Ocean Grove is throwing its biggest party ever to celebrate its 150th anniversary this summer, but what type of security will be provided for the expected large crowds, what will be its cost, and who will bear the financial burden were questions recently raised.
These were issues on the minds of both Neptune Township Committee members and residents at the recent meeting where a resolution approving a fireworks display in Ocean Grove was approved.
“We have to make sure we have all of our bases covered,” Committeeman Nick Williams said in advance of the resolution, which was passed. Williams and Mayor Carol Rizzo abstained on approving the resolution.
Ocean Grove, the popular historic district noted for its Victorian architecture and Methodist religious significance, is celebrating the 150th anniversary of its founding in 1869, just after the Civil War. The property is still basically owned by the community’s founding Methodist Church under the control of the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association. Except for the streets and other public rights-of-way, the community is still owned and controlled by the OGCMA- a private, not public, entity.
One of the big events over the summer will be an Independence Day Parade on Saturday, July 6 from 10:30 am to 12:30 pm., culminating in a fireworks display at 9 pm. Fireworks are an unusual event in Ocean Grove.
“Ocean Grove does not normally have fireworks displays but this is a special year,” Township Clerk Richard Cottrell said
But some township officials and residents said that there needs to be some type of oversight to the event, particularly regarding security.
“There has to be a contingency plan to go along with this and I (believe) we need to ask these questions,” Williams said.
He and Rizzo cited traffic, emergency situations, ingress and egress into the historic district, and who will clean up afterwards, as concerns that must be addressed.
And while it states in the resolution that it is contingent on the OGCMA to obtain the required approvals and permits from the Ocean Grove Fire Bureau, Williams said there needs to be more oversight.
“All that is said and good but it does not include the police department. I am not against the fireworks by any means. But who will pay? There are just a lot of unanswered questions. What are the cost factors associated with this?” he said.
Township Attorney Gene Anthony pointed out that if emergency services are called into Ocean Grove during the event, then the OGCMA “will get billed.”
“It is a private function on private land and we can’t provide security for nothing,” he said.
Ocean Grove resident Joyce Klein said this issue needs to be examined and the fireworks withdrawn if there is no way to provide protection.
“It’s a recipe for a problem. I believe some police protection needs to be provided,” she said
Township officials agreed to consult the police chief and the OGCMA to address these concerns.