By Amanda Hilles, USAEC ContractorMarch 9, 2015
Nestled in the northern Highlands of Morris County, New Jersey, a goldmine of historic artifacts were in need of rescue. But because of its location within the 5,853-acre U.S. Army Garrison Picatinny (USAG Picatinny), documenting the artifacts would need to balance the military's mission with the historic preservation of the cultural resources.
USAG Picatinny's Cultural Resources Program (CRP) stepped in and their efforts garnered them a Secretary of the Army Environmental Award in the Cultural Resources, Small Installation category.
The installation's roots date back to the end of the Civil War, when it provided storage space for large quantities of powder and explosives. Since then, its various tenants and missions point to our military's advancement of weapons systems and munitions.
USAG Picatinny's CRP demonstrates extreme dedication to balancing the combined missions of research and development with historic and environmental preservation of the post's cultural resources through streamlined compliance. Leading the CRP is Mr. Jason J. Huggan, a registered professional archaeologist who has worked at Picatinny since 2007. So far, 83 properties across five historic districts have been deemed eligible for the NRHP.
"We commend Mr. Jason Huggan for his dedication and for working with the New Jersey State Historic Preservation Officer and the other interested parties to develop a comprehensive and systemic document to oversee Section 106 compliance for undertakings associated with the Real Property Master Plan for Picatinny Arsenal," said Ms. Caroline Hall, Assistant Director to the Office of Federal Agency Programs.
Among USAG Picatinny's archaeological sites are 22 of Native American origin evidenced as rock shelters, campsites and lithic scatters. Another 32 are historic in nature, ranging from 18th century iron forge remains, colonial farmsteads and homesteads, 19th century mining sites, as well as stonewalls and associated land tracts.
Functionality of installation's historic properties is critical to the mission's research and development focus. The CRP works extensively with mission tenants to perform adaptive reuse of facilities recognized as historic properties. For example, the CRP established color standards on structures located within the 600 Ordnance Testing Area Historic District, most of which were built just after World War I. One such structure was recently reactivated for storage and reuse with appropriate colors and materials that met State Historic Preservation Office standards.
One reason for USAG Picatinny's success was thoughtful preplanning, which saved time and money by streamlining compliance. The installation's Historic Property Component Plan covers expected outcomes for 2013 thru 2018, while the Integrated Cultural Resources Management Plan covers 2014--2019. These and other documents, including a master planning oriented programmatic agreement, ensure streamlined cultural resource management remains in place for the future.
Many stakeholders were involved throughout the process, and the CRP provides them with project-by-project and biennial updates of master planning projects allowing for transparency of the Arsenal's Section 106 compliance.
USAG Picatinny successfully executed several mitigation projects, including establishing historic district viewsheds and signage, salvaging bricks from historic buildings for reuse as part of USAG Picatinny's Pollution Prevention Plan, and coordinating a traveling museum exhibit.
Their most recognized project is the creation of a historic district narrative website which includes historical accounts of structures, professional photographic documentation and original building plans. Audio clips from interviews with current and former employees provide accounts adding to the already rich and historically relevant content. The site is a digital inventory of all historic district structures and documents those slated for demolition. Compared to the conventional method of such documentation, the website saved over $250,000. Completed two years ahead of schedule, it helped eliminate ongoing safety issues at abandoned facilities earlier than anticipated. The site earned USAG Picatinny a 2013 New Jersey State Historic Preservation Award.
In addition to the website, public outreach efforts include tours of the Arsenal, Walton Burial Ground, and artifact curation room for the USAG Picatinny workforce and new employees, as well as public and local organizations. On Memorial Day, events honor Revolutionary War soldiers laid to rest at the Walton Burial Ground.
The Arsenal's CRP is also responsible for managing the Revolutionary era Walton Burial Ground located on post. During 2012 and 2013, the CRP photographed each gravestone in the cemetery and is now trying to identify the identity of the 100-150 souls buried there.
The CRP's focus for the coming years includes additional historic building surveys, archaeological evaluation of sites at risk by future development, ongoing documentation of cultural resources and continued identification of Walton Burial Ground occupants.
The CRP's future also includes competing in the Secretary of Defense Environmental Awards later this year.