Recent comments

  • Wyoming Congressional Delegation Pushing Interior Secretary To Move on Yellowstone Snowmobile Plan   6 years 20 weeks ago

    Great idea. Let's put into place yet another winter use plan that ignores the law, the courts, the EPA, the Organic Act, science and tons of public comments. Then we can spend a few million more taxpayer dollars doing yet another study, which will be ignored; and having yet another comment period, which will be ignored. It's starting to feel like that Star Trek episode where they are caught in some kind of time warp and they keep living the same day over and over. Or maybe, just maybe, they could come up with a winter use plan that is actually in compliance with the law and with good science!? Then local ooutfitters could actually plan for the future with some degree of certainty. They could get on with converting over to snowcoaches. As compitition went up, prices would come down; and average people who cannot afford four or five hundred dollars a day to rent a snowmobile and guide, would actually be able to visit Yellowstone in the winter. Snowmobilers could still enjoy riding through thousands of acres of National Forest land outside of the Park (no guide needed) as they do now. Park animals would be less stressed. Park rangers would be less stressed. Skiers and hikers would find more quiet and pristine beauty, as well as fresh air. Yes, snowcoaches make noise and polute as well, but the big difference is that each snowcoach can carry upwards of twenty people; instead of having twenty individual machines racing around.
    Yes, Superintendent Lewis, let's do this one more time. But let's make this the last time. Let's do it right this time. Let's make this plan beyond reproach. Read the law and follow it. Listen to the reports. Stop chasing pennies of taxpayer money with dollars of taxpayer money. The American people need you (and the Park Service/Interior Dept.) to do the right thing, once and for all.

  • Turkey Hunters Appreciate Wildlife Habitat Preservation at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park   6 years 20 weeks ago

    I agree that the Pinnacle Overlook is spectacular, and have seen many, many wild turkeys in the Cumberland Gap area. I fail to see turkey hunting as a sporty hunt, though. They are fairly large targets, don't move particularly fast, are loud and easy to find... where is the challenge in that? Population control, obviously I can understand that, but really the turkey is not up on my list of really sport worthy hunting animals. I had no idea that the Wild Turkey Federation even existed. Learn something new everyday!

  • It’s Good to be the President When You Visit Gettysburg National Military Park   6 years 21 weeks ago

    Oh dear, I mentioned my husband working for the Secret Service and it suddenly all becomes "satire". I am die-hard nothing political. It's nothing for you to change to a "satire" intent after the fact but you clearly were extremely jealous of a President getting the VIP treatment even in your follow-ups. One word of advice, if you truly fancy yourself a satirist, don't quit your day job, you'll starve.

  • Appellate Court Upholds Lower Court Ruling on Development at Gateway National Recreation Area   6 years 21 weeks ago

    Other than to make sure I acknowledge when you seem to have the better of the argument, I don't plan to say any more on this topic.

    -- You make a good point about needing to move forward now on the leasing plan. I agree with that, and agree the long delay is unconscionable

    -- You make a good point about the legislators and supporters of doing nothing, having an obligation to go and get the funding for Sandy Hook, or shut up. I am aware other members of the congressional delegation in NJ have been very cynical, for example, about the ineffective efforts of the local congressman to get any appreciable funding. Compare that to the funds that the NY congresswoman got in Staten Island for the part of Gateway over there.

    -- You make an exactly right point on the difference in the legislation between Jamaica Bay and the rest of Gateway. That legislation also puts an affirmative responsibility on the Secretary of the Interior to identify and organize the preservation of historic structures on Sandy Hook.

    thank you for a well informed and stimulating discussion. It would be a great microcosm of all the national parks, except for the really miserable job of drafting the original legislation in the extreme. Few parks have it so bad.

    Again, good luck with your high-minded efforts.

  • There's Plenty to See Above Ground at Wind Cave National Park   6 years 21 weeks ago

    Good thing there is a lot to do above ground since the National Parks pass is about worthless underground.

  • Park History: Biscayne National Park   6 years 21 weeks ago

    Which has better snorkeling, Key Largo or Biscayne Bay? How inexpensive each is also matters. I'm not interested in paying $$$$ to go out on a boat. Thanks!

