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Toms River Planning 70 Jet-Ski Ports at Huddy Park, ‘Seaport’ Theme Nearby

Downtown Toms River, March 2023. (Photo: Shorebeat)

Downtown Toms River, March 2023. (Photo: Shorebeat)

The administration of Mayor Dan Rodrick is seeking to make good on plans to revive a themed “seaport” district in downtown Toms River, beginning with a project to install about 70 jet-ski ports at Huddy Park and build a dock that will allow boaters to access restaurants and businesses downtown.

The jet-ski ports will be funded utilizing a state recreation grant of about $500,000 that had been slated by the previous administration to install siding and make improvements to the Shogun restaurant at the Bey Lea golf course. Shogun Legacy, a high-end Japanese fusion restaurant, operates the facility but it is owned by the township. The borough council, after a significant bout of arguing in which at least one person was ejected from the meeting, voted this week to reject bids for the restaurant improvements and redirect the funding to the park.

The council, which is divided between two factions of warring Republicans, was split on whether the $500,000 projected cost of the improvements to the restaurant was appropriate and whether a state recreation grant should be spent there. The smaller faction argued the building is in disrepair and needs to be significantly improved. The council ultimately voted 5-2 to reject bids for the restaurant improvements, with Rodrick stating that new siding for the building would cost about $8,000, and labor costs could be competitively bid or taken on in-house for significantly less money.

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Meanwhile, the plans for the downtown “seaport” district are beginning to take shape.

“People love towns like Seaside Park because you have so much access to the bay there,” Rodrick said, referencing the barrier island town’s long beachfront along Barnegat Bay, versus a similar riverfront area in Toms River that goes largely unused.

“The entire purpose of this is to provide recreation and to bring people into a park that is complete unused,” he continued. “The park is never used with the exception of a boat show they do once a year. The Kelaher administration spent $10 million to rebuild that park and nobody ever uses it.”

A holistic plan for the downtown waterfront area would involve the 70 jet-ski ports to attract families to the park and a dock at the historic Boatworks building on Robbins Parkway where boaters could access existing restaurant, such as the Water Street Grill, and other restaurants and bars that many hope will spring up in a redeveloped downtown area. The township will also look into the feasibility of using the location to build or host its own concession stand which could serve boaters cruising the river.

Downtown Toms River, March 2023. (Photo: Shorebeat)

Downtown Toms River, March 2023. (Photo: Shorebeat)

The Boatworks building on Robbins Parkway, Toms River, N.J., Aug. 25, 2022. (Photo: Daniel Nee)

The Boatworks building on Robbins Parkway, Toms River, N.J., Aug. 25, 2022. (Photo: Daniel Nee)

“It’s a longer-term plan,” he said. “We want to do a pier where the Boatworks is, and we’d like to have slips for boats over there for the restaurant, and if we get a concession over there.”

The timeline for the project remains up in the air since the bids for the restaurant renovations were just rejected this week, opening up new opportunities to design specifications for alternative projects. The grant funding is expected to, at least, cover the cost of the jet-ski ports.

“It costs us nothing and will generate $35,000 worth of revenue,” said Rodrick, adding that the ports will cost $500 per season.

The township would also install signage directing visitors – land or waterborne – to local hot spots.

“We’ll have signs up to tell you where to get a slice of pizza or how to get to the brewery up the road,” he said.

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