FEMA has rejected a request of $1 million to repair the Ocean Grove boardwalk because it is owned by the private, non-profit ministry group Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association. Many have said the rejection is unfair, including Republican Sen. Jennifer Beck. She told NJ Today Senior Correspondent Desirée Taylor that the association acts more like a small municipality and the boardwalk’s repair is important for the Jersey Shore recovery.
Beck explained that FEMA views the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association as a private, not-for-profit that doesn’t fulfill a governmental role. “That’s really not the case here because Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association owns all of the real estate literally from Main Street to the ocean. They own the boardwalk, the beach and 2,000 feet into the water. So they actually operate like a small municipality within Neptune Township,” she said. “And the boardwalk itself is actually critical infrastructure. It is critical to their emergency management response.”
Ambulances use the boardwalk when they are responding to emergencies on Ocean Avenue and on the beach side, according to Beck. “When they’re helping assist other towns, that’s how they transport people from town to town,” she said, adding that the boardwalk is a staging area for lifeguards who have rescued hundreds of thousands of people, especially in the last two years with the rip tides in the ocean.
Beck said she is hopeful that FEMA will change its position after officials are presented with new information as part of the appeals process.
“Because in essence, this private, not-for-profit functions like a quasi government entity,” Beck said. “They hire their own lifeguards, they train their own lifeguards, they have their own emergency response. And on this beachfront they provide public access the way every other municipality does up and down the coast. It’s a really important piece for the Jersey Shore and frankly for our recovery as a community.”