Belmar 2021 Year in Review

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[MARK R. SULLIVAN THE COAST STAR] The 19th annual Belmar Pro surf competition returned to the borough in September.

BELMAR — It was a year that began in much the same way 2020 ended, with traditional events canceled amid concerns over coronavirus outbreaks. 

But as 2021 went on and vaccines against COVID-19 became more available, traditions like the Belmar Pro and Feast of San Gennaro came back. 

It was also a year that the borough witnessed the closing of the Belmar First Aid Squad, which operated since 1927, and saw major development projects aired to the public, including a plan to knock down the Belmar Inn and build condos on the site as well as the knock down the Riverview Pavilion, Waterview Pavilion and Motor Lodge on Route 35 to make way for a five-story mixed-use development.     

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JANUARY

The Belmar First Aid Squad, at the start of the year, sends a letter to the administrations in Belmar and Lake Como saying that they will be ending their more than 95 year first aid services and close on March 31. 

A former employee of the borough’s Department of Public Works Department files a lawsuit against the borough and DPW director, alleging bullying and harassment. 

Sean McDonald is named teacher of the year at Belmar Elementary School for 2020, with Amy McGurrin selected for the Educational Services Professional of the year. 

The Belmar Elementary School Parent Teacher Association continues fund raising to construct a basketball court at the school by selling bricks which were to be installed around the court. 

The 2021 St. Patrick’s Day parade in Belmar was called off due to COVID-19 concerns. 

FEBRUARY

Rima Samman begins her COVID-19 memorial on the Belmar beachfront in memory of her brother, Rami Samman, who passed away from the virus last year. From one heart on the beach, three were created out of shells with stones on the inside with the names of COVID-19 victims inscribed on each one. The memorial would expand greatly over the course of the year. 

As parents urge the borough council to restart its summer camp and activities for children, officials say they are waiting on additional guidance from the state as well as contemplate ways to run the program safely without risking a COVID-19 outbreak.

MARCH

The borough rejected a lone offer for emergency medical services, after being offered several multi-year coverage scenarios, ranging from $164,558 to $2.72 million. The borough, officials said, would aim to establish their own service after the Belmar First Aid Squad’s final day on March 31. 

At a borough council meeting this month, Russo Development first aired a plan to replace the Waterview Pavilion, Riverview Pavilion and Belmar Motor Lodge with two five story mixed use complexes on the property. The plans, which have not been submitted to the borough, would come up against later in the year with some changes.

Hundreds assemble at the Belmar beachfront for a candlelight vigil in honor of the more than 500,000 deaths caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The event took place at the memorial created by Rima Samman to include the names of more than 1,000 individuals who died from the virus. 

Phil Murphy took a pit stop in Belmar Friday, grabbing a slice at Mamalukes Pizza & Ice Cream on Ocean Avenue. That same day, the governor was scheduled to visit a vaccine distribution center at a Toms River ShopRite at noon before making his way south to Ship Bottom to attend the groundbreaking ceremony for the Route 72 Manahawkin Bay Bridge project. 

APRIL

The Belmar First Aid Squad’s 93-year history of service to borough residents came to end. At 7 a.m. on April 1, the squad ended its final shift, giving way to a borough-operated unit, which bought some of the squad’s vehicles and hired some of their volunteers and paid employees in order to maintain ambulance services to Belmar and Lake Como.

 Belmar Fishing Club had to adapt its annual holiday drive to comply with COVID-19 restrictions, but in the end the group was able to raise $5,000 in gift cards for service members overseas.  

A petition opposing a plan to redevelop the Riverview and Waterview banquet halls and Belmar Motor Lodge off Route 35 into two five-story, mixed-use buildings with nearly 250 apartment units.  The petition was started by Gerald Buccafusco on Monday morning with the intention of being presented to the borough council, which heard the redevelopment proposal for The Mediterranean last month. The petition would garner more than 600 signatures before being turned into the borough.

 materials received by the Belmar Historical Society [BHS] will provide residents and researchers with a more complete view of the borough’s history. 

The society announced that a World War II scrapbook of newspaper clippings of Belmar residents is now available online, along with a history of the development of Belmar, provided by former Belmar Librarian Grace Roper, as well as Bennett Funeral Home death registers from 1912 to 1948 and cemetery records of the four Monmouth County cemeteries, according to the historical society. 

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