Slated to cost more than $1 million, the first municipal boat ramp for Toms River would be built in the Gilford Park neighborhood, to access the mouth of Dillon’s Creek.
Converting a long unused township park — once a baseball diamond, now overgrown and with cracked asphalt — off Garfield Avenue into the boat ramp will allow boats up to 35-feet access to the creek that divides Toms River with Island Heights, into the Toms River, said Township Engineer Rob Chankalian.
“We spent last year or so obtaining permits from the Army Corps of Engineers and DEP, we got those approvals, now its been funded, and a month or so the town will go out to bid,” said Chankalian. A township ordinance approving the spending was approved in December.
Chankalian said the public boat ramp would accommodate watercraft up to 35 feet long as well as kayaks and canoes, and would likely be unstaffed and not have any cost for a user to access it.
This would be the first municipal boat ramp for Toms River’s park system. “The biggest reason we did this project is we’ve never had a boat ramp,” Chankalian said. “A Toms River resident had to pay a marina and now they won’t have to do that anymore. It’s a nice benefit the town provides.”
However, as part of the public comment portion of the permit process, an Island Heights marina as well as the Gilford Park Yacht Club and several residents petitioned against the project. The GPYC and its parking lot sits essentially across the street where the boat ramp would be built, and while it has paying members and staff to help marine traffic launch, it has also been rebuilt in the past years after Superstorm Sandy’s devastation.
Another concern was the creek not being wide enough to accommodate the boat traffic and to turn out of the launch and into the river. Chankalian said many of the concerns were seen by the permitting agency as economic in nature and the project was allowed to proceed.
He said one of the things the town wanted to make sure it did was be a good neighbor, as the old park site sits between parcels with single family home. Chankalian said that, to that end, the site was designed with buffering trees and vegetation to minimize the impact to neighbors. “The ramp itself is in the middle of the property and 200 feet away from any house,” he said.
The site will be restriped with extra deep parking spaces for trucks with trailers, as well as parking spaces for regular sized vehicles. A concrete ramp will be constructed into the water and a wooden boardwalk to walk down to launch your boat.
Though lights are planned for installation, there’s still some discussion needed on the official hours of the site, he said.
“I don’t think we’ve set a time for time of use, but we don’t know what the council will decide,” said Chankalian, as such a decision would be set by township ordinance.
He said though that given the demand for sunset cruises or early hours for fishing, he can see it being utilized 24-7.
Now, the township is preparing construction documents, would then get authorization to go to bid, and award a bid still. He said that means construction would come well into the summer season, but there is an environmental window for the work.
“The project does have some criterion for construction, with a certain time frame you can construct a boat ramp, because you have to be mindful of endangered species,” Chankalian said. From January 1 to May 3, work is not permitted because it would adversely impact winter flounder, a condition set by the Army Corps of Engineers..
With the flounder constraints ending May 31, that’s about the time the bid process would mean the start of construction anyway, he said. After the project begins, “within three to four months it could be open,” he said.