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Wildwood to Repair, Not Replace, Boardwalk

Under the Wildwood Boardwalk

By Shay Roddy

WILDWOOD – On a brisk March morning under the Wildwood Boardwalk, it was hard to imagine the sounds and smells that make the walkway above a nostalgic place for generations.  

Beneath the city’s largest tourist attraction, Wildwood Mayor Peter Byron wasn’t focused on the quiet or the cold. He talked about the infrastructure that holds it all up – a combination of wood, concrete, and rebar – which has seen better days.  

With $4 million on its way from Trenton, Byron talked about a new strategy to address the problem, which, he said, will not break the bank, and he can have it done sooner, rather than later. 

Gov. Phil Murphy, in 2019, vetoed a bill to allocate $56 million for a Wildwood Boardwalk replacement (http://bit.ly/3qtCHQ5), but visited the city in April 2020, when a windstorm overturned a small section of the boards south of the Wildwoods Convention Center (https://bit.ly/35mDIky). At that meeting, Murphy told Byron the state would help, the mayor said. 

Byron said the city was looking at a total boardwalk replacement, estimated around $60-$70 million, but he felt the project was too costly and time-consuming to be realistic.  

He asked city engineers to look at the overall structure and develop a five-year plan to address areas in poor and fair condition. They returned with an estimate closer to $20 million. 

When they met on Zoom Feb. 9, Byron said Murphy was expecting a much larger number and committed $4 million on the call. The mayor said he had to keep the secret for a couple of weeks until the state budget was released. 

“He was shocked,” Byron said of the governor’s reaction when he revealed the development to Murphy. Murphy’s financial commitment turned the tables back on Byron. 

“We were flabbergasted, quite frankly, to get the money that we did,” the mayor said, in an interview. 

How and when the city will get control of the funds is unclear to city officials.  

“I don’t really know what the process is and how that money will filter into our coffers, but the point is, that’s $4 million identified that we didn’t have identified yesterday,” Byron said.  

When asked if he considered the governor might’ve offered more money, if the scope of the project wasn’t so drastically reduced, Byron said “no.”  

“What we’re saying is the substructure is in good shape. Why tear it all up?” asked the mayor. 

“See this here?” asked Richard Harron Sr., the city’s public works director, pointing at a solid concrete pylon near Wildwood Avenue. “Does that look like it needs to be replaced? No. That’s our point.” 

Nearby, Harron pointed to exposed rebar, something he said would be taken care of by repairs.  

In the new plan, weaker areas in the substructure will be addressed. New boards, rails, and lights will be added from 26th Street to Oak Avenue and Lincoln to Montgomery avenues.  

The project will be done in five stages, over five years, costing an annual $3.9 million for the five-year period.  

“The $4 million in state funds will jumpstart our rehab program,” said Byron. 

Harron said ipe wood would be used for two blocks. The South American wood, which is already used for the boardwalk, between Oak and Schellenger avenues, is more expensive than the timber used in other parts, but is a hard, durable wood with a smooth, rich finish, that does not trap heat, and is termite, rot and fire-resistant.  

“That’s the difference. You’re spending every year, you’re replacing the same wood,” Harron said, indicating ipe pays for itself, with its durability.  

For his part, Byron tried to remain neutral throughout the summer, advocating for some constituents against Murphy’s pandemic-related positions, but softening each blow with an eye on the bigger picture of the boardwalk.  

“That’s the part of politics that people don’t always get,” said Byron. “During the horrific summer that we had, I had to straddle that line, where you don’t want to go and insult the governor or be too aggressive, because there’s a big picture here… I don’t want to blow up a long-term relationship over one situation that I know is going to take care of itself.” 

Other than routine maintenance, no construction will begin before summer 2021, and no timetable for repairs has been set, said Byron. 

To contact Shay Roddy, email sroddy@cmcherald.com. 

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