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Posts Tagged ‘Ocean Grove Chamber of Commerce’

Blogfinger report March 24, 2019

Ladies  boutique to open. Just what we need, another tourist business. This store will be in the vacant pizza building, next to the former April Cornell shop. April and others were forced out by rents. Is this business going to pay more than April?  Is the landlord waiting for legal weed in NJ?  The vote is today in Trenton.    (note:  the vote was cancelled—not enough votes)

“The good life.?” What does the “good life” mean to the Chamber of Commercials? See Oceangrovenj.com. Their schedule does not include one of OG’s unique events designed for the residents: The Townwide Yard Sale on May 11, but they do include Cinco de Mayo.

 

Blah, Blah, Blah perform “Fifties”

 

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Main Avenue, Ocean Grove, c. 2004.  Paul Goldfinger photo  ©

Main Avenue, Ocean Grove, c. 2004. Paul Goldfinger photo ©

We had received a report about the plans for rebuilding at the site of the fire.  A detailed presentation was made by the building’s owner, Kurt Cavano, at the Chamber of Commerce meeting on Feb.24.  Since  the presentation was not said to be confidential, someone in the audience sent us a nice news report with the details which we posted this morning.

However, that citizen reporter received some heat about it and asked that we take it down.  Although it is not our policy to do so, we agreed to that request, even though all who were at the meeting have been free to share the information with anyone.

Up until the time we deleted the post, it had received over 1,300 hits, so it is “out there.”   In brief, a new building will replace the old.  It will be 3 stories tall and will be designed by an OG architect. The builder will be Jack Green Co.

If more details are made public, we will post them.  If someone else who was at the meeting, or if the owner wants to share the details, we will post it again.

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CMA Director of Operations Bill Bailey shows photos of storm damage. Ralph delCampo (left" and Dale Whilden look on. Photos by Mary Walton

Camp Meeting Director of Operations Bill Bailey shows photos of storm damage. Ralph delCampo (left) and Dale Whilden look on. Photos by Mary Walton (Left click to see the photos enlarged)

By Charles Layton

A new spirit of good will and cooperation blossomed on Tuesday night, when leaders of the Camp Meeting Association and all of Ocean Grove’s major civic groups met to discuss storm recovery.

It falls to the Camp Meeting, as owner of the beach, to raise money and plan and execute the work of repairing the boardwalk and beach facilities.

However, others have a major stake, and up to now some of them had felt isolated, uninformed and frustrated. Merchants had complained because neighboring towns seemed to be moving ahead with rebuilding plans much faster than Ocean Grove. Other local groups said they wanted to help raise money for the beach and boardwalk, but their members hesitated for fear that donations for storm relief would be commingled with the Camp Meeting’s other funds and activities.

Camp Meeting officials organized Tuesday night’s meeting with those concerns fully in mind. “We’re all in the boat together and we all need to row in the same direction,” said Ralph delCampo, the Camp Meeting’s interim administrator. He and Camp Meeting president Dale Whilden pledged to keep everyone fully informed going forward. They also asked for everyone’s input, including their criticisms. But no criticisms were voiced on Tuesday night.

Those present included leaders of the Home Owners Association, the Historical Society, Ocean Grove United, the Fishing Club, the Chamber of Commerce and the Ocean Grove Beautification Project.

In laying out their plans for this year’s fund-raising campaign, DelCampo and other Camp Meeting officials stressed again and again that funds for the boardwalk and beachfront will be “totally separated” from all other funds. (Contributors can write “Boardwalk & Beach Front” in the memo field of their checks to have the donations routed to that separate account.)

The Camp Meeting officials said the entire beach will be open by Memorial Day and that most of the boardwalk will be operational, as will the beach office, bathrooms and changing rooms. And they discussed engineering issues in considerable detail. Bill Bailey, the Camp Meeting’s director of operations, used aerial photos of the beachfront to explain how different types of dune structures, bulkheads and barriers had functioned during Hurricane Sandy, and which of those might best prevent damage in future storms.

At the end of the meeting, Rich Lepore of the Chamber of Commerce expressed optimism about the summer season. “We’re going to do everything we possibly can do to drive home the fact that Ocean Grove is open,” he said.

