Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Manahawkin Bay bridges project is underway and on schedule

Construction of the Route 72 Manahawkin Bay bridges project continued throughout the busy summer season with minimal conflict to heavy summer traffic. But the tourists have gone home. So what does that mean for winter residents traveling to and from Long Beach Island and the mainland?
Photo by Ryan Morrill
Construction of the new bridge can
 be seen from beneath the current
Causeway bridge.
Construction “is not increasing because it did not need to decrease,” said Joseph Dee, a spokesman for the N.J. Department of Transportation.
The construction phase of the project, which will eventually create a second bridge to and from Long Beach Island as well as refurbish the current Causeway Bridge, is currently underway and on schedule, said Dee. Shifting the lanes on the eastbound and westbound side of the bridge to create a staging area for building, which took place in late June, has allowed DOT contractor Schiavone Construction Co. to continue construction during the busy summer season without interfering with traffic.
“We didn’t have to limit our activity during the summer season because we were working away from the active travel lanes,” said Dee. “For the next three years, we’re building a new bridge alongside the existing one. There’s no traffic on the new bridge, so there’s not going to be those conflicts where we’ve got construction crews alongside live traffic lanes,” he explained.
Orange advisory speed limit signs with a suggested 45 mph will be posted within the next couple of weeks to encourage motorists to slow down as a precautionary measure while the work continues. The bridge lanes were restriped with reflective paint in July to help guide motorists during the nighttime.
Photo by Ryan Morrill
Construction  is expected to continue with
little interference to motorists.
The new bridge will have traditional overhead lighting as well as an updated version of the string of pearls with LED lighting, which Dee said will be “purely decorative.”
Construction workers are in the process of building a trestle bridge that will allow for construction of the new bridge, as well as refurbishment of the current bridge. The creation of 16 cofferdams will be used to drill shafts, each 6-feet in diameter, into the floor of the bay. Those shafts will create a stable surface upon which the bridge piers will be constructed. The piers will support the new bridge once the cofferdams are removed. The DOT expects the piers to be completed by the first of the year.
The existing bay bridge will be closed to traffic and rehabilitated once the new bridge is built and open to traffic. This pattern will maintain the current two travel lanes in each direction during busy summer seasons.
The twin Manahawkin Bay bridges will offer motorists two 12-foot-wide travel lanes in each direction, as well as 12-foot-wide inside shoulders and 13-foot-wide outside shoulders that will provide safe travel lanes for bicyclists. A six-foot-wide sidewalk will be constructed alongside the outside shoulder of the bridge to carry westbound foot traffic.
Rehabilitation of the three trestle bridges will result in two 11-foot-wide travel lanes in each direction, as well as 1-foot-wide inside shoulders and 6-foot-wide outside shoulders to accommodate bicyclists. The westbound lanes will also offer a six-foot-wide sidewalk. The bridge currently offers no accommodations for pedestrians or bicyclists.
Crews are currently working on creating a retaining wall on Cedar Bonnet Island, which will also act as a parking and recreational area. The entire bridges project is set to be completed by 2020.
–Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Family Fun Day to be held at King of Kings Church in Manahawkin, Saturday, Sept. 21

Summer is pretty much over, but the entertainment does not have to end. Bring the kids to Family Fun Day at King of Kings Community Church, located at 1000 North Main St. in Manahawkin, on Saturday, Sept. 21, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

More than 56 vendors will be in attendance, offering something fun for everyone. Crafts and games, food, community resources, face painting and balloon animals, a book sale, fall flowers and fresh produce, as well as a flea market will be available throughout the event. Free vision and blood pressure screenings will be offered by the church’s medial clinic led by Coastal Volunteers in Medicine. Live music will be presented by the worship team.
All proceeds benefit the church’s missionaries. For more information, visit http://www.kingofkingscc.org/ or call 609-597-7177. 

— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Jetty Rock Foundation donates school supplies to kids affected by Superstorm Sandy

