The property that once housed the famed Joey Harrison’s Surf Club in the Ortley Beach section of Toms River may have a future as a public beach and recreation area for the township, officials revealed to Shorebeat.
Township Administrator Don Guardian said Toms River is in talks with the state agencies that handle the Green Acres and Blue Acres programs in an attempt to receive funding for the purchase. The Blue Acres program, which provides money to convert flood-prone private property to open space, was recently expanded.
“We’ve brought it before the state for negotiation,” said Guardian. “We’ve applied for Blue Acres funding for the oceanfront and Green Acres funding for what was the parking lot.”
In all, six parcels on the oceanfront and five parcels across the street are up for sale. If they are not purchased by the township, the most likely fate of the properties would be a condominium development. But officials are cautiously confident that the funding may come through – and it could mean a significant bump to Toms River’s oceanfront recreational offerings.
“The township would be doing a boardwalk, a pavilion, a recreation center and a parking area,” said Guardian, estimating about 100 new parking spaces could also be added.
As currently envisioned, the town would own and manage the properties and it would join the existing boardwalk on the south.
“We’d widen the boardwalk to about 50-feet wide, an Atlantic City sized boardwalk, and it would finally connect,” Guardian, a former Atlantic City mayor, explained.
The prospect of converting the former nightclub, a legendary Jersey Shore entertainment venue that was destroyed in Superstorm Sandy, to a public beach has been batted around since the storm rolled through – and even in the decades preceding it. The Ortley Beach Voters and Taxpayers Association has long been lobbying Toms River officials to consider obtaining funding for the purchase.
The site was last offered for sale in 2004 at a price of $7.5 million. Former Mayor Paul Brush pushed the township council to purchase the property, but the governing body at the time declined, deciding the price was too high.