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.
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Mayor Michael Becker told The Current that after a preliminary discussion April 9 the commissioners unanimously agreed to move forward with the proposal.
“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 later 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 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.
“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.’”
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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.”
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 that 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 Steve Rochette said that, 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.
When it comes to the potential cost of the boardwalk, both Klotz and Becker agree it’s too early to come up with an estimate.
The Army Corps is currently finishing up a project started three years ago in Atlantic City to rebuild a boardwalk along with a protective sea wall. The Press of Atlantic City reported that 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.”