By NANETTE LoBIONDO GALLOWAY
MARGATE – The Board of Commissioners Nov. 2 unanimously approved a resolution in support of its application to the NJ Boardwalk Preservation Fund grant program, which is designed to make critical investments in boardwalk infrastructure and improve tourism across the state.
If approved, the grant will fund building a half-block long replica of Margate’s historic boardwalk at Josephine Harron Park where Lucy the Elephant keeps a watchful eye on beachgoers.
Up to $100 million is available to New Jersey municipalities to improve boardwalk facilities, provide ADA accessibility and improve storm resiliency. The funds come from an allotment of funding provided to the NJ Department of Community Affairs from the federal government’s COVID-19 American Rescue Plan.
According to Margate grant consultant James Rutala of Rutala Associates of Linwood, the city applied for $640,000 to build the boardwalk, which is part of a plan forwarded by the Save Lucy Committee that includes building a new visitors’ interpretive center to meet the needs of the estimated 150,000 people who visit the National Historic Landmark every year.
Building an interpretive center would benefit visitors with disabilities who are unable to climb the steep and narrow staircase inside Lucy’s legs. The project includes building ADA-compliant restrooms, a convenience the park does not currently provide.
According to Save Lucy Committee Executive Director Richard Helfant, the restrooms are needed to accommodate busloads of school children visiting the National Historic Landmark.
The Save Lucy Committee would be required to provide a 20% match to the grant.
“I want to make it clear before everyone thinks we’re planning to build a boardwalk across Margate, that this is a half-block long replica of the last remaining piece of Margate’s original boardwalk that washed away in the storms of 1944 and 1962,” Helfant said.
After the storms damaged much of the citywide boardwalk, a small portion of it remained between Decatur and Washington avenues until the late 1970s when the Ivory Beach condominiums were built.
It was in 1970 that the volunteer committee formed to rescue the rusting hulk and turn it into an international treasure and Margate’s greatest marketing asset. This week, the city will be installing eight welcome signs around the city containing Lucy’s iconic image.
“We’re thrilled the city and Save Lucy Committee are in partnership in applying for this grant, which will bring a piece of nostalgia back to the city and provide another amenity for the thousands of people who visit Lucy every year,” Helfant said.
The design by SOSH Architects of Atlantic City includes moving the entrance to the park closer to the beach so visitors don’t have to walk under Lucy’s belly. Benches and lantern-styled lighting will reflect the boardwalk’s historic profile.
Helfant said the boardwalk area would be located where the deck is now and allow visitors to enjoy the view of the beach and ocean. It will be built at the same height as the deck on top of the bulkhead.
Helfant said the Save Lucy Committee funded Rutala’s fee for preparing the grant application.
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