With only about three months under his belt as the new Fire Island National Seashore superintendent, Alex Romero has already began setting goals for the New Year.
“It has been a great transition,” he said of his time on Fire Island thus far. “I met with so many different communities and folks involved with the communities. I found one common thread — a love for the island. It’s just amazing to me that there is that admiration, care and support. Their feeling of ownership is remarkable.”
Since becoming superintendent, Romero now oversees about 40 year-round employees — 75 during the summer — and is responsible for approximately 300 year-rounders living across a 26-mile stretch from the Fire Island Lighthouse Visitor Center to the Moriches inlet, encompassing about 20,000 acres and approximately 30,000 people who live on the island during the summer months.
Romero has been spending his time becoming familiar with those who live and work on the island and creating an approach as the new manager working with a team. He said this year, among a laundry list of to-dos, he hopes to be more fiscally responsible with limited resources and align the management internally to better serve their visitors.
Aside from seasonal duties of staffing, recruitment and programming, he said the big goal in 2019 is to address the off-road vehicle permit issue. The issue is a lengthy process, which many have attempted to address in the past. He said he hopes to look at the rules and regulations of the permitting process, then engage the public for solutions.
“Right now the permitting process is so complicated. There are so many different rules; at just three months in, it’s impossible to explain,” he said. “We need to streamline the process.”
His next goal, he explained, is to review vulnerability studies and make plans and future decisions for erosion and flooding.
“Those studies should be in this January and we need to look at what the island will be like 10 to 20 years from now,” he said, “so that we can address and plan for the wilderness and community areas. It’s not all doom and gloom, but the reality is we need to think about this.”
He also hopes to delegate his time to identify priority areas such as upgrading visitor centers as well as getting to know all the local delegations, both town and county-wide.
“I want to know everyone and see how they see our island as part of their agenda,” he added. “I want to make things work before changing them.”
As for the visitor centers, the William Floyd Estate is at the top of his list to find and apply for funding to restore the house museum.
“I would love to see it become a premier year-round house museum experience,” he explained. “That hasn’t been done on Long Island and, with the schools down the block, it’s a great historical opportunity.”
Romero began his career as an urban park manager and has worked 27 years in New York City and the District of Columbia. He has managed house museums, recreational areas and natural and wildlife habitats, while also collaborating with organizations, leading multimillion-dollar planning and construction projects, and overseeing American landmarks. Currently living in Wantagh, he is actively looking to purchase a home on Long Island.
“Fire Island is part of the national parks system, with 417 parks. Our mission and my hope is to educate visitors to appreciate the parks, not only for them now, but for future generations to enjoy and become stewards of the park,” he added.