SEE RESIDENTIAL HOUSING AVAILABLE NOW
Making the new Fort Monroe a success
By Jim Neff
During the months leading up to Sept. 15, 2011, you will be reading much about Old Point Comfort and Fort Monroe. As a resident of The Chamberlin on Old Point Comfort, I want to share some thoughts about the transition.
Old Point Comfort is the name of the land before the fort was built. When was the last time you visited Old Point Comfort/Fort Monroe? To understand the transition, you need to come and see what you will own September 15th. Walk your dog along the sea wall (be sure to pick up after it), fish from the fishing pier, play on the mile long sandy beach, bowl at the bowling alley, drive thru the fort, visit the pet cemetery, check out the marina and view the historic residential housing.
The military presence on Old Point Comfort will not disappear all at once Sept. 15, 2011. The transfer of residential housing to the Fort Monroe Authority has already begun. With the cooperation of the military, some of the housing has already been turned over to the authority to manage. More of the housing and other real estate will be turned over as it is vacated before September.
The mission moves to Fort Eustis, but military personnel can and still will live at Old Point Comfort after Sept.15. They will have first priority in leasing the housing, but the key to protecting the property is to keep all buildings occupied. The rental income is vital to the economic success of the transition. Vacant buildings deteriorate rapidly and will become a burden on all taxpayers.
If you are looking for housing, consider living at Old Point Comfort. If you own or manage a business, consider moving it to Old Point Comfort. Contact the real estate team at the Fort Monroe Authority and get on the list for buildings as they become available. Some buildings can be occupied immediately, and some will need work before they can be occupied.
When you visit you will see why the historical assets are worth protecting. This costs money.
The economic projections in the "Headed for the red" article in the Nov. 23 Daily Press are just that, projections after many assumptions. It may be worse or better when the time comes. One thing is certain: There will not be much money to spend on protecting the historical properties that should be included in a National Park.
It could be that a National Park is not the way to go; a better way to go may be a foundation like Colonial Williamsburg.
Currently the authority is looking to the state, federal or city taxpayers for money. Perhaps there is a billionaire or millionaire that would be interested in preserving Quarters #1 and the other buildings. The buildings need repairs now, and the National Park designation, if it happens, will take years to establish and then may not bring any money. In fact, if funds were collected to repair, restore and maintain the structures, the Park Service may be more interested.
The Old Point Comfort Foundation is in the process of being established to provide an additional source of funds, but we should not wait. The Peninsula Community Foundation is already in place and could be used. A designated fund can be established for a single building or for all the structures to be included in a historic Fort Monroe on Old Point Comfort area.
If we cannot get support from the western part of Virginia for solving our transportation problem, I doubt that they will show much interest in supporting anything at Old Point Comfort that requires long-term funding. Likewise. I think the last election showed there will be even less available for a National Park.
We cannot wait for a National Park designation. What if it never happens? Sorry, we have to use an old-fashioned idea and do it ourselves.
Come and see what you own, encourage people to rent property at Old Point Comfort and consider establishing a designated fund at the Peninsula Community Foundation to support and maintain the historical structures.
It will not pay many bills, but another funding source should be consumer fees for access and usage of the facilities. We cannot expect taxpayers to pay for the parking, pool, beach, fishing pier, ball fields, bandstand, tennis courts, etc. if the users of the facilities do not contribute.
Jim Neff lives at The Chamberlin on Fort Monroe.