Posts Tagged ‘Swan Boats’

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Swan boat on Wesley Lake. Photo by Paul Goldfinger, 2011

Here’s proof that spring is on the way:

Linda Occhipinti, who runs the pedal boat business on Wesley Lake, says she plans to open for the new season beginning Friday, April 6, “weather permitting, of course.”

This will be her second season. Last year she had a total of seven boats — 3 white swans, 1 black swan, 1 pelican and 2 dragons. This year she’ll add a couple more — in the shape of pink flamingos.

During the spring, Occhipinti says, the boat concession will operate only on weekends — Friday through Sunday — but starting on June 18 it will be open on weekdays as well, from 10 a.m. until sundown. A half-hour ride will cost the same as last year: $20 for two people, or three people if one of them is a child.

The dock is on the Asbury Park side of the lake just east of the Moonstruck restaurant.

— Charles Layton

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Fletcher Lake. Photo by Paul Goldfinger

By Charles Layton

Quietly, without publicity, a proposal is being advanced for a commercial swan boat operation on Fletcher Lake in Ocean Grove. This would be in addition to the one soon to open on the Asbury Park side of Wesley Lake.

The Fletcher Lake project, though, is more problematic because that area — between the boardwalk and Central Avenue — is not zoned for commercial use. However, the promoters may have a way around the prohibition of commercial activity there. One of the businessmen involved, Robert Hilton, formerly of Ocean Grove, told me that zoning would not be a problem because the business he and his partner are proposing would not be year-round. A floating dock would be installed in the spring and then removed in the fall, Hilton said.

Bernard Haney, Neptune Township’s land use administrator, also said zoning wouldn’t be an issue, but for a rather different reason: “The dock [would be] in the water; we have no control of the water.” If the promoters were building something beside the lake, on land, that might present a zoning issue, Haney said.

Hilton and his partner in the venture, Clark Cate of Ocean Grove, gave a presentation to the Fletcher Lake Commission about two months ago, in which they described pedal boats operating from a small floating dock next to Ocean Grove. (The Commission is composed of members from both Bradley Beach and Ocean Grove.) Hilton said he has also consulted with Neptune Township Committeeman Randy Bishop of Ocean Grove and various other officials and has received encouragement. “We wanted to make sure nobody had any issues before we started the project,” Hilton said.

However, those not consulted were the homeowners near the site of the proposed dock. Some of them do have issues, and they are complaining that they only found out about the plan two weeks ago, more or less by accident, and have had a difficult time getting further information.

Marilyn Laverty, who lives on Broadway directly across from the site, said a boating concession would harm the environment and would also “commercialize an area that should be preserved and in fact improved environmentally rather than damaged.”

Another neighbor, Carol Woidt, also worries about opening up the lakeside to business activity. “I don’t want that to be an opening for other commercial things over here like food or that kind of thing,” she said. “Also, I wonder how it’s going to be advertised, are we going to have big signs over on the lake or in that area?”

Jeannine Rudolph, who also lives nearby, said, “I’ve been involved in the annual community cleanup of Fletcher Lake for five years now. Every year, we find that people have used this protected wetland as a dumping ground — from beer cans to bicycles to tires.” She fears that a pedal boat business “will add to the pollution in this already fragile ecosystem.”

Cate said he and Hilton would not permit food on their boats and that they “would make a point of going around and doing cleanups. We want to keep the lake the way it is, it’s gorgeous.”

Cate said he expects to get the business going sometime this summer, starting perhaps with six pedal boats and expanding if needed to as many as 10. He said they were considering two-person boats or four-person boats. Hilton emphasized that “nothing is 100 percent finalized yet,” but he said that “everybody in the world is on board” including the state Department of Environmental Protection, the federal EPA and the state Division of Fish and Wildlife.

Some of those questioning the project say there is no record so far of the DEP approving a commercial enterprise on the lake. Some opponents also question the notion that the zoning issue could be avoided by having the dock float in the water rather than being attached to the land. Regarding that, Cate told me, “From what I understand, we have the approvals that we need from everybody.”

The Camp Meeting Association, which owns the land, won’t charge the operators for its use, said Rev. Scott Hoffman, the CMA’s chief administrative officer. “We’re just allowing them to do it because we think it’s a good thing for tourism.”

Hilton also argued that boats on Fletcher Lake would be good for the town’s tourist economy.

Cate and his wife, Margaret, owned the Manchester Inn on Ocean Pathway, which burned down last year. Since then, he said, “I have been trying to find some new, people-related business that I could get back into and enjoy… Right now this is not a big business for us, this is something we could actually run ourselves.”

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