A plan to grant a swath of oceanfront in Seaside Heights to Casino Pier in exchange for a historic carousel and land along Ocean Terrace has faced criticism from environmentalists and some in the media over the past week. But, nearly uniformly, the plan has been supported by those who matter most: the borough’s residents and business owners who are hoping to transform their community into the family beach resort we know it can be.
The swap, which was approved by the State House Commission June 30, will grant Casino Pier land on which to build new attractions the boardwalk needs to be successful in 2016. The boardwalk museum which will be built on the plot of land Casino Pier is giving to the town will serve as a catalyst for the needed improvement of the northern boardwalk area.
Many of those who criticize the swap are, in an all-too typical fashion, people who have never attended a Seaside Heights council meeting, spoken to officials or heard the cries of business owners trying to turn 10 weeks of summer tourism into an income on which they can support their families. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, those who most loudly criticize the plan are also the same folks who will quickly lob harsh criticism toward Seaside Heights, referencing drugs and seedy motels.
The truth of the matter is that solidifying and modernizing boardwalk attractions is one of the first steps toward proving to investors that those seedy motels can be transformed into new businesses worth building. The rides that will occupy space on the beach are the very reasons families – the clientele most people would love to see in town – will consider visiting Seaside Heights instead of Ocean City or Wildwood.
We do not take lightly the fact that the beach – land held in the public trust – is being conveyed to a private party. But the private party, in this case, is the tide that will raise all of the boats in town. Thrill rides will attract families who will demand pleasant hotels at which to stay, restaurants in which to eat and well-kept rental units and summer homes that will raise property values and build the tax base. Year-round local families who open businesses will not have to live “over the bridge,” but can enjoy life close to the beach with a school district that will undoubtedly improve once troublemakers move out.
As the boardwalk goes, so does Seaside Heights. For the first time in years, a plan is in place to redevelop the Boulevard, attract fresh new businesses and transform a community. It begins by bringing in the both vacationers and local visitors and creating a renewed resort market in Ocean County. The land swap is more than an exchange of properties on the tax list, or some new rides on a pier – it is a central part of a larger plan to revive a town that has as much potential as any on the New Jersey coastline. Those who criticize it may not be able to see the forest through the trees, but fortunately the officials in Trenton did.