VENTNOR — There may be fewer people out on the streets, but the city and surrounding area are getting more colorful thanks to a coordinated effort from some hopeful residents.
Three women from Ventnor — Stacy Bew McCarron, Steph Polinski and Jennifer Langer — started the Facebook page “Ventnor / Downbeach Rainbow Trail” to keep their community connected even when they have to be apart.
On the page, they ask group members to craft rainbows and hang them in their window or front door for other residents to see from the street.
The page administrators hope residents can see a little color if they drive through town or go on walks 6 feet away from others per government recommendation.
“A rainbow is a message of hope, and I just wanted to start from there and keep that alive for our kids here in our community,” Polinski said.
Polinski, a mother, preschool teacher and former art teacher, had seen others creating rainbows on social media and posted a video of one of her two sons painting his own on her personal Facebook page. McCarron saw Polinski’s video, and Langer and another preschool teacher, Hope Bromhead, shared similar posts on Facebook.
Together, the women determined the activity had the potential to grow.
“I was like, ‘Hey, you know what? We’ve got such a great community here in Ventnor that I think this could really take off and create this fantastic distraction for these kids who really don’t understand what’s going on right now,’” McCarron said.
Within three days of creating the page, 300 members had joined. As of Thursday, the group had more than 600 members.
Users share pictures daily to show their rainbow creations along with their street name so viewers know where to look.
“I lost count of how many people have posted pictures, but it’s just so amazing to see,” McCarron said. “The great thing is it’s not only just people with kids ... the older community is doing it, too, because it’s exciting, these children giving them a little bit of a distraction from reality right now.”
McCarron said she is impressed with how creative some residents have gotten.
One cut out strips of paper to make a rainbow chain. Another painted their glass door to create a rainbow mosaic, and another used different colored socks to hang as their own “#smellyrainbow.”
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Some have positive messages like “Be the rainbow in someone’s cloud,” “The sun will shine again,” “Be calm” and “Stay safe.”
“Just express yourself. Paint however you want to paint that rainbow. (The colors) don’t have to be in order. The color is like your sign, your own expression,” Polinski said.
The posts aren’t just for social media. When community members want to take a drive or a short walk, the rainbows can be a scavenger hunt for parents and kids to keep count.
“We took a quick drive around town because it wasn’t so nice out and we counted over 20 rainbows just in our quick five-minute drive,” said McCarron, who has two sons and a daughter. “They had so much fun just looking.”
Polinski noticed her children doing the same while she ran errands on a dreary day.
“Everything in that moment just felt like my mission was accomplished because that’s what I wanted it to be,” she said. “I wanted to continue that message of them being hopeful and happy and not feeling stress and anxiety that adults are feeling right now.”
The trend has expanded well past Ventnor’s borders into neighboring Margate and Atlantic City.
Ocean Casino Resort lit its rooftop ball with the image of a rainbow Wednesday evening at 7 p.m. to support the community effort. The rainbow will stay up on the ball every night for the next several weeks.
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“We see our iconic rooftop ball as a beacon of light, and this is a great way to show community support,” said Diane Spiers, vice president of advertising and marketing at Ocean.
Spiers, of Ventnor, said the company encourages other businesses with available signage to do the same.
“I just wanted to make sure everybody knows that we’re all doing this together,” Polinski said. “We’re all going to get through this together.”
For McCarron, there is some gold at the end of the rainbow: She believes the impact will last longer than their stay indoors.
“I think this is bringing the community together,” McCarron said. “I think after this, we’re going to make a lot of new friends.”
Inflatable water park
The proposed inflatable water park would be situated in the bay off of Amherst Avenue on a private water lot purchased by the water park owner, according to city’s zoning officer, Roger McLarnon.
The operators have obtained approval from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the United States Army Corps of Engineers, but have yet to submit an application to the city’s planning board, McLarnon said. Although the water park would be situated on private property, landward access will be used to get to the park.
“Once they use bulkhead to cross into the water it has to go to the planning board,” he said. “They want to get up and running by the summer so I imagine an application would be submitted soon.”
The water park operators could not be reached for comment.
“There seems to be a lot of excitement for it,” McLarnon said. “We’re always looking for different ways for families to stay in Margate, and visitors. Plus it’s something to do for the kids. We want the waterfront activity to generate activity down there.”
An elevated walkway is also coming to Amherst Avenue as part of a bulkhead project the city is working on. Phase one of the project includes replacing about 1,250 feet of bulkhead along the bay, which will be completed by May.
The second phase, which will begin in the fall, includes the construction of an eight to 10 foot wide elevated walkway the will extend about four blocks long.
“We want Amherst Ave. to be pedestrian friendly,” McLarnon said. “Ultimately we would like to carry it down to the Washington Avenue pier.”
The promenade will also have benches, trash receptacles and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) access. Altogether the project will cost 1.6 million and is funded by appropriated funds from the city’s capital plan.
And while an elevated walkway is coming to the bay, some residents are pushing for a boardwalk on the beach.
“Margate is all in favor of a boardwalk, it’s just a matter of where they are,” said Glenn Klotz, director the Margate Boardwalk Committee. “We’re a boardwalk town. We’re on a boardwalk island.”
The five-person committee rolled out a petition in hopes to get 275 signatures from residents in favor of a boardwalk. He then plans to take the petition to commissioners and then, hopefully, get a referendum on the November general election ballot.
“We have a lot of people in Margate that use the Atlantic City and Ventnor boardwalks,” he said. “If they’re going to use it in Ventnor, let’s have it in Margate.”
He said a boardwalk would increase security in the city because it would provide lighting and allow police to better patrol the area. A boardwalk would also make it easier for emergency vehicles to access the beach if needed, he added.
But the city has no plans for constructing a beach boardwalk.
“We’re focusing on the bay,” McLarnon said. “The boardwalk on the beach was never part of the master plan. We have a lot of other needs to spend $30 million on than a boardwalk right now.”
Upgrades to the Ventnor pier
New bathrooms, a concession stand and a pier master’s office are coming to the Ventnor pier and plan to be completed by Memorial Day.
The current bathroom had a single toilet and urinal and had a 20-minute wait to use it in the summer, according to Ventnor Commissioner Lance Landgraf.
“It’s basically a shed that’s been converted to bathrooms,” he said.
The city has about $1 million from an older grant to use for the pier improvements. Landgraf would not specify how much would be used for the pier.
The city plans to lease out the concession stand to a vendor. No ice cream will be sold at the stand, because it’s sold on the beach, but commissioners are considering allowing ice cream to be sold at the stand at night.
Ventnor pocket park
The city is also purchasing a parcel of land to convert it into a pocket park. The property, at 6510 Ventnor Ave., was a three-story building that was severely damaged from a fire over July 4 weekend.
Landgraf said the owner’s fire insurance only covered demolition and not enough to rebuild. He said the city was then approached by a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility, “but we didn’t want a rehabilitation facility in our downtown. There’s one down the street,” he said.
The city is purchasing the lot for $85,000 and will eventually put in benches, lighting and shrubbery.
“A restaurant will not be able to use it for table service,” he said. “But if someone wants to grab a slice of pizza or a sandwich, they can certainly go there and have their lunch.
“We’ll create a pocket park until a better use comes up,” he added. “We’re open to suggestions for businesses.”
To design the park, Landgraf reached out to the Atlantic County Institute of Technology for student input. Students who are learning drafting and design will visit the site and then submit designs for the park. He plans to have a designed park completed by fall. Until then, the city will put benches in for summer 2020.
“It’s just a little respite,” he said. “We’re excited to create a green space.”