Published in The Coast Star July 26, 2007

Page 1-2

By  Dan Zomack
WALL TOWNSHIP — The former 250-acre Camp Evans Army complex, located off Belmar Boulevard, here, is one of those ordinary looking places that has an extraordinary history. Slowly, and carefully, a number of dedicated volunteers have been doing all they can over the past several years to transform the shuttered military base to a community resource. Part of that includes the InfoAge Science & History Learning Center, whose director, Fred Carl, is largely responsible for its existence today.
On Monday afternoon, U.S. Rep. Christopher Smith [NJ-4] was invited to tour the center, including its conversion of aging World War II structures into an interactive, hands-on museum. It is an effort that has been going on since the summer of 2004, when 17 of an eventual 37 acres, and about 20,000 of 140,000-square-feet of building space, was transferred by the Army to the township, who in turn leased that portion of the property to InfoAge. The closure was part of the BRAC [Base Realignment And Closure] Commission decision to shut the former radar and communications research facility.
According to Mr. Carl, InfoAge has been transferred a total of about 20 acres to date. The remaining space will be handed over once the Army has sufficiently repaired the buildings.
Camp Evans, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was deemed surplus and the property has slowly been handed over to Wall Township, as the cleanup at the site has crawled forward since the late 1990s. Portions of the 250-acre property were also given to Brookdale Community College.
Joining the congressman was Assemblyman Sean T. Kean and Wall Township Committeewoman Mary Burne.
Congressman Smith was also given a tour of the remaining “H” buildings, named for their shape and totaling about 120,000 square feet. The completed work at the Marconi Hotel, and the adjacent building, is just a precursor to the museum displays and educational and meeting space that is being planned for the H-buildings.
Congressman Smith said he is aware that it is a group effort that has made Camp Evans into a special place, and was briefed on the property’s progress by Mr. Carl, who in 1998 founded InfoAge. The organization’s purpose is to develop an interactive learning center focused on the information age technologies which had their beginnings at historic Camp Evans.
Congressman Smith listened attentively as Mr. Carl took him throughout the historic Marconi Hotel, explaining the history of the site and also the importance of the inventions created at the base, which include the wireless transmitter.
“From a historical point of view, New Jersey has many of the finest inventors, like Edison and Marconi, that have a legacy that needs to be preserved,” Congressman Smith stated. “So often we lose this kind of history and it needs preservation.”
After a meeting with officials from the Army and the Township of Wall on March 19, Congressman Smith said the Army remains committed to an expeditious cleanup and transfer of all of the property to Wall Township and Brookdale Community College, which operates a satellite campus there.
Some of the actions the Army agreed to complete were PCB and other hazardous material cleanup of the site, sewer installation, the restoration of electrical service to some of the buildings, chimney repairs and the repair of windows and doors, which were objectives the Army had not yet met according to Congressman Smith.
The congressman was pleased to learn that the site will be receiving new windows in September, and that many new doors have been installed.
When asked about the goals, Congressman Smith replied, “They’re in the process of being met. I’m very optimistic.”
One of the reasons for Congressman Smith’s visit was to get a firsthand look at the progress that has been made by the Army, as well as to see what other changes have taken place at the site since his last visit.
Assemblyman Kean, who has also fought hard to restore Camp Evans, said of the site, “There’s so much potential here.
“The anticipation and knowing they’re going to step it up will lead to the site becoming a jewel for Monmouth County,” Assemblyman Kean said of all the people and groups who have an interest in revitalizing Camp Evans.
“As a Wall resident, I’m excited. It will be good for the whole area,” Assemblyman Kean stated.
Committeewoman Burne said, “I’m pleased to be here today with Congressman Smith because he has been a big help to us during our communication with the federal government.
“It’s a pleasure to show him the good work of the InfoAge center, which has put in a great deal of effort and volunteerism from our government, citizens and business people. There’s a lot of work to be done, but as I go through the buildings, I’m pleased to see the work that has been completed,” stated Committeewoman Burne.
Mr. Carl led the three politicians on a tour of the grounds. He showed the group special exhibit rooms, such as the computer technology room, the National Broadcaster’s Hall of Fame and the WWII military equipment showcase.
One particular item that struck a chord with Congressman Smith was a radio beacon used by soldiers who parachuted onto islands in the South Pacific Theater.
Soldiers landed and set up special beacon’s that alerted their fellow soldiers who took the beach the following day exactly where enemy soldiers were located, Mr. Carl explained.
Congressman Smith remarked that his father landed on some of these islands during the war and that perhaps this beacon could have saved his, and his fellow soldiers’, lives.
After receiving a tour of the site from Mr. Carl, Congressman Smith said he was impressed with what he had seen, referring to the artifacts as “Smithsonian-class presentations.”
Congressman Smith also mentioned the tireless efforts of Mr. Carl, who donates much of his personal time to the restoration efforts at Camp Evans.
Of Mr. Carl’s commitment, Congressman Smith stated, “I think it’s extraordinary. He’s an expert that has a passion.”
Congressman Smith said he will continue to make sure Camp Evans receives the proper support from the federal government that the site was promised, because it is an important piece of the country’s history.
“It’s going to be passed on to every generation from here on,” Congressman Smith said.

Web Editor comments:   Congressman Smith has stepped in multiple times to save Camp Evans and to elevate issues concerning the Camp Evans Historic District to the proper Department Of Defense officials.

Put simply – Without Congressman Smith, Camp Evans would be gone….all our years of work would have been in vain.

A few other stories relating to Congressman Smith.
October 31, 2002  Army agrees to Evans sewer replacement.

  • July 23, 2002  Pentagon Officials visit Camp Evans at Congressman’s Smith’s Request. At the Congressman and Wall Township’s request Pentagon officials come to Camp Evans for a fact-finding visit.

  • February 25, 2002 Congressman Chris Smith’s visit to the concept center of InfoAge Science-History Center at Camp Evans encourages volunteers.

page created August 18, 2007