Social Distancing on the Ocean Grove Boardwalk

By DON STINE

A  sunny day on Sat., April 25 brought people to the Ocean Grove boardwalk, the only boardwalk still open in the area, and it was a pleasant scene.

There was a modest number of people on the boardwalk and seating on benches  appeared  available.

Families, strollers, joggers, cyclists and others used the boardwalk, while some people were on the beach.  Those on the boardwalk appeared to keep proper social-distancing with some wearing masks, but many not wearing them to take in the fresh ocean air.

Several men were working to replace the boardwalk at the southern end but elsewhere everything was pretty calm. A sign on the boardwalk warned people to keep six feet away from each other.

Trinity Michelle, an Asbury Park-based yoga instructor, said that it was “finally a sunny day” and she decided to ride her bicycle to the Ocean Grove boardwalk. The Asbury Park boardwalk is closed.

“I am really grateful that the boardwalk is open but, at the same time, I understand that there is a virus out there. I consider this nothing different than going to the grocery store. But people still need to keep their social distance,” she said.

Michelle said she saw many out-of-state license plates along Ocean Avenue on Saturday and hopes that a lot of out-of-state people do not “mess it all up.”

And Ocean Grove and Neptune officials understand that sentiment – they too would hate to see a good thing spoiled.

“We care deeply about people’s safety. It is a concern- what will happen when the weather gets nicer? We want to work with the township to make the boardwalk the safest it can be,” Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association President Michael Badger said earlier this week.

The OGCMA, not the township, owns the boardwalk.

And Badger and Neptune Business Administrator Vito Gadaleta agree that they believe keeping the boardwalk open is a better option for social distancing. In many towns with closed boardwalks, people are walking down the sidewalks along Ocean Avenue.

“A wide boardwalk is safer than the sidewalk crowding that is now going on n neighboring communities. People just moved to the sidewalks,” Badger said.

And Raymond Davarn, who is from Jersey City, said he agrees. Davarn comes with his wife and young child to Ocean Grove, especially over the summer. And they were down last Saturday.

“We try to come at least twice a month and go to the beach or go fishing,” he said.

“We are going for a little walk today and I am happy to see people out of their house. But I hope they all also comply with social-distancing measures,” he said.

Davarn said that, if the boardwalk was closed, he and his family would still probably walk down Ocean Avenue and around the historic district.

So far, Neptune and OGCMA officials have been working together on the boardwalk issue.

“They have sought our advice and we are working with them,” Gadaleta said.

He said that if people see problems with social distancing on the boardwalk, they should call the police and they will dispatch somebody down there.

“They will deal with the problem and, hopefully, we will not have to issue a summons,” Gadaleta said.

But if too many people start to come to the boardwalk, it is ultimately up the OGCMA to make any decision to close the boardwalk.

“But I am optimistic that, hopefully, within the next 14 days, we will have a more definitive ruling on beaches and boardwalks from Gov. Murphy,” Gadaleta said.

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