SANDY HOOK – It’s back home to Fort Hancock for a couple of local environmental organizations displaced by Super Storm Sandy.
Clean Ocean Action and the American Littoral Society, which had to forsake their permanent longtime location in the former Army installation because of the late October storm, were able to return recently.
“It’s nice to be back in a natural area,” said Lindsay McNamara, Clean Ocean Action’s program and communications associate, as she and her colleagues returned to Building 18 on Officer’s Row at the far end of Gateway National Recreation Area at Sandy Hook.
Clean Ocean Action and the American Littoral Society, another environmental group, were forced to leave the site as Sandy caused considerable damage at Sandy Hook and the National Park Service officials closed the park to the public.
The building where the organization’s offices are located, however, survived the storm in fine shape. “No damage – not even water in the basement,” McNamara said.
But, due to the damage to the park’s infrastructure, they were forced to relocate, she said.
The park’s roadway, electrical, water and sewer systems were damaged and not operational. Since about two weeks after the storm until March 29, Clean Ocean Action was operating out of office space generously provided by Jersey Printing on First Avenue in Atlantic Highlands. Employees, who are accustomed to working out of the more than a century-old, three-story structure in the picturesque, natural setting at the park, were using two rooms, both wide open spaces.
“There were definitely struggles and frustrations,” in the arrangement, said Tavia Danch, project manager, who has been with the organization for five years.
Workers found themselves having to make their way back to their offices at Fort Hancock to get information or items needed for the various projects Clean Ocean Action were undertaking, among other obstacles, Danch said.
“We kind of came to enjoy everybody in two large rooms,” said Mary-Beth Thompson, operations director.
“There were nice things to being in Atlantic Highlands – civilization being one of them,” Danch said. She noted it made for a nice change from the somewhat distant fort location to be able to walk around a downtown area, to go out for lunch.
“It was nice to be in a little neighborhood,” McNamara said.
But, following the storm, “in terms of being more hands-on, to get to the communities, to get to support them and deal with some of their needs, it actually was beneficial for us to be out in Atlantic Highlands for those initial months,” said Cindy Zipf, Clean Ocean Action’s executive director.
But now, “It’s great to be back,” she said.
Especially now that the weather is warming up, the others observed.
“It gives me inspiration to get outside and take advantage of the park,” Thompson said.
The American Littoral Society wound up operating out of medical office space on Shrewsbury Avenue, Shrewsbury, that was made available by one of its board members, said Eileen Kennedy, the society’s deputy director. The arrangement worked well for the society’s handful of employees.
“But everybody is happy to be back,” she said. “It’s especially nice to come back with spring. Winters can be brutal out here.” Clean Ocean Action, established in 1984, located to the Sandy Hook site in 1987, according to Thompson.
The Littoral Society has been at Sandy Hook since 1961, and set up shop in Building 18 during the mid-1980s, Kennedy said.