By MADDY VITALE
A new boathouse for the Ocean City High School crew team and the Under the Bridge Rowing Club (UBRC) would not have been possible without the help of one person who advocated on behalf of the rowers and determined parents.
Cape May County Commissioner E. Marie Hayes spent several years working to make sure that a boathouse would become a reality. Because of her persistence, the project was built at the foot of the 34th Street Bridge.
The name of the boathouse is now known, fittingly, as the “E. Marie Hayes Rowing Facility.”
During a dedication ceremony Sunday afternoon at the boathouse, crew families and members of the UBRC told Hayes how she made their dream of having a new boathouse a reality.
“She is a fantastic lady,” said Donna Martinelli, an Ocean City High School Crew Boosters trustee at-large. “We could not have built the facility without her.”
The former location for the rowers was on the other side of the 34th Street Bridge in Ocean City. The facility was made up of wooden racks and a chain link fence. The new rowing facility is a large pole barn with a modern racking system for the boats. It is located on the Marmora side of the bridge.
Hayes, of Ocean City, opened her remarks by saying she was very “humbled and grateful for those who believe that I should receive this dedication.”
Hayes thanked her fellow commissioners who supported her as well as the county engineers, facilities and services departments. She also said that both the Ocean City and Upper Township mayors should be recognized for their support of the facility.
But, Hayes emphasized, Martinelli and her husband, Steve, really should take much of the credit.
“If it wasn’t for Steve and Donna Martinelli, a crew team mom and dad, bringing this venture to my attention, and working with me every step of the way, none of this would have taken place,” Hayes said. “Members of both the crew team boosters and the rowing club worked very hard to make sure this became a reality. This required both organizations to work together cooperatively and make sacrifices.”
Suze DiPietro, president of UBRC and former Ocean City Crew Boosters (OCCB) president, called Hayes a strong advocate.
“I admire Marie. She does so much for not only the crew team, but so many others,” she said. “She has the heart of a lion.”
DiPietro said in her remarks during the program that the idea of a boathouse began many years ago.
“In the budget established in 2004, there was a boathouse account established. Their eyes were on the future,” she said. “In 2014, the planets aligned and members of the OCCB Board were able to make the first steps toward making a boathouse a reality.
She called Hayes “our sport’s biggest champion.”
“Commissioner Marie Hayes doggedly fought every agency to get us this location. There was no fight she wasn’t willing to go to the mat for us,” DiPietro said. “She is a champion of the sport of rowing and a fierce supporter of our community. It is not an exaggeration to say that without her, this boathouse would never have happened.”
The ceremony drew a host of dignitaries including local, county and state elected officials.
Among those in attendance were state Assemblyman Antwan McClellan, Commissioner and Sea Isle City Mayor Leonard Desiderio, Commissioner Will Morey, Ocean City Mayor Jay Gillian, Ocean City Councilmen Bob Barr, Keith Hartzell, Pete Madden and Terry Crowley Jr. and former Councilman Michael DeVlieger. DeVlieger, whose son, Flynn, was on the crew team before graduating from Ocean City High School, was on the Boathouse Committee.