Gail Shaffer of the Historical Society suggested that all of the organizations present should state on their websites that the OG beach will be open this summer. Others talked about plans to help with fund raising. Connie Ogden of OG Beautification said “We intend to go full blast” in providing decorative plantings along the boardwalk and elsewhere. Luisa Paster of Ocean Grove United suggested sending news releases to The Coaster on a regular basis.

Camp Meeting development officer Karen Adams began the meeting with an explanation of this year’s fund-raising campaign. She said the Camp Meeting normally needs to raise about $1 million, but this year the need is much greater. The cost of fixing the boardwalk and beachfront is estimated at $3 million, she said. Assuming that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides 75 percent of that amount, the Camp Meeting would need to raise another $750,000. Thornley Chapel is also in need of $500,000 worth of renovation (not related to the hurricane), and $100,000 must be raised for repairs to the storm-damaged auditorium roof. Insurance will cover the rest of the auditorium costs.

Karen Adams (center) describes the fund-raising campaign. Listening are Carol Woidt (left) of OG Beautification and Mary Ellen Tellefsen of the Chamber of Commerce.

Karen Adams (center) describes the fund-raising campaign. Listening are Carol Woidt (left) of OG Beautification and Mary Ellen Tellefsen of the Chamber of Commerce.

Ordinarily, the Camp Meeting would simply put donations for all those projects into a single fund. However, Whilden said, “We fully realize that probably the majority of the community is primarily interested in the boardwalk,” and therefore “there will be no commingling of funds. They’re completely different funds.”

Whilden said the Camp Meeting has already raised $190,000.

Bailey led a technical discussion of beach barriers and dunes. He said the Camp Meeting believes the reason the portion of the boardwalk from the pavilion to Seaview Avenue held up so well was because the dunes along that stretch of beach were constructed on top of a rubble wall buried beneath the sand. This rubble wall had been installed following a 1953 nor’easter. It has performed so well that the Camp Meeting would like to use that same type of structure along the entire length of the beach. However, “ultimately, it’s going to be all about the money,” Bailey said, “and those rubble walls are expensive.”

The Camp Meeting also discovered that a sheet steel bulkhead in front of the boardwalk at the south end had provided good protection there. Engineers have been helping the Camp Meeting study these and other options for rebuilding.

Bailey said the reason Ocean Grove did not announce its rebuilding plans as quickly as other towns was that the Camp Meeting wanted to first determine which structures will best prevent damage in future storms. “We’ve got to get this right,” he said. “We’re investing a lot of money. We’ve got to study it.”

DelCampo said Ocean Grove needs to avoid what happened in Spring Lake, where the boardwalk was damaged by Hurricane Irene in 2011, the town rebuilt it immediately, and then it was destroyed again just one year later by Hurricane Sandy.

According to Bailey, here is what visitors to Ocean Grove can expect by Memorial Day:

  • The beach will be open in its entirety.
  • The south end boardwalk – from the beach office to Bradley Beach — will be restored.
  • From just north of the beach office to just north of McClintock Street the boardwalk will not be in place, but beach access points will be provided.
  • From the pavilion to the north end the boardwalk will be in place.

Still unanswered is the question of access to Asbury Park. As a temporary fix. there may just be an asphalt pathway.

Also, before summer, the Camp Meeting will send volunteer rescue divers out to retrieve submerged offshore debris.

The Camp Meeting officials said they still had no word as to whether FEMA will agree to provide any funds for restoring the boardwalk. Neither do they know when FEMA might announce that decision. For background on that, see this previous story.

Bailey uses aerial photos to illustrate the performance of a boardwalk bulkhead

Bailey points to an aerial photo showing how the beachfront looked before the storm

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In Avon, work begins next month. Boardwalk planks have been stripped away and a beach building moved out of the way. Photo by Mary Walton

Neighboring towns are forging ahead. In Avon (above), where rebuilding is to start next month, boardwalk planks have been stripped away and a beach building moved off into the street. Photo by Mary Walton

By Mary Walton and Charles Layton

Barring a miracle, prospects for an Ocean Grove boardwalk by next summer are nonexistent.

