Ocean Grove’s North End boardwalk is being replaced and widened this fall giving oceanfront strollers the experience of walking along a boulevard as they enter the historic district.
This week the Township Committee awarded a $609,200 contract to Epic Management Inc., based in Piscataway, who was the lowest bidder for the boardwalk project.
“(Township officials) are very pleased with the earlier boardwalk project and I believe this one will go just as smooth. It shows the strength of a public/private partnership to make certain we accomplish what residents need and want,” Township Committeeman Randy Bishop said.
Bishop said the Ocean Grove boardwalk is an important asset to Neptune and that boardwalks at the Jersey Shore are unique and a real economic engine for tourism.
“Boardwalks allow beachfront pedestrian access to multiple communities and that’s a unique thing that people can take part in,” he said.
The project will redo the boardwalk from the Surf Avenue street access north to the Asbury Park border.
J.P. Gradone, Executive Director/Chief Operations Officer for the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association (OGCMA), said the boardwalk is not only being replaced but also widened.
He said that after Hurricane Irene in 1992 the original 30-foot boardwalk was reduced to 20 feet when rebuilt. The boardwalk is now being expanded back to its original 30-foot width with an even wider area in front of the large commercial building at the northern end.
“It was a Camp Meeting Association decision to widen the boardwalk, not FEMA,” he said.
The wider boardwalk at the very northern end will be built on joists installed into previously-existing asphalt. The boardwalk planking will then be screwed to the joists. The rest of the boardwalk will be built on traditional pilings.
A composite building material, named Trex, will be used over the area supported by the pilings while cheaper timber will be used in the wider commercial area.
“The reason is that timber is lighter and we wanted to minimize the weight on the joists. Also, future development is planned for the North End so we don’t want to make a large investment there right now,” Gradone said.
He said work may begin in late September and take from 30 to 45 days, depending on weather.
“But we have no commitment from the contractor yet so sometime in early fall is a safe bet,” he said.
New railings and lights are also being installed that are consistent with ones already on the boardwalk. Sand dunes along the boardwalk will also be maintained or replanted.
And while the township is issuing the bond, the Camp Meeting Association is responsible for paying it back, along with all associated costs.
“This includes the principal, interest, and engineering, legal and bonding costs,” Bishop said.
The association expects to be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for 90 percent of the project’s cost.
Bishop said that any money received from FEMA must go directly to pay down the bond.
“They must immediately give us the money. They cannot bank it and pay it off over time,” he said.
Gradone said it is not known how much the association will get from FEMA until the final bill is submitted.
“Some costs will not be covered so we are prepared to pay for those,” he said.
And Gradone said the new and wider boardwalk will be a great entranceway into Ocean Grove from Asbury Park.
“Right now pedestrian traffic bottlenecks there and it is just not a good thoroughfare. Now it will have more of a boulevard feel,” he said.