4 degrees F. January 2004. Ocean Grove, New Jersey. By Paul Goldfinger © Click left for full view
2004. Ocean Grove, NJ. by Paul Goldfinger © Left click for full view
By Paul Goldfinger, Editor
On May 2, 2013, we posted Part I of our piece about the Ocean Grove fishing pier, a historic landmark in a historic town. At the end of that article we discussed some of the more recent history of the pier and of the Ocean Grove Fishing Club, also a historic entity dating back to the late 19th century.
Blogfinger article 5/2/13 Fishing pier Part I
It would be best to pick up the story in December 1992 when a huge nor’easter destroyed most of the pier and some of the boardwalk. Only a small portion at the end of the pier was left, and the fishing clubhouse was carried out to sea. The Club’s activities were curtailed until 1994 when the pier was rebuilt by the Fishing Club which obtained a Small Business Loan from the government. They borrowed $277,000 which was paid off by the club members. In exchange for that financial commitment, the only quid pro quo was that the Camp Meeting Association would grant them a 30 year lease extending out to 2024. The mortgage was paid off a few years ago. Note that the Club has always paid the property taxes for the pier, even though the property is still legally owned by the CMA.
Fast forward to August, 2011 when a hurricane named Irene damaged the fishing pier, causing destruction of 9 pilings and 20 feet of pier. The boardwalk was not damaged. The Camp Meeting Association applied to FEMA for $150,000 to make repairs to the pier, but the request was rejected.
In a Blogfinger article about this matter, Mr. Ralph delCampo of the CMA is quoted as saying “The rejection was because the Fishing Club area is private.” Once again the OG Fishing Club proposed to finance the reconstruction work if they could be granted an extension of the lease for another 30 years.
Link to 10/22/12 Blogfinger article about 2011 Irene damage to pier
Negotiations between the two sides moved slowly, and finally a decision by the CMA was to be presented on October 29, 2012, ironically the day that Sandy hit. That meeting was never held.
After Sandy, FEMA again ruled against the OGCMA’s request to help with rebuilding the beachfront. The fishing pier was not part of the FEMA request. The CMA plans to address the rebuilding of the pier as part of Phase II, and no one knows when that will happen.
Since Sandy, the Fishing Club has met with the CMA, but the CMA has not been willing to make a commitment regarding the future of the Fishing Club which still has 11 years on its lease. The only thing that they will say with certainty is that they will rebuild the pier.
At this point, the Fishing Club has lost some members, dropping down to 100. Again, it has offered to finance the rebuilding of the pier, but the CMA has expressed concerns about that financing arrangement and will not agree to the proposal at this time. Mr. delCampo estimates that the pier will cost between $750,000 to $1 million, although the Fishing Club members think it could be less.
Mr. delCampo will not discuss the pier situation beyond what he has said already. If the CMA has more specific plans for the pier, it has not revealed those plans publicly.
At a meeting of the Fishing Club Board of Trustees today , we heard some frustration expressed. The members can’t understand why the CMA would refuse their offer to pay. “Where is the downside of accepting our offer?” asked one member. “We are willing to foot the bill.” The members pointed out that the 1992 nor’easter was a similar situation, and the club kept all its promises including paying off the loan “There is a precedent,” said one of the trustees.
The Fishing Club views itself as being “good citizens” of Ocean Grove, always supportive of the town including a $5,000.00 donation to the Phase 1 rebuilding effort. They say, “We want what’s best for the community.” Their frustrations can be heard in their comments including: “We’re very disappointed. We’re saddened and perplexed. What are their intentions? They don’t want to engage us. This is a stalemate.”
The Fishing Club trustees refuse to consider their organization as a private club. They say that anyone can be a member, and the only reason for limiting the membership has to do with size—-”engineering and safety issues.”
Since 2011, the famous “teaching kids to fish program” has been curtailed. The group thinks that their history and their record of being a “community within a community” needs to be recognized.
What if the Fishing Club is not reinstated on the pier? This is something they do not want to consider, but if it happens, they will continue as a surf-fishing club, but without the kids—it would be too risky and there would have to be lifeguards, rescue boats, etc.
President Al Dawson points out that Asbury Park and Bradley Beach have fishing clubs, but no piers. However, continuing a fishing pier tradition in the Grove that is at least 115 years old is the only way to satisfy these OG fishermen and fisherwomen.
EDITOR’S NOTE: MAY 21, 2013. Besides the members of the OGFC and the management of the OGCMA, I don’t know how many of you actually care about the intricate details of this situation. However, after another interview with Mr. Ralph delCampo of the OGCMA, I have to clarify a few points.
First, the FEMA denial for funds to restore the fishing pier after Irene (2011) was not due to the presence of a private club at the end of the pier. That is what the October article in BF said, but Mr. delCampo believes there was a misunderstanding. Instead the denial was for precisely the same reason as the Sandy denial: i.e. the pier was defined as a recreational facility owned by a private nonprofit organization. The boardwalk was not damaged then. Since the pier is clearly a recreational entity, no appeal was filed after Irene.
The only difference now is that financing for both the pier and the boardwalk were denied by FEMA because they are deemed recreational and owned by a private nonprofit.
Second, regarding the OG Fishing Club, Mr. delCampo says that he cannot accept an agreement now with the OGFC until he has “clarity” regarding the FEMA appeal. He says that there are “four or five scenarios” which could develop regarding financing which could influence decisions about the Fishing Club. He said, “Once we have clarity we will talk to the Fishing Club and entertain all options.” He reminded me that in 1992, when the OGFC financed the reconstruction of the pier, the collateral for that financing was the Camp Meeting Association itself. This is the first time that fact has been mentioned in this dialogue. So here is yet another variable to consider.
Mr.delCampo says that he is working on “parallel sequential decision trees” which make a final decision impossible at this time. One variable that he acknowledges is that he has not seen a formal, concrete financing commitment from the Fishing Club. If one were to materialize now, he says that he would consider it. His working understanding, based on engineering analysis, is that the job will cost $750,000-$1,000,000.
I think I have laid out the facts, so at this point, the two parties need to talk to each other. Either party may, of course, comment below.—–Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger
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