By MADDY VITALE
Ocean City’s 2.5-mile Boardwalk is one of the resort town’s main attractions.
The city has an extensive plan in place to keep the boards well-maintained, replaced and redecked in areas when needed.
That is what makes Ocean City’s Boardwalk a centerpiece of pride for residents and Boardwalk business owners. It is also a walkway for visitors to stroll on, bike ride and get on and off the beaches.
Gov. Phil Murphy knows of the importance of boardwalks for coastal communities and took note of that in his State of the State address Tuesday night. He announced that he will create a Boardwalk Fund to help New Jersey shore towns upgrade their boardwalks.
“So, when I come before you next month, I will propose a new Boardwalk Fund that will partner with our shore towns and counties to make vital upgrades,” he said in his address.
Murphy continued, “Our boardwalks are more than just places for recreation and exercise. They are more than just the space that connects a parking area to the beach. They are wooden Main Streets which, in so many ways, define their communities and support their economies as much as the sand and surf.”
While no details about the amount of funds were revealed during his address, Murphy said that the Boardwalk Fund would “enable critical upgrades to the boardwalks that define these communities and support their local economies.”
Mayor Jay Gillian said he was pleased with Murphy’s plan to assist the coastal communities with boardwalks.
“To me, any time the governor does anything to help the infrastructure, tourism or public safety, it is a good thing,” Gillian said. “Boardwalks are a tourism generator. They affect all of the taxpayers of New Jersey, not just certain cities, in all different ways, from sales tax to the health benefits of a Boardwalk. Everybody benefits.”
He also mentioned the importance for Boardwalk business owners. He is not only the mayor in Ocean City, but also a longtime Boardwalk business owner. His family has owned Wonderland Pier since 1929. Gillian and businessman Eustace Mita are partners in the operations.
“As a business owner on the Boardwalk, it is so important for the Boardwalk to be maintained. That is where we have our livelihood. The Boardwalk is our street,” Gillian said, adding that just like paving downtown Asbury Avenue, keeping up with the conditions of the boards is vital to the Boardwalk business owners’ economy.
He said of the Boardwalk Fund, “What’s nice, moving forward is we can look at what we can get and take advantage of the program.”
Underscoring the importance of the Boardwalk as a centerpiece attraction, Gillian spoke of the work the city has done over the years to keep it in good shape and some of its benefits to the public.
“We have an aggressive Boardwalk plan to make sure to stay on top of things. Since I have been mayor, infrastructure has been paramount,” Gillian, who took office in 2010, explained in an interview Wednesday. “When you think of the big picture, everybody benefits from the Boardwalk in terms of health and welfare by just being able to walk on the boards and enjoy the fresh air.”
Over the past several years, the city has rebuilt the Boardwalk from Fifth Street to 12th Street. Other improvements have been made along the entire length of the Boardwalk from St. James Place to 23rd Street.
Like Gillian, City Councilman Jody Levchuk is a business owner on the Boardwalk. He and his family own seven different Jilly’s storefronts on the Boardwalk, including Jilly’s Arcade, Jilly’s Candy Factory, Jilly’s Ice Cream, Jilly’s French Fry Factory and three Jilly’s T-Shirts shops. In addition, they own Jilly’s on Asbury, located in the downtown.
Levchuk called Murphy’s Boardwalk Fund “a smart decision that will benefit everyone.”
“If you look at the amount of taxes contributed by shore communities with boardwalks, there is a lot of revenue the state depends on, and it is coming their way as a direct result of the boardwalks,” he said.
He continued, “This is a smart decision for the state to do and I am glad they realize how important the beach communities are and with upgrades like this, it promotes the idea for people to come who may not have come before. It benefits everybody.”