On the cusp of a new of Gateway National Recreation area, local figureheads are waiting to hear from Washington on whether they have been accepted to sit on an advisory committee to help craft plans for the future of the historic Fort Hancock portion of the park.
The committee, according to the Federal Register, will be dubbed the Gateway National Recreation Area Fort Hancock 21st Century Advisory Committee and will provide input for a “shared vision plan” for the Fort, Gateway Superintendent Linda Canzanelli said in a statement.
The group, according to the Federal Register’s notice, “will report to the Secretary of the Interior through the Director of the National Park Service, with the Superintendent of the Gateway National Recreation Area as the Designated Federal Officer (DFO). The Gateway National Recreation Area will provide administrative and logistical support to the Committee.
“The Committee is being established to provide advice on the development of a specific reuse plan and on matters relating to the future uses of the Fort Hancock Historic Landmark District within the Sandy Hook Unit of Gateway National Recreation Area. The Committee will provide guidance to the National Park Service in developing a plan for reuse of more than 30 historic buildings that the NPS has determined are excess to its needs and eligible for lease …”
The cut-off for submitting applications was May 3.
To date, Rumson Mayor John Ekdahl said he did apply and “was interviewed for the Fort Hancock advisory committee, but have not yet seen the final list.”
Middletown Mayor Tony Fiore said that he was not yet interviewed, but submitted all the paperwork and “have not heard back yet.”
The names will be announced when they are definitively chosen, Gateway Public Information Officer John Warren had said.
Formed under the Federal Advisory Committee Act, the candidates that will sit on the committee are being reviewed and selected, with White House approval, by the Secretary of the Interior, according to the National Park Service Web site.
There are to be representatives of government, natural and cultural resources, real estate, education, hospitality and science from Rumson, Middletown, Sea Bright, Highlands and the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders.
Once formed, the committee will meet four to six times a year and there will be no compensation for members.
The attempt to privatize and commercially develop the Fort were squelched in 2009 after grassroots group Save Sandy Hook fought, via lawsuits, to overturn Rumson developer James Wassel’s plan (under Sandy Hook Partners) to enter into a 60-year lease agreement with the park service to renovate more than 30 Fort buildings for retail and other commercial uses, such as lodging.
Wassel ultimately failed to show the Park Service that he had the fiscal means to follow-through with his plan.
That failure and public outcry against the plan prompted the federal government to form the committee.