  • Apostle Islands National Lakeshore Not Immune to Bear Problems   6 years 21 weeks ago

    Thanks, Jim, and thanks, Rick, for the kind words -- I hope to see both of you again soon. I, too, wish a few more of my colleagues would take advantage of the forum that the Traveler offers.


  • Mount Rainier National Park Proposing to Reroute Section of Wonderland Trail   6 years 21 weeks ago

    I hope they take the high road. Place the trail above the floodplain. In 5-10 years, the blasting will look "natural" too.

  • Appellate Court Upholds Lower Court Ruling on Development at Gateway National Recreation Area   6 years 21 weeks ago

    Dear d-2:

    I've been away, and just got a chance to read your reply.

    I can't comment on the NPS staff and administration, other than to say that from what I've seen the personnel at the Sandy Hook Unit seem to have done the best that they can with available resources, perhaps hampered by higher-ups.

    Without more work than I did for my Asbury Park Press comment, I would say that from my reading of the Gateway Act and other legislation the NPS already has the authority to cross the line in circumstances like this, when they REASONABLY determine that it's necessary. In this case we could still debate whether it would have been better for NPS to try to get the money to restore the buildings [if they didn't], and then go searching for some use for them. I see that as potentially very wasteful.

    Look at Fort Hancock this way . . . none of the 36 buildings were ever open to the public, so nothing at all is being closed to the public, a lot will be open for the first time, and everything there, including what the NPS itself and others tenants already on site are utilizing, will benefiit from the synergistic effects of new technology, materials [to the extent Interior and SHPO will allow], suppliers, contractors, etc. concentrated in the area. A true renaissance for the Fort and Sandy Hook. Buildings have been falling down for 35 years - more than half the current lease term. If it doesn't "work," the public gets everything back in 60 years, in a lot better shape than it's ever been.

    I could agree that it might be better to insert a step in the process that mandated notice to Congress when NPS felt that it had to "cross the line," sort of like a "fair warning" at an auction. Require that NPS make their best case for what they are going to do, and give Congress a last chance to come up with the money to do something else or accept the consequences, and responsibility, for not having done so.

    Here it seems as if opponents, effectively having stalled matters for going on 10 years and not during that whole time proposed any real alternative, simply want to start all over again. Why weren't they pushing legislators to step in with funding for some alternative, instead of pressing for repetitive, useless, investigations, where earlier ones had found that the NPs had clearly acted pursuant to law? Not having done so suggests that in fact the opponents' real purpose is to so delay anything being done that the buildings decay past the point of no return, something that a few are very close to. That's why I avoid reading blogs. Most of the writers simply spew invective and opposition, complaining of payoffs, incompetence, or evil intent, without suggesting that they have an alternative to propose, or have ever accomplished anything on their own. Most here are far better informed than I on issues involving the "Parks," and can at least debate those with different opinions with some respect.

    A thought comes to mind as I type, regarding your seeming issue with what's being done with Floyd Bennett Field. I have some fondness for the place as, in searching like many of my Vietnam-era peers for an alternative to the Army, I took the Navy's exams for flight school. Passed with flying colors, except for vision not quite perfect enough. Probably a good thing, as slogging around in the swamps for the better part of a year with 80-90 pounds on my back got me in great shape [at least then and for a number of years thereafter], and flying might well have landed me in the Hanoi Hilton with Senator McCain and his friends. But I digress . . . A year or so back, as I was spending more time than I should looking at the issues involved here, I noted that the Gateway Act [or possibly something else within the legislative history] made wildlife preservation a priority for the Jamaica Bay unit, while it did not do so for any of the others. Opponents of Fort Hancock had argued, with no stated basis, that wildlife at Sandy Hook took precedence over preservation of the Fort's buildings and heritage, and were clearly wrong here. Might have some significance there, although I'm only marginally familiar with what's going on.

