OCEAN TOWNSHIP: With the election scheduled for May 12 just days away, the Friends of Deal Lake (FODL), a volunteer non-profit, asked the ten candidates running for Ocean Township Council to attend a meeting the group set up in Interlaken Boro Hall on May 2.
The Friends wanted to hear about solutions to their premise that:
* Deal Lake is impaired and tangible action is needed to protect and improve the lake and surrounding water shed.
* Loss of open water space and polluted waters - without any action plan - continue to challenge Deal Lake.
A gathering of about 60 residents and interested parties attended the program which was emceed by FODL President Jerry Maurer who overviewed the lake and its environment, lake facts such as it is a 154-acre water asset enjoyed by fishers, canoeists, children and adults as an entertainment source, and a visual treat for the many home owners along its 27 mile perimeter. His point was that it is now an economic concern where its condition would impact trade, etc. for the seven towns that border it.
The lake is owned by the state and relies on Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for support, referenced as questionable participation as was discussed during the meeting by the two groups of candidates: the One Ocean slate of Christopher Siciliano, William Garofalo, Donna Schepiga, Richard Long, and Robert Acerra. The other group is Ocean Together comprised of Sylvia Sylvia, Robert Angelini, John Stuppi, Gail Matarazzo, and Lawrence Mishkin. (They ruin as teams but can be voted on individually from the total candidates.)
Ocean Township was identified as a major contributor in the lake's well-being and funds about 40% on the seven town contribution through the State's Deal Lake Commission, the official manager of the lake's conditions and maintenance on what was described as a grossly inadequate financial situation.
The DLC's Chairman Don Brockel was at the meeting and discusses several activities and actions ongoing and over time. As stewards of Deal Lake and its watershed, the seven towns and beyond its goals are ongoing in terms of education of the public and students; DLC objectives include: Leading in issues management as they arise; assisting townspeople and others in guiding solutions management; providing the liaison interface to County and State offices, particularly with the NJDEP stormwater management efforts; and working with property owners in regards to their property maintenance. The commission dates back to 1974.
The forum Moderator was Dr. William Rosenblatt, former mayor of Loch Arbor, Chair of Surfriders and longtime environmental leader.
The condition of the lake was viewed as Grade "C" by One Ocean team's Chris Siciliano, as the discussion went ahead.
Speaking for the Ocean Together team, Ms. Sylvia held off on giving a grade, but indicated the lake is in significant need of improvement.
Sylvia spoke for her group and said their answer to Deal Lake issues is developing a plan and schedule to bring about local interest, participation and education. Her view was that the problems needed home town answers across the seven towns, a community f communities focused on their common issues regarding the lake. She indicated the Ocean Together team has assessed the status and progress of solving the lake problems and decided a new, different approach is needed.
Siciliano said the One Ocean team has been involved in specific changes as had been the case in years leading up to today. He said the problems are much better understood as time and technology moves ahead and specific actions are underway. Mr. Bill Garofalo on his One Ocean team told of his experience as a Planning board member and in other capacities for the township and the issues with the lake are a continuing challenge.
Each team had its own specific approach but similar focus on the lake as an important matter for the township, a principal member of the lake's environment.
The public asked questions, some satisfied with responses yet others still want more positive success. A resident asked why, with all that has happened over the years and the money spent to find solution, has the lake continued to fall backward in its conditions. His point was there seemed to be continuous lost ground in remedying the overall problem.
Specifics were all over the place, including the statement that one solution involved the railroad which was asked to provide security personnel to allow volunteers to perform a clean-up. The railroad offered to do so for $500 per day. Other incidents were brought to the floor such as the free cutting of trees on property next to the Colonial Terrace Golf Course by developers, which a resident was most distraught about.
The Meeting ran very close to schedule, with the thought that such gatherings might continue so as to get the community more involved and kept up to date.
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