Ocean County is considering the acquisition of Surf and Stream Campground (New Jersey) near the border of Manchester and Toms River townships.
According to a report, the proposal might return the property to its natural state back when it wasn’t plagued by crime.
The county has negotiated a $7.45-million sale price for the 20.10 acres of land situated on Ridgeway Road in Manchester Township.
The vast property is filled with dirt roads lined with trailers, campers, and tents.
It was clear that residents occupied the vast majority of the campsite. Two ambulances were at the campground when reporters visited the area after a Wednesday meeting of the Ocean County Commissioners.
In the agreement being reviewed by the officials, Manchester Township will pay $1.5 million towards the $7.45-million price agreed upon on the property. The current owner will be bound to take the trailers off and remove all structures before closing.
“There are people out there,” said Commissioner Gary Quinn. “We don’t take ownership of the property until all of the work on the site is completed.”
Surf and Stream Campground was purchased by a new owner around 12 years ago, with plans to renovate the property that has been the site of a high-profile murder, as well as numerous arrests and police activities.
Initial plans suggested a mix of residential and commercial development. It’s not clear how many people live in the campground. However, Barry Bielat, the property’s owner, claimed that in 2018, there weren’t any people living permanently. The majority of the campsite was at least partially occupied.
Although the property has had some troubles over the past few years, there’s no denying the land’s natural beauty.
The purchase will include more than 1,000 feet of frontage along the Toms River, where freshwater fish species are believed to be abundant, and the site is situated near Camp Albocondo, a former Boy Scout facility that was bought to be preserved through Toms River Township last year.
Other pieces of preserved land are scattered surrounding the campground. County officials usually don’t develop preserved land; however, it is made accessible to the public when feasible.
“When you see it on a larger scale, you can see the connection of green space, whether it be Natural Lands or certain types of easements,” said Anthony Agliata, the county’s planning director, showing the county commissioners a map of preserved lands in the area.
“Sometimes, when you see the county buying little pieces, it’s part of a larger plan to create a green belt.”
Agliata stated that the property’s zoning could permit a dense multifamily development. Several steps in conducting due diligence on the property remain, including the formal authorization for the purchase; however, work to bring the campground under public ownership is in progress.