointers to Steven Motschwiller of Rock ville Center, N.Y. (STAFF PHOTOS: MARY FRANK)
WALL — From July 1 to 14, 13 volunteers from as far away as Florida and Canada lived at the InfoAge Science and History Learning Center at Camp Evans on Marconi Road and worked to help restore the site.
"They're a nice group of kids," InfoAge director and Wall resident Fred Carl said of the volunteers, who ranged in age from 13 to 17. "They get along well, they do any task we ask them and they do a nice job," he said.
The volunteers were sent to the site by Landmark Volunteers, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit organization that gives high school-age people opportunities to volunteer with more than 50 different organizations, including InfoAge. Volunteers must pay for their own transportation along with a $1,200 fee to Landmark to cover such costs as insurance, Carl said.
"I wanted to volunteer somewhere this summer and this seemed like a fun place to go," said 15-year-old volunteer Lena Coleman from Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. "I was interested in the history (of the site)."
The site has been home to a lot of history since its beginnings as a part of the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Co. of America in 1914. Later uses included a home for the U.S. Navy during World War I, radar research during World War II and further top secret work done during the Cold War.
The U.S. Army closed the base in 1993. Five years later, InfoAge was incorporated and the turnover of 16 buildings on the site to Wall was approved in 2002.
Of the approximately 200 acres that make up the Camp Evans site, all but 30 acres belong to Wall and are controlled by InfoAge, while the rest is still under the control of the U.S. Army.
Carl said all of the land at the site owned by the township has been environmentally restored. In 2005, a state Department of Environmental Protection case manager said most of the contamination at Camp Evans was from heavy metals and polychlorinated biphenyls.
The Army has offered the township the rights to enter the site, an option the governing body is still reviewing. A full turnover may come at the end of this year.
"It's a very bureaucratic process," Carl said.
The sense of history surrounding Camp Evans was not lost on the volunteers.
"It's been pretty cool, imagining so many people here before me doing all of this stuff," Coleman said.
Fifteen-year-old Melbourne, Fla., resident Matt Outlaw said he decided to volunteer at Camp Evans because of his interest in World War II history and because he had never been "up north" farther than North Carolina.
"It's a good experience doing all this work . . . helping out this old building, because it could have been torn down, but now it's a landmark," Outlaw said.
Carl's daughter, 23-year-old Cori Carl of Wall, said this was the second summer teenagers from Landmark Volunteers worked to maintain the site.
"Everything that's been done has been done by volunteers here," she said.
Carl also said that along with tasks such as painting, spackling and wood-working, the volunteers have been doing everyday tasks that will help them live on their own, such as cooking their own breakfast.
"They're learning how to be more self-reliant," she said.
Fred Carl said that along with spending their days painting chain-link fences, clipping bushes and making flower beds, volunteers also get their "daily doses" of history, either from guest lecturers or educational films.
He said he hoped volunteers could "go home with the sense that history is important, science is important and it's worth their time to invest in and learn about it."
However, volunteers were deprived of one piece of science and technology during most of their time at Camp Evans: cell phones, which they were only allowed to use on a select few evenings.
Explaining that the teens were there to work, not to send text messages, Carl noted the irony that some of the technology that makes cell phones possible was developed at Camp Evans.
"For a short time we isolate them from it," Carl said, noting that volunteers may gain a greater appreciation of the work that was done at the site.
Zach Collier, 17, of Monmouth Beach understands the significance of Camp Evans. His grandfather George Brucker was a nuclear physicist who worked at the site during World War II.
"I thought it would be really cool to work at this place my grandpa worked at so many years ago," said Collier, who explained he thought his grandfather would be happy to see him working on returning Camp Evans to "its former glory."
"I'm working hard on this project because I want to make a difference," he said.