  • Park History: Dinosaur National Monument   6 years 21 weeks ago

    Of all our NPS-managed national monuments, Dinosaur most deserves to be elevated to national park status. Dinosaur, as you elucidate above, is an amazing place, an oft-overlooked gem of a park full of opportunities for adventure. It even features one of the top 10 largest natural arches in the world, Outlaw Arch, discovered in 2006 in a side canyon of the Yampa River. If Black Canyon of the Gunnison is worthy of its national park status (and it is!), then Dinosaur is doubly so. Trying to convince the locals of that, however, is a different story.

    While I can think of a dozen different names for the park, "Dinosaur" inspires a sense of wonder and intrigue that "Yampa Naitonal Park," or "Green River National Park," simply don't, even though "Dinosaur" only describes a small part of what this park is all about. I say keep the name, make it a national park, and inspire the public to give this park a visit and the respect it deserves.

  • Lassen Volcanic National Park Gets Its First Purpose-Built Visitor Center, and It’s a Dandy   6 years 21 weeks ago

    Very impressive. I would caution as an engineer and designer that people study closely the comments that are being made in current plumbing engineering literature regarding waterless urinals.

    THese units ( there are several styles ) are criticized for requiring much maintenance, and not functioning as well as advertised. Some engineers who have experience with them are stating low-flow yes, waterless no, and vowing they will not use them again at this time.

    Infloor radiant heating can't be beat.

    Isn't the US Government standard as promulgated by GSA LEED Silver ? Someone in management has to have made a decision to "upgrade" to Platinum and should have been required to justify the additional effort and expense to taxpayers. I have to assume that exercise was done.

  • Are There Really 391 Units in the National Park System? You Won’t Think So After You Read This!   6 years 21 weeks ago

    I think the fast food analogy is quite apropos........more concern about quantity than quality. Unfortunately, many times those staffing the units (both NPS and Colonel McBell King in the Box) are about as competent as their counterparts as well, and from employer standpoint, probably interchangable without a notable dropoff in the level of services rendered to the public. What's that old saying about getting what you pay for?

  • North Cascades National Park – Forty Years on the Map, Seventy Years in the Making   6 years 21 weeks ago

    Funny you mention Dharma Bums. Kerouac, a Lowell, MA native is celebrated in his home town in October with a celebration called "Lowell Celebrates Kerouac." This past weekend was the main weekend for LCK and here at the Lowell NHP, we had writer/photographer, John Suiter give a presentation on his work "Poets on the Peaks." Mr. Suiter traced Kerouac, Philip Waylan and Gary Snyder's time in the Cascades and has some real nice photography, which I understand NCNP had at one time had an exhibit of the work at the park. This is the 50th Anniversary of Dharma Bums, and interest in Kerouac continues to grow. Depending what list you read, Dharma Bums appears somewhere as a top travel novel or religious awakining.

  • Fall Into Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone Kills California Woman   6 years 21 weeks ago

    Charlotte was a very dear old friend of mine and the entire event is horrible. I have not spoken to the family recently, but I have been to visit her grave and like her, it is beautiful. She is definately missed.

  • How Far Should National Park Rangers Go To Safeguard Your Life?   6 years 21 weeks ago

    This just in from Lake Mead 19 year old Bullhead City man died at Lake Mead after he jumped into the water off of a boat and did not re-surface. Yes, a recovery followed, several divers risked their lives to pull the body up. If he wore a life jacket this would be a none event. Let's keep this thread going, let’s bring attention to something that matters to both visitors and our employees in the National Park Service. Why do people who recreate in water park units choose to disregard the one thing that will save their lives? If they really knew how many visitors die in parks doing exactly what they are doing they might think twice. Let’s give visitors the benefit of the doubt, treat them like adults and let them really know the kinds of dangers that exist in National Parks. They might just surprise us and start taking care of themselves.

  • North Cascades National Park – Forty Years on the Map, Seventy Years in the Making   6 years 21 weeks ago

    I believe the same bill also established the third component of the North Cascades Complex - the Lake Chelan National Recreation Area.

  • Apostle Islands National Lakeshore Not Immune to Bear Problems   6 years 21 weeks ago

    I hope the readers of the Traveler will appreciate Bob's summary of the situation. It is not often that a superintendent uses the Traveler as a way to explain the NPS's side of a potentially controversial issue. Thanks, Bob, for taking the time to do this.

