In Asbury Park, DEP Chief Declares the Shore Ship Shape; City Ready for Record Summer Season

By David Cruz

Memorial Day weekend is the traditional time when Jersey boys and girls turn their thoughts to the beach, the boardwalk and the sun. But the shore’s had a couple of rough winters after Sandy, with not a lot of storms, but events like Jonas and Joaquin that have had their way with the beaches of several shore communities. Today, DEP Commissioner Bob Martin was in Asbury Park to give an update on the state of the shore.

“On behalf of the governor, I’m very pleased to tell you that the state of the shore is outstanding,” he declared.

Martin said 99 percent of the state’s beaches are scheduled to be open this weekend, while acknowledging that some of the state’s beaches are still recovering and that efforts continue to replenish and rebuild where necessary, even in towns where the state is still trying to use eminent domain to build protective dunes.

“The one right now that’s still outstanding, that still has a sizable number of easements outstanding is northern Ocean County. There’s still about 300 parcels. That equates to about 150 owners,” he said.

Asbury Park is the comeback kid of the Jersey Shore. Over the past decade Ross Blanco has seen the city’s economic stops and starts, surviving Sandy and Jonas and the Great Recession. He says the past two summers — even off the beach, like on Cookman Avenue downtown — have been excellent for business but that the summer of  ’16 could be the one that tips the scales.

“That’s a good thing,” he said. “The town needed to stop relying on what it was and become something new. To me that’s the whole point of what’s going on here. It’s transforming into the new Asbury.”

The new hotel is The Asbury, opening officially today. The 140-room boutique hotel is the first new hotel in Asbury Park in over 50 years. With a sleek look and four venues for guests and vacationers, its arrival is expected to kick start the hotel business here.

“We are almost completely full tonight and then tomorrow we are totally booked and through the weekend, so we’re very excited,” said Partner David Bowd. “We wanted the hotel to compliment Asbury Park, to feel fun, very lighthearted and very beachy. Asbury Park is a wonderful melting pot of individuals. There’s a great music scene, there’s a great arts scene and what I felt it needed was a really great boutique hotel and I thought it would do well and certainly the summer bookings has been that way.”

So the state says the water’s fine and the economic outlook for the Jersey Shore is likewise sunny. But everyone down here knows that even the best-laid summer plans can be undone by some bad weather. In that regard at least through this weekend, Mother Nature appears ready to cooperate.