MARGATE — Major storms washed away all traces of the city’s boardwalk 56 years ago, but now, residents and city officials are taking steps toward resurrecting the beachfront walkway.
Resident Glenn Klotz proposed a new boardwalk at a City Commission meeting April 5. He presented the mayor and commissioners with a recent editorial he had written and an online petition with more than 400 signatures.
“I’m not here today to ask you to build a boardwalk. I realize how large a job that is for a request, but I am here as a citizen of Margate, as a taxpayer in Margate, to ask that we take a look at the idea,” Klotz said at the meeting.
Mayor Michael Becker told The Current that after a preliminary discussion April 9, the commissioners unanimously agreed to move forward with the proposal.
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“I think it adds to the facilities that the city has and will hopefully bring more people into the city,” Becker said. “It gives people a little more recreation, somewhere they can walk and congregate.”
The Great Atlantic Hurricane of 1944 destroyed the city’s boardwalk, except for a small section from Fredericksburg Avenue to Gladstone Avenue, which was washed away by a nor’easter in 1962.
Klotz said he first considered a new boardwalk about two years ago while he and other residents attempted to halt the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers beach replenishment and dune construction project.
Now that the dunes are in Margate to stay, Klotz believes adding a boardwalk will give some disappointed residents a happier ending.(tncms-asset)cb02c508-472e-11e8-9867-00163ec2aa77(/tncms-asset)
“The narrative in town is kind of a mourning narrative,” Klotz said in a phone interview. “People are still going through like a mourning, grieving process. I said, ‘We’ve got to get to something more positive here, something that the community can galvanize and come together around that’s a positive thing for the majority.’”
Becker said city Engineer Ed Walberg has contacted the state Department of Environmental Protection and asked for guidance on requirements for a boardwalk. The board followed that up a few days later with a letter to add to the written record.
“We’re waiting to hear back from them,” Becker said. “Obviously, we need permission. We don’t know what’s required, but we have taken the first step.”
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According to DEP Public Information Officer Caryn Shinske, a Coastal Area Facility Review Act permit from the DEP’s Division of Land Use Regulation would be required to build a boardwalk.
The DEP website indicates to submit an application, the city would need to present a site plan, an environmental impact statement, a mitigation proposal and pay an application fee.
Shinske also wrote in an email that if a boardwalk is to be constructed in the Army Corps easement area, approval would additionally be required by the Army Corps and DEP’s Bureau of Coastal Engineering.
Army Corps Public Affairs Officer Stephen Rochette said in some cases, when work is done in coastal areas near an existing federal project, in this case the dune berm, a municipality may need to get regulatory approval from the Army Corps.
“Without any additional details at this point, it’s kind of hard to say what would be involved with that exactly,” Rochette said.
Margate residents and homeowners on the Ventnor boardwalk Sunday said while the idea of having a nearby boardwalk is nice, the cost is a big concern.
Ricki Cain, 59, said a boardwalk in Margate would be more convenient for her walks and bike rides, while now she has to drive to Ventnor.
The boardwalk would attract people to Margate, she said, and she wouldn’t mind if her taxes increased slightly to make that happen.
”I’ve spent all my summers down here growing up, and now that we live here, we need new things and ideas,” she said. “Why wouldn’t you want something that could improve the city and brighten it up? I think it’s a great idea.”
Not everyone is in a rush to see new construction. Eileen Lapat, 79, a Margate homeowner, said she wants the city to hold off on another project so soon after the dune construction.
Lapat said she wants more time to see how the dune construction will fare through the summer and how the project would affect her property taxes, which already exceed $11,000 per year, she said.
“Just wait. One thing at a time,” she said as she began her walk on the Ventnor Boardwalk Sunday afternoon. “I want to wait and see how the dunes turn out and then you can tell me how much that project will cost, because it’s not just the cost for building it — it’s for maintaining it, too.”
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Both Klotz and Becker agree it’s too early to come up with any potential cost estimate.
The Army Corps is currently finishing a project started three years ago in Atlantic City to rebuild a boardwalk along with a protective seawall. The Press of Atlantic City reported the new Boardwalk along the Absecon Inlet cost the city $8 million.
If Margate gathers enough information and plans to move forward, Klotz believes the city’s next move should be to poll the public and start a serious debate.
“It’s a fun stage because everybody gets to visualize all the possibilities. We’re in the realm of the possible, but we’re not in the realm of the probable yet,” Klotz said. “Once we get to the probable, then we’ll have another conversation.”
Staff Writer Nicole Leonard contributed to this report.