    Rick Smith

  • Appellate Court Upholds Lower Court Ruling on Development at Gateway National Recreation Area   6 years 21 weeks ago

    Dear Water Witch:

    thanks for your deeper, complex analysis.

    1. For the record, I agree, and have agreed, that this historic lease is a good idea at Ft. Hancock.

    2. I do NOT like the failure of the NPS to aggressively fight for the money in the first place. Or, in the case of Ft. Hancock, even ASK for the money. That obviously has nothing to do with you, and you are clear you just want to see the beautiful buildings saved. So do I, which is why I support what appears to be the only real option on the table, in the absence of any leadership at the higher levels in the NPS to ask for the money.

    3. In principle and in fact, I also agree with you about the public value of adaptive re-use of historic buildings. The most important thing to do with historic buildings is use them. That keeps them maintained.

    4. But my only real problem with all this, beyond failure of the Gateway park superintendent or the Director of the NPS to ask for the money, is the idea of key park resources being managed by someone else in such a way as to convert those buildings to a private purpose.

    I worry this could happen to bear habitat in Yellowstone. The State of Arizona made a proposal a few years ago that it could run Grand Canyon. In 1998, until the very last minute, congressional omnibus bill would have allowed the NPS to turn parks over to "partners," for third-party management. If we don't watch it, we will lose our magnificant National Park System in invisible teaspoonfuls.

    5. Why should Congress make the decision, as it did at The Presidio, to turn park buildings into semi-private uses? You suggest NPS is more responsible than Congress.

    Well, the last 3 Directors of the NPS were appointees of the President, and even those among them who previously worked for the NPS, when appointed by the President they acted more like political appointees than did the famous non-political (and professional) Directors of old.

    And, Congress makes the framework of the laws, and ultimately Congress needs to be accountable for a reversal of the fundamental idea behind parks. The historic leasing congressional laws and rules have this loophole in them. This enables the NPS political directors to say they are taking care of the maintenance backlog, while they never are on the record saying they have decided to change, at one park or another, the fundamental management concept governing the National Parks since their birth.

    It has always been OK to have a concession or some private contracting going on in a park. It has been OK to house park employees in park buildings for park purposes. Where it gets dangerous is when key park resources -- the nationally significant features that qualified the area to be a park in the first place -- are being used for PRIVATE purposes, purposes that have nothing to do with the purposes Congress set up the park to do. Remember the scandals when the Secretary of the Interior permitted political parties to host events in parks and ESPECIALLY permitted those political partisans to have access to the park the rest of the public was denied? That was a scandal. I can go along with private uses in parks. But not to the point that the private parties can do things denied to park visitors.

    again, MY ENTIRE POINT: When NPS decides to close a primary park resource to public access for private purposes because the private person paid NPS to let them do it, I think NPS crosses a line, and needs to make a straightforward public finding that NPS has chosen to cross this bright line, and refer the matter to the Congress for consideration, or at least congressional review.

    -- So, Good luck on the Ft. Hancock plan. It is a good deal for the public. I hope the banks lend them the money. I think they should give an award to the Sandy Hook park manager for the initiative.

  • Apostle Islands National Lakeshore Not Immune to Bear Problems   6 years 21 weeks ago

    Bob -

    Thanks for an excellent summary of the situation. Based on my experience with bears at other parks, I'd fully agree that you and your staff have taken a very reasonable approach.

    I've only visited the park once, and my experience with the islands is limited to a couple of trips on the concession-operated boat, but from what I saw of the terrain, it would be very difficult for visitors to land a boat on most of these islands except at a few, specified locations. That's a plus, since it does make it a lot easier to inform the public about a closure.

  • Lassen Volcanic National Park Gets Its First Purpose-Built Visitor Center, and It’s a Dandy   6 years 21 weeks ago

    Frank -

    Costs for actual operation won't be known until the building has been in use for a full year - anything at this point would just be a guess, and if those projections are available, I haven't seen them.

    Information on the park's website states, "The old chalet cost over $30,000 per year in heating costs alone. The Park spent an average of $20,000 per year on repairs to the structure just to make it usable. The building was in such bad shape that the National Park Service has prohibited any special funds from being spent on the structure. The results created such a deferred maintenance backlog that the structure was no longer viable for repair."

