Ever wonder what that massive, blocks-long fenced-off area in the middle of Ortley Beach is?
It is a former water treatment facility owned by the Ocean County Utilities Authority, and local residents are hoping it can be turned into a public park. The residents are planning to rally at the authority’s meeting on Thursday to try and convince the agency’s leaders to implement their plan.
The tract, located between Fielder and 8th avenues to the south and north and Washing Avenue and Route 35 to the east and west, is no longer used as a working sewer treatment plant, however about 20 percent of it is used as a modern pumping station. The Ortley Beach Voters and Taxpayers Association, which is organizing the effort, said they do not want to intrude on the portion that is used as a pumping station, but the remaining 6.5 acres should be open to the public as a passive park.
“We are asking that the current vacant land be converted to an area of grass where one can throw a baseball or football, or run with a dog,” said Paul Jeffrey, president of the group, in an e-mail.
Jeffrey said the leadership of the OBVTA met with OCUA officials in 2014 and “received some cooperation,” but nothing ever materialized afterward. Since then, Jeffrey said, the group has received some level of support from both the Ocean County freeholders as well as Toms River officials to convert a portion of the site to parkland. In 2015, OCUA officials told the group that the entire tract would be needed by the agency for project staging “for the foreseeable future,” said Jeffrey.
Earlier this year, Jeffrey said, OCUA refused to meet with the group, even though hardly any of the property is being used. OCUA currently leases a portion of the plot to Toms River to store beach cleaning equipment and for vehicle parking.
“As a result of this total lack of cooperation on the part of the OCUA to meet with residents of Ortley Beach and the public, we will hold a small demonstration prior to the OCUA public meeting and will then attend the public meeting and demand answers about why this property sits vacant and unused when it was paid for by sewer ratepayers in the area,” the e-mail said.
“In the event that the area was needed for a critical project of some kind, the use proposed would not prohibit that use when necessary,” Jeffrey said.
The OCUA meeting will be held Thursday at 4 p.m. at 501 Hickory Lane, Bayville.