Council asks mayor to apply for permit for Corson’s Inlet boardwalk

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OCEAN CITY — It’s now up to the mayor to decide if the state can proceed with plans to build an elevated boardwalk in Corson’s Inlet, connecting West Avenue at 59th Street to the existing gravel path along a former railroad line in the wetlands.

City Council voted 6-1, with Councilman Pete Guinosso dissenting, to approve a resolution asking Mayor Jay Gillian to sign off on permit applications required to build the raised walkway over the wetlands at its Aug. 14 meeting.

Gillian said Thursday that he is not sure whether he will sign the permit applications because he is still researching the topic.

“At the end of the day, is this necessary? What kind of impact is it going to have on that neighborhood?” Gillian said.

According to city business administrator Mike Dattilo, the reason the city needs to sign off on the application is because the walkway needs to cross some city-owned paper streets – streets that aren’t actually paved, but exist only on city maps. He said this is only signing off on an application by the New Jersey Division of Parks and Forestry to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to build this boardwalk in the state-owned land.

“It would be a rather lengthy review by DEP for this to happen. There will be certain public notice requirements to neighbors as that permitting process moves forward,” he said.

Guinosso strongly opposed the resolution, citing numerous reasons he believed the boardwalk should not be built, including trees being cut, it being a beach and dune zone, the current state of the existing gravel path, which he said is overgrown and dangerous, the proposed width of the boardwalk at 5 feet, which he said would be too narrow for bicycles, the cost and the opposition from neighbors.

“There’s a number of issues there that really makes it difficult for us to talk about,” Guinosso said. “People in that area have said they don’t want anything to happen there.”

“I’m not going to support this,” he said.

Guinosso also said he doesn’t understand why money is being spent to build an entrance to Corson’s Inlet when there is an existing beach entrance at 59th Street and Central Avenue.

“There’s a desire by the park service to have a new entrance and to connect what is now a dead end path if you will,” Dattilo said.

“The expectation is it would be primarily walking,” he said, adding that it probably wouldn’t be an appealing bike ride due to the boards and the gravel.

Councilman Michael Allegretto was council president when this first came up a few years ago. He said that the city would not be spending any money on the boardwalk

“Yeah, we’re letting this happen, but were not spending any of the city budget on this,” he said.

The boardwalk as proposed will be built from pressure-treated lumber and be elevated several feet from the ground using helical piers, which are screwed into the ground, instead of pilings, Council President Tony Wilson said.

In addition, there will be railings along the boardwalk, which will end in a switchback – a zig-zaging ramp – up to the existing gravel path.

Wilson, showing a photo of the switchback at First Street in Ocean City, said he doesn’t think it would be popular for bicycle riders to use the ramp as it would be difficult to navigate at 5-feet-wide.

Wilson said at the meeting that he believes most of the concerns raised previously by Friends of the Wetlands have been addressed.*

The discussion turned to a heated debate when Guinosso again expressed that he didn’t want to spend money on the boardwalk, adding that he knows it’s not the city’s money, but it is the taxpayers’ money even if it’s being spent by the state.

Allegretto, Wilson and Councilmen Keith Hartzell and Mike DeVlieger all expressed that while it’s true that the money came from the taxpayers, it was going to be spent by the state somewhere, so it might as well be in Ocean City.

Resident Jim Tweed said he was “befuddled” by the debate because these trails exist in other places and are well-received.

Resident Teresa Coggshall said the boardwalk would be a “new adventure” for many people to use.

“People, they want something new,” she said.

Resident and former 4th Ward councilman Roy Wagner opposed the entranceway and said people in that area don’t want it, either.

Friends of the Wetlands member Irene Lorenzon said in an email after the meeting that the group continues to oppose the project.

“That is not the case and I am not sure, Mr. Wilson if you were quoted correctly or not, but I wanted to make it very clear, that our concerns have not been met,” she wrote. “

Friends of the Wetlands is opposed to any unnecessary construction in wetlands especially when threatened and endangered species will be disturbed, not just by the construction, but by the added human element once it is there.”

*This story has been updated for clarification

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