    The new visitor center is located near the park's Southwest entrance, close to the site of the old chalet building.

    The park has quite a bit of information posted about the project, including plans, costs, etc. at To answer your main question, that website says estimated costs for the new facility were $10 million. The Lassen Park Foundation pledged $500,000 to fund exterior exhibits and the production of a new park film.

    I hope that will be helpful.

  • Lassen Volcanic National Park Gets Its First Purpose-Built Visitor Center, and It’s a Dandy   6 years 21 weeks ago

    The new building will also be a big step forward in terms of energy efficiency—the old chalet cost over $30,000 per year in heating costs alone. The center’s energy and cost-saving features are expected to earn the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) top rating (Platinum).

    Can you tell me how much the new visitor center will cost to heat every year? Also, what was the final total cost to build this VC? Oh, and can you be more exact about its location? Thank you in advance.

  • Appellate Court Upholds Lower Court Ruling on Development at Gateway National Recreation Area   6 years 21 weeks ago

    More for d-2 -

    You posit that the NPS could have restored the buildings, and then sought appropriate uses. This skirts the issue of what you would have if you simply restored all of the buildings. You would have 36/100ths of an obsolete military base. But bases are closing, and no military unit wants it. The county, three towns involved, and many local residents, are now wrestling with a somewhat similar issue regarding Fort Monmouth, soon to be closed as part of the BRAC process. Aberdeen got a chunk of Fort Hancock when the range and power of coastal defense guns made proving them too dangerous for its location so close to New York, and now it's getting the Army's electronic warfare function, that developed at Fort Monmouth. That Fort may be chopped up among the various towns and ultimately developers, but the issues there are military function and economic, not historic.

    If you simply restored the magnificent waterfront Officers' Row and NCO housing, you could rent them at considerable profit, considering both the beauty of their location and the fact that they're a half-hour ferry ride from Wall Street. But would this better serve the public than to turn them into B&B's? You could turn the whole complex into a new community college, or branch of an existing one, but Brookdale and Rutgers will take as many of the buildings as they currently have need for. While discussions may be continuing with MIT and other educational and medical institutions. they can't use all 36. And if they could, would the "public" have access to a college gym or cafeteria? Better to have a privately-run facility open to the public, than a "public" facility closed to it. These "new" uses will have to be consistent with the old ones to the extent practicable, but it makes more sense to find new uses that will benefit the public or society in some way, then tailor the restoration to those uses, than to do a precise restoration and then have to undo a lot of that work to accommodate new uses.

    That part of the former Fort that lies on the hill above me, consisting of a site of WWII artillery, and cold-war anti-missile batteries and radar installation, has already become part of the Monmouth County Park system, but it doesn't make sense to "sell off" bits and pieces of the main body of Fort Hancock on Sandy Hook. Part of the beauty of the Fort is its integrity. Better to restore and maintain that integrity, than to chop it up and dole it out to potentially conflicting uses or users.

    Fort Hancock as I know it seems a lot like Fort Moultrie as described by SaltSage236 in one of his September 29 comments on "301 Units." It is a park in which local residents, once the rush of summer beachgoers is gone, can relax and play amidst once and future beautiful historic buildings, and sometimes go inside one or the other of them to view historic exhibits, or attend a reception, or an art exhibit, or a concert. I don't have to touch a sculpture or painting to enjoy it; I don't have to pet an animal in a zoological habitat to appreciate it; and I don't have to be able to go inside each and every building at Fort Hancock to enjoy them. What is the public being deprived of by the plan adopted by the NPS? The joy of watching these buildings fall down? For all the criticism leveled against the present plan, in the more than 20 years that this process has been going on nobody has offered a better one. It's past the time for talk about what might have been done. I saw some of the 1895 stone walls and gutters in our landmarked community deteriorating, sweated and strained over the course of a weekend in Kentucky, and now have certificate in wallbuilding from the Dry Stone Conservancy. I can't restore the buildings at Fort Hancock, but I'll do what I can to support it.

