Friday, August 03, 2007

National Parks Service approves county plan for parks

August 2, 2007

Thumbs Up to Parks at Fort Monmouth
National Park
Service approves county’s plan

FREEHOLD – The National Park Service (NPS) has approved Monmouth County’s application to include 351 acres at Fort Monmouth in the Federal Lands to Parks Program.

In a letter dated July 26, 2007 to the Monmouth Economic Revitalization Planning Authority (FMERPA) and Fort Monmouth’s Base Transition Coordinator, Elyse LaForest, Program Manager of the Federal Lands to Parks Program stated “...we have determined that the highest and best use in the public’s interest of the requested parcels is for park and recreational purposes.”

“This approval is a giant step forward in securing the open space and recreation resources at Fort Monmouth for future generations,” said Freeholder Lillian G. Burry, who represents Monmouth County on FMERPA and also serves as the freeholder liaison to the Monmouth County Board of Recreation Commissioners. “The National Park Service is to be commended for its thorough and timely review of the application and for working on the county’s behalf to set the stage for the transfer of open spaces and facilities to Monmouth County’s care for perpetuity.”

The Board of Chosen Freeholders unanimously passed a resolution in support of the application at its July 12, 2007 meeting. The application, submitted in cooperation with the governing bodies of the Boroughs of Eatontown, Oceanport, and Tinton Falls, formally requested that four specific areas at Fort Monmouth be conveyed to the County of Monmouth for inclusion in the county Park System. The county will use the areas for both active and passive recreational uses.

The areas include open fields, lawn areas, forested wetlands and developed facilities that include the Youth and Fitness Centers (both with gymnasiums), two 25-meter swimming pools, a football complex, bowling center, ball fields, meeting spaces, picnic areas and a playground.

The county is seeking an easement interest for the marina property and the golf course. The placement of conservation easements on both areas will permanently protect the properties from development and, under the conditions of the Federal Lands for Parks program, provide opportunities for public recreation managed by the private sector.

The NPS recommendation also stated “the county’s acquisition of the property will satisfy the public’s need for active and passive recreational facilities in an area of increasing population and development. The closure of Fort Monmouth presents a unique opportunity to add open space and recreational facilities in an area that is currently under-served for similar facilities and where open land does not exist.”

Under the framework and structure of the Base Realignment and Closing (BRAC) program, surplus federal property may be transferred between federal agencies. The NPS, as a subsection of the Department of Interior is empowered to recommend federal properties for inclusion in the Federal Lands for Parks program. The NPS recommends the transfer of the subject property to Monmouth County for public park and recreational use pursuant to the provisions of 40 U.S.C. § 550 (e), and a public benefit discount of 100 percent of the property’s fair market value in conveying the property.

The conveyance of the properties designated in the application is dependent upon the acceptance and approval of FMERPA and the Department of the Army.

Fort Monmouth is a 1,100-acre U.S. Army base located in Eatontown, Oceanport and Tinton Falls. In the fall of 2005, Fort Monmouth was officially designated as one of the bases that would be closed and moved to another location. As operations at Fort Monmouth are transferred to Aberdeen, Md., the base will be redeveloped for government, public or private use to be determined by FMERPA in conjunction with the community.

The Monmouth County Park System is the official open space, park and recreation agency of the County of Monmouth, consisting of more than 13,000 acres of permanently preserved land managed within 39 park areas. Visitation to the Monmouth County Park System exceeds 4.5 million annually. In 2006, the Park System conducted more that 4,400 recreation programs for persons of all ages and abilities in subject areas including nature interpretation, sports and fitness, outdoor recreation, and cultural, creative, and performing arts.

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