The Jetty Rock Foundation, the nonprofit arm of the Jetty brand, recently donated more than $10,000 in school supplies to 86 students from Little Egg Harbor, Stafford, Barnegat and LBI school districts who had been affected by Superstorm Sandy.
Supplies came in the form of binders, notebooks, pencils and stickers, as
Photo by Darcy Kolodziej
Ryan Kolodziej is ecstatic to
receive school supplies from
the Jetty Rock Foundation.
well as a $100 gift certificate to one of the area’s three surf shops that carry Jetty apparel, including Surf Unlimited, The Surf Shack and Farias Surf and Sport. One Southern Regional High School student was even given a brand new Apple computer. About 30 children also received a backpack from Farias, which were donated by Roxy and Volcom.
Ryann Kolodziej, 8, of Ship Bottom was one of the children to receive those supplies.
“It made me really happy,” said Kolodziej. “I cried because I was so happy,” she added in between full sobs.
Kolodziej’s home was affected by Sandy last year and a few months later burnt down during a fire. Kolodziejc’s mother, Darcy, even lost her job as a Southern Regional Middle School teacher at the end of the school year in June. The two are currently renting a home in Ship Bottom, but their lease is up in February. They hope to move back into their home in April.
Although Jetty aided Darcy with her home after the fire, she said receiving help from the organization that was directed toward her daughter was “overwhelming and appreciated.”
“What they’re doing is just unbelievable. It really is,” she added.
Ann Coen, president of Jetty Rock, said the foundation is committed to helping the community in any way possible and that offering schools supplies to local kids is just one of the ways it hopes to help.
“We really tried to give to the hardest hit kids and focus on the kids who might have had it a little tough so they could get something special that they wouldn’t normally be able to get,” said Coen. “It was a risk because we knew that we might forget some people or some people might be missed because obviously we don’t know everyone, but we wanted to take the risk of helping some and not none,” she explained.
Jetty Rock is especially keen on helping area children, some of whom who will grow up to live and work within the surrounding communities.
“Basically what we want for everybody that we donate to for Jetty Rock is really just that pay it forward mentality,” said Coen. “Hopefully one day they’ll be able to help somebody else and hopefully they come out and volunteer when Jetty does at their next event, whether it’s dune planting or whatever. We hope we see those kids getting more involved just to have fun and be a part of the community,” she added.
Kolodziej said she definitely plans to take part in helping clean up the community.
“This kid has been through so much in the past couple years, and the fact that she’s able to wake up every morning with a smile, not upset or anxious, is because of the little things,” said Darcy. “It’s making her learn a huge life lesson so early. At 8 years old she’s learning the importance of giving back and being there for someone else in need. That impact is not something that too many 8-years-olds learn. It truly makes these kids appreciate what they’re being given, and they want to help others out. That’s something that can’t be taught in schools. The kids have to feel it; they have to experience it themselves. The storm really affected a lot of people, and these kids are going to be little Jetty-ites.”
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

A blazing truth: firefighting is not just a man’s job

“It doesn’t make a difference whether you’re male or female, it’s one standard to become a firefighter,” said Raymond VanMarter, deputy fire marshal for the Ocean County Fire and First Aid Training Academy in Waretown.
Photo by Jack Reynolds
Trailblazer: Heidi Michel's fire prevention 
career stands as a symbol for gender equality.
One person to take those words to heart is Heidi Michel, fire official for the Stafford Township Bureau of Fire Prevention and deputy chief of the Stafford Volunteer Fire Co.
“I’ve never felt that I have been treated any differently,” said Michel. “If anything, I knew that I was going to have to prove myself and that I could do the job. I didn’t want to let anybody down. I wanted them to know that I could do the job and that I was going to give it 110 percent. I don’t think I could have ever become the deputy chief if there ever was (any gender discrepancies).”
Michel has volunteered as deputy chief for the past two years. She began volunteering as a firefighter nearly 14 years ago. There are currently three female firefighters, including Michel, who serve in the local volunteer fire company.
The deputy chief was given a special proclamation during the Stafford Township Council meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 3, in recognition of her receiving the 2012 Fire Prevention Inspector of the Year award for her work as the Stafford Township fire official. The annual award, presented by the New Jersey Fire Prevention and Protection Association, is given to a fire marshal who serves as an example of dedicated service and expertise in the field of fire protection as it relates to the enforcement of the New Jersey Uniform Construction Code. Michel has been conducting annual fire inspections and providing fire safety education and fire extinguisher training within the community for the past 10 years.
“This is a lady who has committed herself to the safety and well-being of our community,” said Stafford Mayor John Spodofora. “Working during the day to educate businesses, schools, civic groups, etcetera about ways to prevent fires is just her day job. The reality is that she spends 24/7 fighting fires when the alarm sounds. Regardless of the weather or the time of night, she is there volunteering her time and life protecting our residents.
“Heidi is an inspiration to all of the young women, showing that anyone can be anything they want and never let any glass ceilings or barriers stand in the way of doing what you love. Heidi comes from a family of firefighters, and her dedication and commitment, along with her knowledge, has earned her this honor. However, it is not the plaque or award that matters; it is the achievement of being one of the best of the best and the lives she has helped save,” he added.
VanMarter considers all of the area fire companies to be equally accepting of female firefighters and said Stafford Township’s members are no exception. Spodofora agreed.
“Stafford is proud of all of our first responders. We are proud of every female firefighter,” he stated. “Most importantly, we are proud of the dedication each of them has shown during every emergency: hurricanes, a tornado, numerous fires, chemical and fuel spills and accidents. Each and every day Heidi and her fellow firefighters put their lives on the line for all of us.”
Alongside Ocean County’s Deputy Fire Marshal William Gee, who was recently named the 2013 Fire Prevention Officer of the Year, Michel will be recognized for the 2012 award on Saturday, Sept. 28 at Palumbo’s Restaurant in Tinton Falls. Last year’s November ceremony was canceled due to Superstorm Sandy.
“It’s very unique,” said Michel. “I think there’s one other female fire official in the state of New Jersey. There’s a lot of female firefighters, but there’s not a lot of female fire inspectors or fire officials.”
Having grown up in Stafford around family members who volunteered at the local firehouse, Michel decided to give up her career as a medical assistant to obtain a bachelor’s degree in fire science. Her interest in investigating the cause and effect of fires as well as her yearning to educate the community about the importance of fire safety outweighed her decision, she said. She is now in the process of obtaining a master’s degree in emergency services management.
“I think more women are starting to get into this field,” said Michel. “There’s more paid fire departments, so more women are becoming firefighters. But I also feel that more women are wanting to get into the fire prevention side, the inspection side, the education side of it. Things are changing.”
As with her male counterparts, Michel also went through the training program at the Ocean County Fire and First Aid Training Academy. The program is a rigorous and lengthy curriculum that includes just less than 200 hours of course training on various subjects from building construction, ropes and knots, ladders and hazardous materials to fire behavior and fire extinguishers, said VanMarter. Over an approximate six-month period, he said, classroom participation is required two nights a week and hands-on training is required every other weekend.
“Most of our students and certainly our instructors are pretty accepting of everybody, as long as you’re capable of doing the job,” said VanMarter. “You really see that (gender) stigma going away. I don’t consider it anymore as an instructor, to be quite honest with you. It’s not whether you’re male or female or short or tall; it’s can you do the job. The number (of female firefighters) is gradually going up. Where it used to be one or two, now you see maybe five or seven when you start a program.”
As a member of the academy since the early 1980s, VanMarter said he has seen an increase of female firefighters entering the industry over the past 10 to 15 years. Having led the fire-training program in Waretown for the past 11 years, he believes gender discrepancies among firefighters have dissipated in the area.
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Stafford girl to represent New Jersey in national pageant