    As far as Sandy Hook being the poor relation in the GNRA family, you know more than I. Gateway is run out of New York, which in turn is run out of where, Philadelphia? Perhaps the reason that Sandy Hook has received short shrift is that it's not fully appreciated either by an administration located elsewhere or "the locals." Some locals would rather use the beaches at Sandy Hook than the public beach or private [and expensive] beach clubs in Sea Bright just to the south, but most beachgoers at Sandy Hook are day-trippers from northern New Jersey or New York. Gateway probably has more people living within 50 miles of it than any other unit in the system, but these people don't have any influence over local politicians, so Sandy Hook is hardly on their radar, and the beachgoers aren't going to go home and tell their own legislators to push for funds for Sandy Hook. And should NPS funds be used to totally subsidize use by educational institutions or non-profits; or should users be required to pay the reasonable costs of their use? Any such user could have responded to the RFP with a proposal that accomplished the purposes sought and would cover those costs, but none apparently did.

    Fort Hancock seems caught up in the debate over whether "adaptive reuse" should be a regular tool in the NPS's bag, or an exception that has to be specifically authorized by Congress. It appears to me that the present legal structure gives this power to the NPS, which SHOULD be more capable than Congress of determining how to use it, but I don't have the background to contribute to that essentially political discussion. I just want to save Fort Hancock.

  • Apostle Islands National Lakeshore Not Immune to Bear Problems   6 years 21 weeks ago

    The visitor season is practically over at the Apostle Islands and therefore closing Manitou Island is relatively easy. Even in the middle of the season, however, we've found that most visitors coming by boat respect a closure sign, particularly when it explains that the closure is for their own safety. Virtually everyone who goes to this island (one of 21 in the park) uses the single dock that's there, so they'd likely see our sign. We don't intend to patrol it any more intensively than normal and we don't expect problems with non-compliance (at least by the humans).

    Rangers will go out this week and attempt to mark the bear and employ some non-lethal hazing to try to get the message across that getting too close to people is not in his interest. Despite the incidents we've had this summer, however, this bear is elusive so that may or may not be successful.

    In the spring, we'll see if we find him again on that island (or another; bears swim from island to island occasionally). Identifying him will be easier if we're able to mark him now.

    The incident earlier this summer involved a volunteer, not a trained wildlife manager. The Spam came from park visitors who not only had bad taste but violated good sense as well as park regulations, and were long gone before we could find out who they were. We regularly run into visitors who don't do a good job keeping their food from bears. Usually, the lowest level of law enforcement works, and is appreciated -- i.e. we take advantage of the teachable moment and they thank us for it. Occasionally, they aren't cooperative and we then cite them for a violation of park regulations. But as everyone knows, bears are smart so a single visitor not doing the right thing with food can corrupt a bear for a season.

    In the past we've moved bears, a labor intensive and difficult operation (think: bears on boats, Lake Superior in the fall...) only to find that they (amazingly) return (one was nicknamed MacArthur) or cause problems in other areas. When we've moved them to the mainland it's often been a death sentence for them. We've also destroyed bears but we are not doing that any more unless absolutely necessary.

    This bear, while it has been overly cantankerous -- good word, Kurt -- has not exhibited threatening or predatory behavior. Even the volunteer backed into the outhouse, while scared, did not feel "attacked." Nor has any visitor. This is a lightly used island (by human visitors) so we will continue to try to change the behavior of the bear if and when we can. But we're the visitors to his home so we will continue to give him the benefit of the doubt unless his behavior changes for the worse. And even then, we'll close the island indefinitely unless he's actually exhibited threatening behavior, in which case we would, reluctantly, destroy him.

    But I'd rather take the heat for closing part of the park to people than kill a bear whose "guilt" is the result of the temptation people have created for him.

    Bob Krumenaker
    Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

  • Appellate Court Upholds Lower Court Ruling on Development at Gateway National Recreation Area   6 years 21 weeks ago

    Water Witch

    Dear d-2:

    That’s more than a few questions, but I’ll do my best, and return to the issue if I leave it incomplete.

