Posts Tagged ‘Ocean Grove Fishing Club’

4 degrees F. January 2004. Ocean Grove, New Jersey. By Paul Goldfinger © 4 degrees F. January 2004. Ocean Grove, New Jersey. By Paul Goldfinger ©  Click for full view
2004. Ocean Grove, NJ. by Paul Goldfinger © Left click for full view 2004. Ocean Grove, NJ. by Paul Goldfinger © Click for full view

By Paul Goldfinger, M.D.  Editor Blogfinger.net.   Re-posted.   Update 2021.

On May 2, 2013, we posted Part I of our piece about the Ocean Grove fishing pier,  “a historic landmark in a historic town.”  Here is a link:

What’s With the Fishing Pier? Part I: A citizen’s guide to the 2nd oldest structure in the Grove.

At the end of that part I 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.

We posted part II late in 2013.  That is below followed by an important 2021 update.

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 harmed.

The Camp Meeting Association applied to FEMA for $150,000 to make repairs to the pier, but the request was denied.

In a Blogfinger article  by Charles Layton (10/22/12)  about this matter, Mr. Ralph del Campo 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.

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  (2013,) 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. Del Campo estimates that the pier will cost between $750,000 to $1 million, although the Fishing Club members think it could be less.

Mr. Del Campo 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  (May, 2013,)  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 Del Campo 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. Del Campo believes there was a misunderstanding.

Instead, the denial in 2011 was because the pier was defined as a recreational facility owned by a private nonprofit organization.

The only difference now  (2013),  post Sandy,  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. Del Campo 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. Del Campo 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, May, 2013, the two parties need to talk to each other.  Either party may, of course, comment below.—–Paul Goldfinger, Editor  @Blogfinger.

Editor’s note January 20, 2018:     *Eventually FEMA approved boardwalk funding in 2014, but they did not approve the request for public funds to rebuild the pier, and there was no appeal because the CMA did not want to rattle the cages in Washington once again.

The CMA has placed the pier reconstruction at the bottom of their priority list, and currently the North End boardwalk work is about to begin. At no time has the CMA bailed out on their promise to eventually restore the pier.

As for the Fishing Club’s current status, we have no information, but if that group still exists, they are welcome to comment below.

August 2021 update:   I may have missed something, but if you actually read Michael Badger’s welcoming statement on page 1 of the 2021 Summer Program Guide, he says, “Architects are drawing up the plans for restoring the pier so that the OGCMA can begin the process of getting permits.”

About a year ago a design for a new pier was publicized.  It was in the shape of a cross.  We don’t know if that is still gospel, but such a design could be practical in offering more space for fishermen. We had a discussion on BF about pier design. I’ll find the link.

But we must go back to the post Sandy era when FEMA refused to pay to fix the pier.  You will recall the “public vs private” debates as FEMA tried to figure out what to do.  And back in 2007 there were debates about discrimination on the part of the CMA.

So, when it comes to the pier, the 800 pound gorilla in the room  which has not been discussed publicly is whether OG will ever again permit a private fishing club at the end of the pier.

Our impression is that such a segregated concept will never happen again, because the pier is a public thoroughfare.    Add to the mix the agreement to lease the end for the Fishing Club extends to 2024.

As Uncle Milty would say,  “What the hey.”

JOHN COLTRANE  “Say It Over and Over Again.”

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Ocean Grove Fishing Club. 2012. Jack Bredin.© Photograph by Rob Bredin. Click to enlarge both paintings.



“Indian Summer” 2018. By Jack Bredin. Photograph by Rob Bredin. ©


LINDA RONSTADT   from the Mambo Kings:

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Ocean Grove beach. October 15, 2015. Prosper Bellizia, Blogfinger staff. ©

Ocean Grove beach. October 15, 2015. 7:00 am.  Prosper Bellizia, Blogfinger staff. ©

Even though the Ocean Grove Fishing Club is no longer functioning as a pier-based group, there does not appear to be an increase in surf fishing which might have been expected. Surf fishing is fun, but Prosper’s photograph seems to show a rare sight unless some of us are just not getting up early enough.

Perhaps the F.C. should consider early morning surf fishing for kids next year, or even in the fall and spring.  There has been no word from the OGCMA about restoring the fishing pier to its historic length, but they did say in the past that they have other more pressing priorities.  —–PG


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Members of the Neptune High School NJROTC honor guard and NHS 11th grader during the singing of the Stat Spangled Banner

Members of the Neptune High School NJROTC honor guard and NHS 11th grader Jordan Vinson during the singing of the Star Spangled Banner.  Ocean Grove, NJ. Paul Goldfinger photographs @Blogfinger  ©  click left to enlarge.

Seventy two years ago, on a Sunday morning, December 7, 1941, America was attacked at Pearl Harbor, and 2,400 of our citizens died. The next day, President Franklin Roosevelt asked Congress to authorize a declaration of war. FDR said, “We will gain the inevitable triumph, so help us God.”

In Ocean Grove there is always a memorial ceremony on this date. I don’t know how long it has been going on, but it is a tradition. Not many towns have such an event, and this morning, at 11 am, a group gathered consisting mostly of members of the Ocean Grove Fishing Club and various veterans organization from the area. Also in attendance was an honor guard from the NJROTC at Neptune High School.  If they look familiar, you have probably seen them marching in Ocean Grove parades.

An 11th grader from NHS, Jordan Vinson, sang the Star Spangled Banner accapello, and it was lovely and heartfelt.  After the event I asked her if she ever sang the national anthem with an orchestra, and she “no,” but she gave me a big bright smile when I said, “Maybe some day you can stand in front of an orchestra in the Great Auditorium and sing it.”

