The long-delayed boardwalk to connect Silver Sands State Park and Walnut Beach has been indefinitely suspended, state officials said Monday.
About $1.5 million for the roughly $2 million project had been approved by the state Bond Commission, according to city officials.
But the work never made it past the planning stage before being suspended by the state departments of Environmental Protection and Public Works in the latest round of cost-saving measures.
At this point, due to budgetary constraints on the two agencies, work on the proposed boardwalk has been indefinitely suspended,” DEP spokesman Dennis Schain said in an e-mail message.
The news was a shock to city officials Monday, who were last told construction would occur in autumn.
“This really comes as a surprise,” said Mayor James L. Richetelli Jr. “They gave us no clue that they were considering this. I have not heard anything more since months ago, when it was a go.”
The project has been mired in years of delays with repeated announcements that funding had been secured and work was about to begin, only to have a projected start date pushed back.
About a year ago, the project was delayed when piping plovers were found nesting where the boardwalk was proposed to be built.
Plans were altered to avoid the federally and state protected species of birds, but in the meantime the economy turned sour and the plans for the boardwalk were put on hold by the DPW and DEP.
“Money was approved for this project, but before any action was taken with regards with the funds that were allocated, a decision has been made to suspend the project,” said Kevin Kopetz, managing attorney for the DPW.
“We began, unfortunately, to experience the economic circumstance that everyone is aware of.”
The latest news was frustrating to Walnut Beach Association President Joe Garbus, who has long worked to revitalize the Walnut Beach area.
The boardwalk was expected to draw foot traffic to Walnut Beach to breathe new life into the businesses in the area.
“It’s extremely disappointing,” he said. “They made a plan, made a second plan for the piping plovers and each time we were told the money was in hand. It was OK then, but we wait a year and now we can’t continue with the project? I don’t think it’s fair.”
Kopetz said there is a chance the project will be revisited if the state’s fiscal situation improves.
By James Tinley, Register Staff
ORIGINAL STORY POSTED HERE