By Neil Schulman
Oceanport — The road through Fort Monmouth connecting Oceanport Avenue to Route 35 may soon open again. While that is probably good for traffic and development, officials worry about the effect on deer — and none of the solutions to that are particularly attractive.
The path through Fort Monmouth has been closed to the public for years; shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, the fort closed the road due to security concerns, and it remained closed to the public when the Army base was closed a decade later.
Coffey said that Oceanport had concerns with managing traffic on the road. The police department is concerned about the extra patrol required, but “our concerns were assuaged,” Coffey said. The county plans to have cameras along the road, making monitoring it easy.
The mayor believes that when people can drive through the fort once again, it will spur development and rebuilding, as people see the potential for the land, and how easy it will be to access the properties.
However, Fort Monmouth has a large deer population — and it’s growing rapidly. The mayor said that the herd has the potential to double in population every two and a half years. Since the Army began moving out, they’ve been growing undisturbed.
While the road will have snow fencing on its borders, deer can easily jump that barrier. And when cars meet a deer at 30 mph, the results aren’t pretty – for either side.
Coffey said that originally the plans called for the federal government to conduct a “culling” but “that became not the case.”
“It will devolve to us and the state,” he said.
Oceanport and Eatontown, where the deer dwell, both have rules prohibiting the discharge of firearms. But in many cases when towns want to control the deer population, they hold a lottery for bow and arrow hunters.
Councilman John Patti sounded shocked by this idea. “They’re not serious about this?” he asked. “I’m really opposed of anyone going on and slaughtering these deer just because of a roadway.”
But Coffey said that there would be “carnage” with a large number of deer trying to cross a busy road. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has guidelines to bring down deer population.
Hunting is one. Others, such as fertility control, would take years to implement, and people will be coming into contact with the herd in time.
If the deer are hunted, they could at least be used as venison; the herd is apparently healthy, since they stay on fort property and don’t interact with other deer who could introduce disease to the group.
“If a car hits a deer, that could cause a serious accident,” said Councilwoman Patty Cooper. She said she loved deer and didn’t like the idea of the hunt, but saw it might be needed.
“It’s not an out and out slaughter,” Coffey said. “The state’s trying to come up with a way to design the least violent way.”
“No one going to be happy about this, there’s no doubt about it,” he said. “It’s a no win situation for everybody.”