It was cold up on the pier, but everyone stood and joined in the pledge of allegiance  and in the singing of  “God Bless America.” Joan Dawson, of the OG Fishing Club, spoke at the brief event which lasted about 30 minutes.  She mentioned the veterans and how we honor them at an event like this and then she proudly told of all the accomplished women now serving in the armed forces.

Firing volleys in honor of the dead

Firing volleys in honor of the dead.

Then a group of riflemen fired a volley in tribute to those who died that day.  The casings flew up into the air while the veterans present, wearing their VFW or American Legion hats, stood at attention and saluted.

At attention.

At attention during taps.

Robert Hodges, the Monmouth County Commander of the American Legion  and a lifetime member of the VFW told me that he commands over 20 chapters in the area.  I took his picture and he said, “I remember you.”

“That’s right”  I replied, “I put your photo on my blog, and I will do it again this time,” as I handed him one of our cards. The kids in the honor guard got Blogfinger cards and so did Jordan.

Commander Robert Hodges, Monmouth American Legion and VFW.

Commander Robert Hodges, Monmouth American Legion and VFW.

L to R: Joyce Dawson, Joyce Bradley, Pam James, and Joan Sunnerville. It was a day of J names.

L to R: Joyce Dawson, Joyce Bradley, Pam James, and Joan Sunnerville. It was a day for  J names.

Three patriotic  ladies from Neptune stood in front, side by side, to sing “God Bless America,” conducted by maestro Joyce Dawson. They sang with enthusiasm, and Joyce Bradley, the President of the  Neptune VFW Auxiliary asked  me to take their photo. I was going to anyhow.  Having been to this event before, I knew what to expect and I was not surprised at the pride and sincerity of those who were present.

If any members of the NHS honor guard send me an email, I can mail them a few  more photos  (Blogfinger@verizon.net)

RUBY BRAFF (cornet)  and DICK HYMAN (Wurlitzer theatre organ)     “America the Beautiful.”

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Ralph, the Ocean Grove Fisherman. Photos by Ted Aanensen

The Ocean Grove Fishing Club’s house and much of the pier it stood on may be gone, devoured by Hurricane Sandy, but the Club’s beloved mascot, Ralph, has reappeared, happily perched above the waves.

He looks more isolated than he used to, but still…

Blogfinger staff photographer Ted Aanensen noticed Ralph’s return on Sunday and filed these pictures. He is one of several people we know who were taking photos of Ralph, cheerfully emailing them to friends and posting them on Facebook for all the world to see.

Says Ted, “The first time Bob Border and Carol Boniello put Ralph up on the pier, it was in the middle of the night and there he stayed.

“He is their creation and he has adorned the fishing pier for many years, stolen, retrieved, stolen, remade, always a symbol of hope and a smile. I just saw him today and smiled. We are all back to ‘normal,’ whatever that is.”

To read Paul Goldfinger’s story, from last March, on the history of Ralph, how he cheered our town following another destructive storm two decades ago and then became the subject of a children’s book, go here.

— Charles Layton

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Matt Gonzales of the OG Fishing Club gives advice to Nicole Falcone, 11.

Story and photos by Mary Walton

James Leather measured the fish. Al Dawson weighed them. And Jane Killilea photographed them for posterity. Other volunteers from the Ocean Grove Fishing Club handed out fishing rods, helped attach bait, untangled the lines and gave pointers.

Scott’s Bait & Tackle in Bradley Beach donated the bait (squid).  Nagle’s supplied the ice cream that Bob Killilea handed out to the kids at the end.

Oh, yes, the kids. Their job was to catch the fish. Filled with hope, 40 or so youngsters cast their lines in the ocean Tuesday morning.  Four lucky ones reeled in flailing flounders.

That’s how it went on opening day of the Fishing Club’s Youth Program.  From now until the end of August, on Tuesdays from 7:30 a.m to 10 a.m., the Fishing Club will open the doors of its headquarters at the end of the Ocean Grove pier to any child between the ages of 8 and 14. Each child who catches a fish receives a certificate (suitable for framing), a photograph and a one-dollar bill.  At the end of the season, the kids who landed the three largest fish receive additional prizes. Last year the prize for the top winner was a fishing rod.

Zac Keating with his fish

“It’s really neat to see the kids the first time they catch a fish,” said Jane Killilea, a member of the fishing club for eight years.  “They are so excited.” Because of a back injury she is unable to fish. “But at least I can take a picture of the kids. When I was a kid growing up in the Bronx there were all kinds of things for the kids to do.  But you don’t see that much anymore that’s for free.”  She noted that any child is welcome, not just ones from Ocean Grove.

A two-time winner, Adam Ruggiero, 13, has graduated to the role of helper. He couldn’t remember when he first came, but his grandfather, George Macher, could. “It was five years ago. I know because I brought him,” said Macher, a longtime club member. Said Adam, “I like coming with my grandpa and fishing.” His most memorable catch was an extraordinary creature called a stargazer. It was fat, venomous and had top-mounted eyes, hence its name.

Because Tuesday was opening day, the fisherkids left with a bonus gift: bright blue tee shirts with a picture of with the pier stenciled on the back and the program’s logo (two fish) on the front.

Even the fish were happy on this opening day. Because none was large enough to keep—they have to be over 18 inches long–all were tagged and sent back to the watery depths to swim another day.

Jack Belmas (right) and his friend Spencer Heuges model their Fishing Club tee-shirts, as Jack displays the fancy certificate he received for catching a fish.

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