    You should understand that Mrs. Stanley/Coleman, who married Judge Coleman [retired from the NJ Superior Court] relatively recently, has long been active in local civic, political, and preservation issues. She was a founder and presently serves as President of the Monmouth Conservation Foundation. Her accomplishments are many, but in my view, and those of many active in support of “Sandy Hook” [as I will refer to the Sandy Hook Unit of the GNRA, including the Fort Hancock Historic District], her opposition to the restoration of Fort Hancock is not one of them.

    "My husband and I are the only ones giving money to Save Sandy Hook, unless we have an event," she said. "I'm not sure we can continue to support it alone.”

    I don’t claim that they alone are opposed; just that without their extreme advocacy the litigation that stalled progress would have been over a long time ago. She has been reported to have said that the best thing that could happen to the Fort buildings would be for them to fall down; apparently leaving the Hook to the terns, piping plovers, summer beach-goers, and British and Colonial Revolutionary soldiers' ghosts that inhabit it. The litigation that is now almost ended seems to have been geared only to that end. I disagree that they should be left to fall down. As Honor Graduate of a Vietnam-era Special Leadership Course at Fort Riley’s Noncommissioned Officers’ Academy [I was a draftee], who scrubbed the floors where Custer might have trod, I have a certain appreciation for the historic significance, and aesthetic integrity, of the Fort’s many buildings. Read Ms. Kreuzer’s article, and you may get some sense of it.

    Accepting that you agree that the best thing to do is preserve the buildings, as I do, the issue is really how to do so, and for what purpose. What may be unique here is the number of buildings involved in “the plan,” and the number already being put to use by the NPS and various not-for-profits. See the following from a July 9, 2004 NPS News Release:

    SHP will rehabilitate thirty-six of the one hundred buildings at Fort Hancock. The remaining sixty-four buildings will continue to be used by the NPS and by its existing government and non-profit park partners including the New Jersey Marine Science Consortium, Brookdale Community College and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Marine Fisheries Laboratory.

    In 1999, the NPS issued a request for proposals in an effort to halt the deterioration of buildings within a 140-acre portion of the 380-acre Fort. Twenty-two proposals were received and evaluated. SHP’s proposal was selected and an extensive assessment resulted in a finding of no significant impact on the 2,000-acre park from the proposed rehabilitation and re-use plan.

    In addition to Fort Hancock, the Sandy Hook Unit of Gateway National Recreation Area features some 2,000 acres of beautiful beaches and wildlife areas and hosts two and one half million visitors a year.

    Rutgers University’s Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences and Brookdale Community College are expected to expand on their marine/environmental science programs in the restored buildings, and other tenants are still being sought. But there’s not enough demand by tenants like these to take up all of the buildings, so, in my view, the Wassell plan offers the best solution.

    The major local paper, the Asbury Park Press, has taken a strong position against the project at the editorial level, although various staff writers on the subject and other smaller papers have been somewhat more balanced. The Press did give a full ½ page to my comment on the legal issues, Park Service Followed Laws on Fort Hancock Lease, on November 21, 2007, but I don’t know how to park a JPG file somewhere and link you to it. If you’re interested, you may be able to pull it from their archives, although it does look much better with the picture that they added. That comment, to which your knowledge of the NPS and various enabling legislation might cause you to take exception, was based on my experience as a practitioner in the field of administrative law. My particular specialty is Customs & International Trade, but many of the principles are identical; enough so that I knew, with a somewhat limited knowledge of the underlying facts and proceedings, that the lawsuit had virtually no chance of success from the beginning. I make my living suing or otherwise opposing the United States and various of its officials, and I know the abuses, or misuses, to which the law can be put. Read Judge Cooper’s opinion, and you’ll wonder why they started, if it wasn't for delay.

    The local Congressman, Frank Pallone, was originally in favor of a restoration plan other than Wassell’s, that included new hotels and other structures. [one of the bases for the NPS’s choice of Wassell was no new construction] I even have a clipping somewhere with a picture of him standing in fron of an easel displaying the plan. You are far more dialed into NPS funding and the Washington scene than I am, so perhaps you can answer his role and other funding questions on your own. Pallone's flip from support to opposition doesn’t seem to have any logical cause, and his call for investigation where others have been held and found baseless would seem to be mere pandering. Obviously funding depends on leases, and leases depend on people having some assurance that they're going to be able to move in, so nobody except someone like Donald Trump is going to able to "front" the money. Do we want Donald? Despite the fact that she’s a Republican and he a Democrat, Pallone's switch could be based on some arm twisting by Mrs. Stanley/Coleman, who has over time had some considerable local political power. I leave conjecture on backroom deals to others.

