An unofficial boat ramp at the end of Mill Creek Road may soon come with a fee to gain access to the Toms River, Council President James J. Byrnes said last night.
Resident Diane Cole told Township Council members at the April 10 meeting she is concerned about shoaling at an unofficial boat ramp leading to the Toms River adjacent to her property.
The Mill Creek Road boat ramp has been a problem for Cole, who said she has been writing to township officials for three years for help.
The constant public use without township maintenance has let to shoaling and a decrease in her property value, Cole told the council.
“I once had four feet of water, now I have no water,” she said.
Cole said her property values will drop as her river frontage slowly morphs into a beach. But she still has to pay taxes for having riparian rights on her land, she said.
Cole said she is not opposed to public access to the water from her property, provided it is done right.
“I feel strongly about open access, but the township needs to make a decision on whether it is a boat ramp,” she said.
Council President James J. Byrnes said he met recently with Mayor Carmen F. Amato and Township Administrator Frederick Ebenau to discuss the ramp. They came up with a plan to put a raised-arm style gate similar to some toll roads that would allow access to the boat ramp for a fee
The fees would then be put towards maintenance costs for the ramp, he said.
“I love it,” Cole said. “It’s a great idea. My husband and I both support it. I'm fine with a boat ramp. I just don't want to be the sole bearer of the expense."
She added the site is used as a ramp not just by locals, but by residents from Ocean Gate, Toms River and even Pennsylvania because there are not many free boat ramps on the shore.
Cole said she would like to see the site limited to kayaks and canoes as opposed to water skis.
Cole said the site could also use a cement apron to prevent debris that is washed out from rain due to the site’s current heavy use. Her neighbors support that idea as well, she said.
Following Cole’s comments Councilman John Bacchione asked for clarification about whether the site is actually a boat ramp.
"It's more like the end of the road," Byrnes said.
Lee Gashlin of Mill Creek Drive said there should be a fee for using the boat ramp. He said the going rate is about $35. Gashlin suggested the decal system may be more effective than a gate.
Byrnes said he favors both the gate and a decal. Police could then monitor those who buy a decal and take their boat to the ramp for the season, while the gate could accept tokens for those interested in short-term access.
The fee is also needed as a fairness issue for marinas in town that offer boat ramp services, Byrnes said.
“It is not fair to a marina that keeps their marina up to code and then we allow boats to launch for free in a sandpit,” he said.
In other water-related business, resident Jim Crawford said he is concerned about an ever-growing sandbar on Sandpiper Beach. Crawford told the council he put his boat in the water two weeks ago and it has already bottomed out.
“What will we do in two weeks?" he said. "Will we be able to get out?"
He said the sandbar takes up three-quarters of the lagoon, which makes it difficult to navigate boats around it. Crawford said he could forsee boats blowing into each other if the wind picks up.
Crawford was also concerned because the sandbar makes the water deceptively shallow.
“Somebody is eventually going to get hurt there," he said. "Somebody is going to jump off [their boat into the water] and wind up dead.”
He urged council members to consider a drainage project that would pump out the excess sand, and “make it safe for everybody.”