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Out-of-towners chip in $250K to rebuild N.J. boardwalk

8:50 AM, Jan 10, 2013   |    comments
A crowd cheers as Gov. Chris Christie joins Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty as the first boardwalk piling is driven into the sand on the beach Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013.(Photo: Mary Frank, The Asbury Park (N.J.) Press)
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BELMAR, N.J. -- In just over a month, the Belmar borough has raised $250,000 from its "Buy a Board" campaign to help offset the costs of rebuilding the boardwalk obliterated by superstorm Sandy -- and most of the people who have bought boards have come from out of town.

"A relative suggested it to me over (Thanksgiving dinner)," said Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty of the Buy a Board campaign's origin. "I thought it was a great idea."

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Fans of the borough's iconic boardwalk apparently agree.

Doherty said people from across the country -- from California to the Carolinas -- have bought a piece of Belmar's boardwalk. The money will be used to help cover the cost of reconstructing 1.3 miles of boardwalk that was lost by the storm surge created by superstorm Sandy.

On Wednesday, state and local officials gathered to kick off the $6.6 million rebirth of the boardwalk.

Together, Doherty and Gov. Chris Christie turned on the machine that pounded the first of hundreds of 25-foot-long pilings into the sand.

"Today is one of the great, great first moments of the rebuilding of our state," Christie told the hundreds who gathered to watch the boardwalk begin to take shape again, only weeks after superstorm Sandy destroyed it. "This is the heartbeat of our state."

While other communities continue to debate the best way to redesign their decimated boardwalks, Belmar decided that its businesses could not afford to spend the summer of 2013 without the Jersey Shore icon, Doherty said. Belmar's boardwalk helps draw tourists from the region and from throughout the country to the area, he said.

Piscataway-N.J.-based Epic Construction plans to use at least two pile drivers and approximately 30 carpenters to construct the 1.2-mile boardwalk. The borough hopes to see the boardwalk complete by Memorial Day weekend, traditionally the unofficial start of the Jersey Shore's beach season.

The influx of out-of-state donations doesn't mean Belmar residents aren't chipping in or don't have a big place in their heart for their boardwalk. Far from it. Doherty said one local resident whose name he would not reveal has given $15,000.

That makes that individual the biggest of the Big Kahunas -- the name reserved for those who donate $5,000. That person along with everyone who bought a board will have their name and board level displayed on a beach entrance of their choice come the completion of the boardwalk.

Dan Radel, The Asbury Park (N.J.) Press

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