“I would say that’s a realistic expectation,” Ralph delCampo, interim administrator of the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association, said Friday.

As neighboring towns move ahead with plans to repair their storm-damaged boardwalks, the holdup here in Ocean Grove appears largely financial. DelCampo said in an interview that the Camp Meeting has applied to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for money to repair the 60 percent of the boardwalk that Hurricane Sandy destroyed. “Our assumption is that we will get money from the federal government,” he said. The estimated cost of replacing the damaged sections of the boardwalk is around $2.5 million, and for the pier another $500,000.

But because the two facilities are owned by the Camp Meeting, which is a private, non-profit organization, FEMA reimbursement for Ocean Grove is less certain than it is for other Jersey Shore boardwalks, which are owned by municipalities.

Non-profits must demonstrate to FEMA’s satisfaction that the funds they receive will be used for “things that are structural to a community,” Robin Smith, a FEMA public affairs officer assigned to Monmouth County, wrote in an email to Blogfinger. She gave as an example a hospital or other facility necessary to health and welfare. She said the fact that the boardwalk “isn’t likely to be seen as critical infrastructure likely means it won’t qualify for grant funds.” Earlier this year FEMA rejected a request from the Camp Meeting for funds to repair the pier after Hurricane Irene lopped off its eastern tip.

DelCampo said the Camp Meeting, with the support of Neptune Township, is attempting to make the case to FEMA that the boardwalk offers flood and damage protection to the community and therefore is “more than a park-like setting or a functional walkway.”

Immediate plans for next summer call for providing beach access and fixing the area around the beach office. DelCampo noted that following the 1992 nor’easter, Ocean Grove was also without a boardwalk for a summer. In all, he said, repairs took two years.

In a recent mass mailing to Ocean Grove residents, the Camp Meeting asked for contributions to its “Now and Forever Fund” to aid in recovery. But in meetings with leaders of both the Ocean Grove Home Owners Association and Ocean Grove United, delCampo and Camp Meeting president Dale Whilden were told firmly that many of their members would prefer giving to a fund specially earmarked for Hurricane Sandy repairs, not to a general-purpose Camp Meeting fund. The Camp Meeting Board of Trustees considered that option but decided not to set up a separate fund, delCampo said. He pledged that the association will honor requests that contributions be used for specific purposes, such as boardwalk restoration or auditorium roof repairs.

Neighboring beach towns, according to press reports, have already appropriated funds for their damaged boardwalks in the expectation that FEMA will reimburse 75 percent of their costs. In Belmar, authorities are debating what kind of wood to buy with the $17 million that the town has allocated for reconstruction of its 1.3-mile boardwalk. Spring Lake has appropriated $4 million to cover the first stretch of a new boardwalk from the South Pavilion to Pier Beach, and expects to raise beach fees from $9 to $10. Avon plans to begin work on its boardwalk in mid-January with a $2.5 million appropriation. All these towns intend to have their boardwalks redone by the summer of 2013, as does Asbury Park.

Without a FEMA guarantee, the camp meeting would be hard pressed to pay for reconstruction. “We don’t have a money tree in the basement,” delCampo said. In 2010, according to the last financial accounting posted on its website, the Camp Meeting ran a deficit of $75,297 on total expenditures of $5,145,091. Twenty percent of its revenues of $5,069,794 came from “contributions, gifts, offerings and grants”; 41 percent came from entertainment revenue, and 27 per cent came from rental income. In contrast, in 2009 the Camp Meeting had a net surplus of $924,971. Between 2009 and 2010, revenues fell by $523,875, the bulk of which represented a $306,770 decline in the contribution category.

Del Campo informed the Ocean Grove Chamber of Commerce earlier this month that there would be no boardwalk next summer. “We heard this but we really didn’t want to hear this,” said Ocean Grove Chamber of Commerce president Rich Lepore, owner of Smuggler’s Cove on Main Avenue. He said he was reluctant to believe the news.  “I wouldn’t give up so soon.” Nevertheless, he added, “there was discussion that if there is no boardwalk there will still be a beach.”

