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Waterfront Cleanup, Streetscape Propel South Toms River Revitalization

The removal of useless watercraft from the waters off South Toms River moves a dramatic re-invention of its business corridor into a new era centered in a Streetscape vision plan, say borough officials.

Abandoned Boat Cleared in South Toms River (Joseph Kostecki)
Abandoned Boat Cleared in South Toms River (Joseph Kostecki)

“Today marks the completion of one chapter, and presents a very viable and vibrant vision for all businesses and residents in and surrounding the Borough of South Toms River,” said Mayor Joseph Champagne in a prepared statement.

Mathis Veterans Memorial Park is the focal point of a Route 166 improvement project that has reached advanced stages for state approvals, said Borough Administrator Joseph Kostecki. But the first step was straightening out the banks of the Toms River.

A relic of a Navy tugboat and and abandoned craft were removed in a process that required close attention by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, said Borough Councilman Greg Handshy. Officials say it brought the number of boats lifted from the clutter to 115.

The abandoned craft’s history as an improvised home required time and research before removal, said Handshy, the borough’s Environmental Commission Chair. Work was given a two-week window for completion and wrapped up in about half the time, Handshy said.

Kostecki added that the cost of removal “will increase due to the Borough taking extra precautions at the request of the NJDEP” for safety and containment purposes, but “at the end of the day, there is never too great a cost to protect our waters, our Green Acres, and overall environment.”

The Route 166 Streetscape plan is competing for federal Community Development Block Grant funds administered by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority. Borough officials seek $600,047 and anticipate getting the entire amount.

It includes curbing,  sidewalk upgrades, driveway aprons, decorative pedestrian lighting and streetside trees on the road from Admiral Avenue to Herflicker Boulevard.

Champagne added that the Streetscape improvements would likely have ancillary benefits for neighboring communities, which got hearty approval from Beachwood Mayor Ron Roma.

NJDEP is conducting environmental and historic preservation reviews in accordance with federal regulations.

South Toms River is also applying for a federal grant to obtain an easement along the west side of Route 166 that would allow extension of Ocean County’s Barnegat Branch Trail linear park from Admiral Avenue to Herflicker Boulevard. It would be administered through the New Jersey Department of Transportation.

Champagne noted that this step would allow Toms River Township to continue the park along the former Barnegat Branch Railroad right-of-way to the NJ Transit bus terminal and beyond.

Administrator Kostecki is availing himself to answer questions about any of the current or planned projects. Send a note to joseph.kostecki@boroughofsouthtomsriver.com or call 732-349-0403.

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