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NJ ramps up pressure on landowners’ group to allow beach access on Sundays

They want to make beach access a Shore thing.

State officials ramped up the pressure on the Ocean Grove landowners’ group that is banning beach use on Sunday morning by restricting access to its boardwalk.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection sent the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association, a Methodist Heritage organization, a violation notice on Thursday demanding that the group allow people to enter the beach via the boardwalk there, reported.

The DEP — which was following up a warning letter sent Aug. 13 — gave the group 10 days to comply by removing the chain and padlock barriers that block beach access from the boardwalk Sundays between 9 a.m. and noon.

Michael Badger, the organization’s president, said Friday that no fines have been issued.

The department also asked that representatives of the association “engage in compliance discussion” with the agency “aimed at resolving this matter as soon as possible,” Robert H. Clark, regional supervisor, wrote in his letter to the association’s director of operations, Steve Columbo. Badger told that a representative of the group will meet with the state, to ensure all the facts are heard.”

Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association, whose vision is to “be the seaside community where all generations can know and grow in Jesus,” has for 154 years closed the nine access points from the Ocean Grove boardwalk onto the sand for three hours on summer mornings from Memorial Day to Labor Day weekends.

The group works to maintain the religious heritage of the town, which was founded in 1869 by Methodist ministers. After 100 years, the New Jersey Supreme Court deemed Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association’s charter unconstitutional, but the association still owns all the land and has a hand in governing the beachfront community of 3,000 inhabitants in Neptune Township.

However, despite their efforts to limit beach use on Sunday mornings, Ocean Grove’s boardwalk and pier stayed open throughout the summer, and the beach itself can be accessed by neighboring towns — in the north from Bradley Beach or south from Asbury Park.

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