    Access to the buildings is obviously going to depend on the use to which they are put. I took an oceanography course in one of them, although that's one that's not covered by the lease, and have been to the Theater [now much improved] and the Chapel. A restaurant in the mess hall, a B&B in one of the Officer’s Row houses, the Gym, the Theater, etc., will be “open” to the public, at a cost commensurate with the nature of their use. You surmise that my position is “based entirely on the idea that NPS has never opened many of these NHL buildings to the public, so nothing is being lost.” Not true; although I DO believe that it would be better to see them restored and landscaped as some sort of historical “exhibit,” rather than falling down, even if the interiors were to be entirely unavailable. The Parade Ground is a magnificent spot for picnicking or recreation; the walkways are great for hiking through [and there’s a new bike path the length of the Hook, paid for by NPS]; and all of this would be enhanced by a restoration.

    Neither the NPS nor the DOD saw fit to do much to support a public discussion of the merits of the plan, much to the consternation of the Sandy Hook Foundation, the official friends organization for the Sandy Hook Unit. Considering the substantial efforts expended [and money raised] by them to support Sandy Hook, which generates income that is “siphoned away” for other units within the Area, there is some feeling that they would be better off if Sandy Hook were its own NRA. Again, your knowledge of NPS financing would help you to understand this better than I.

    Although I am not privy to, or familiar with, the complete background on early efforts, it would seem to me that individual leasing and restoration of the 36 buildings, in addition to placing tremendous burdens on the NPS in having to undertake functions for which they may not be well suited, could have led to nightmare consequences, and tremendous multiplication of costs. I have seen the documentation on the Sandy Hook Foundation’s restoration of the Lighthouse Keepers’ Quarters, and between the DOI and the NJ SHPO, it’s frightening.

    Before I close, at least for the moment, I should advise that I sit on the advisory board to SHP, along with the Chairman of the Township’s Landmarks Commission; a Trustee of the NJ Conservation Foundation and former Vice-President of the Monmouth Conservation Foundation [of which Mrs. Stanley Coleman is President]; the President of the Sandy Hook Foundation; and the President of the Twin Lights Foundation [the closest other National Register Landmark]. [I have far lesser qualifications than these other people, but have been the long-time President of Monmouth Hills, Inc., the governing body for the landmarked 1895 Water Witch Club Historic District, which sits in the "Highlands of the Navesink," overlooking Sandy Hook]. All of these people, many of whom have labored for years to support Sandy Hook, are fully in favor of the plan. Like me, they all feel that it would be better if the government had stepped in years ago to restore these buildings. But unlike a lodge, or limited number of structures, there are simply too many, requiring too much money. Each one individually may not be much, but collectively, even now, they’re a knockout . . . at least to an old infantryman and mortarman. Restoration of the 19th century mortar battery, at a cost of over $1 million, is next on the Foundation's list. Do you wonder why I'm a supporter?

    If I’ve ducked any of your questions, come back and I’ll try to do better.

  • Steamtown National Historic Site Schedules Leaf Peeper Excursions in the Poconos   6 years 21 weeks ago

    I almost grew up in Steamtown when it was in Bellows Falls. I used to climb all over the trains, my father has endless hours of 8mm film of trains. I've yet to make it to the "new" location but my father just returned from a trip there. As a steam fanatic he will go again and maybe I'll make a weekend trip there sometime but he claims that the National Historic Site is a pale shadow of the Vermont attraction. While Bellows falls was a gorgeous location (right on the Connecticut River (remember the Steam Launch?)) I understand the collection in Scranton does not compare to what was in Vermont. If the National Park Service is going to do a Steam Train museum then do it right. (How about a Smithsonian Steam Train Museum?).