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Alan Barber (left) admires the great auditorium as Lois Hetfield and Charles Layton tell how Woody Allen once made a movie there. Photo by Mary Walton

Australian journalist Alan Barber (left) admires the Great Auditorium as Lois Hetfield and Charles Layton tell him how Woody Allen once made a movie there. Photos by Mary Walton

By Charles Layton

Alan Barber, who runs the newspaper in Ocean Grove, Australia, turned up in our town on Monday. Lois Hetfield, the Chamber of Commerce’s administrator, showed him the Great Auditorium, and then the two of them, plus a couple of Blogfinger staffers, settled in for some coffee and chit-chat at the Barbaric Bean.

While we were talking Mayor Randy Bishop dropped in, and he and Barber proceeded to swap stories and make comparisons between the two namesake towns at opposite ends of the planet.

Barber is vacationing in New York City. Since he was so close by, he said he couldn’t resist seeing his “sister city,” so he hopped on the North Jersey Coast Line and came on down.

He explained that Australia’s Ocean Grove, southwest of Melbourne, was founded in the 19th century by Methodists from our own Ocean Grove. The coastal area where they established a camp meeting, based on the one in New Jersey, was the domain of Aboriginal Australians at the time.

Barber’s newspaper, the Ocean Grove Voice, is a bi-weekly, or “fortnightly” as they say down under. He was born in South Africa, grew up in the United Kingdom, where he became a newspaper photographer, and moved nine years ago to Australia, where he had friends and a brother. He settled in the area of Melbourne, which he considers Australia’s most interesting city, and then “discovered Ocean Grove by chance, really.”

The spot of land where the first Australian Grovers settled, next to a beach, is now a park, but the Camp Meeting Association still survives there, although it isn’t the dominating presence it is here.

The Australian Ocean Grove was originally a dry town, under a covenant that is still sometimes cited when someone wants to prevent a business from acquiring a license to sell liquor. Still, alcohol is now served in that town’s restaurants and bars, and Barber said the local coffee shop, The Olive Pit, just got a liquor license as well.

That’s not the only difference between here and there. Barber said the beach area there has no sidewalks and no boardwalk, just dunes. The town has two business districts with a total of 60 or 70 shops, plus there is a big shopping mall. A second mall is in the works, he said.

Ocean Grove, Australia, has about 12,000 residents now, but Barber expects it to grow to 25,000 in the next 15 years “because there’s a growth area at the north that’s developing.” Bishop told him that our Ocean Grove has between 5,800 and 6,000 people, but that our population can swell to as many as 21,000 on a busy weekend, counting day trippers and hotel guests. (Hetfield said we have about 500 hotel rooms now.)

Mayor Randy Bishop of Ocean Grove gets the low-down from Alan Barber of Ocean Grove

Barber told Randy Bishop (left) that The Barbaric Bean reminded him of The Olive Pit in Australia. One difference: The Olive Pit just got a liquor license.

Barber was especially impressed by our Great Auditorium, with its seating capacity of 6,500. He said the only performance space in his Ocean Grove is in a little place called The Piping Hot Chicken Shop, which features local blues bands and an occasional visiting band from Melbourne. Bishop wanted to know whether any of the street names in Australia matched those in our town, so we all started ticking off the names of our local streets — Lawrence, Cookman, Heck, Abbott… There was only one match: Ocean Grove, Australia, has an “Inskip,” Barber said.

According to Barber, his Ocean Grove has had a much harder time preserving its historic buildings. Development “is almost a free-for-all at the moment,” he said. People are leveling older structures and building “square boxes,” and there is no historical protection under the law. He said there was a local uprising that managed to keep a McDonald’s from moving in, but the town has allowed a KFC and a couple of smaller chain businesses.

As darkness was falling, Barber caught a train back to New York. He flies home to Australia on Thursday. He invited us to come and visit any time.

Oh, but here is a coincidence. Barber told us that while he was visiting here, the president of our Camp Meeting Association, Dale Whilden, and his family just happened to be visiting Ocean Grove, Australia. Barber said he was told the Whildens had dropped by his newspaper’s office to say hello.

If you want to read Barber’s newspaper, go to http://www.oceangrovevoice.com.

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