Manahawkin’s very own Laney Torchia, 8, was recently crowned “Top Model” in the Miss New Jersey Junior Pre-Teen category of the National American Miss Pageant. She will go on to represent the state of New Jersey at the NAM
Photo by Jack Reynolds
Laney Torchia shows off
her "Top Model" awards.
National Pageant at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., this October.
Torchia received an invitation to NAM in the springtime, and although her parents Greg and Roxanne did not know exactly what to expect of the beauty pageant, they allowed her to attend the open casting call. She was chosen as a top 25 state finalist out of more than 300 young girls.
NAM’s “main goal is to promote inner beauty. They’re not about the whole glamorous thing,” said Roxanne. “They praise the kids on volunteer work, and anyone who sponsors the girls gets a written thank-you note. They donate reading or school supplies. They do a lot of positive things, and every kid is a winner. They don’t want any of the girls wearing any makeup or anything. It’s not a ‘Toddlers and Tiaras’ kind of thing; it’s totally natural,” she explained.
“‘Toddlers and Tiaras’ is demeaning, I think,” added Laney. “I like doing this because it’s fun and it was a chance for me to do a pageant. I was actually expecting ‘Toddlers and Tiaras,’ but I was glad it wasn’t.”
Besides posing for pictures, Torchia was required to memorize and convey a 30-second commercial and a quick introduction in front of a panel of pageant judges. She also showed off her best nautical-looking dress, representative of her life at the Jersey Shore, during the formal wear category. Her community involvement participation of course included cleaning up the beaches on Long Beach Island.
Photo by Jack Reynolds
Torchia's parents support
her many ambitions.
“When I was up there, I almost started to cry because I didn’t think I was going to win anything,” she said, pointing to a video of the awards ceremony her father had filmed. “I guess they were saving the best for last, right?” she added with a smile.
Although NAM is Torchia’s first official pageant, she said she has been modeling and acting since she was 5 years old and hopes to become a professional actor in “big-time movies.” Her favorite actors include Reese Witherspoon, best known for her role in “Legally Blonde,” as well as Bridget Mendler, who plays Teddy Duncan in the Disney Channel original series “Good Luck Charlie.”
Torchia currently takes acting classes at A Class Act NY acting studio and singing lessons with Christina Skleros at Musicology Studios in Barnegat. The John Robert Powers Modeling scholarship she was awarded from NAM will also help her pursue her modeling dream. The $1,000 cash prize she received will most likely go toward her college fund, her parents said. Torchia hopes to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, as well as Yale University in Connecticut.
“She’s a hambone,” Roxanne said with a laugh. “She’s funny and she’s outgoing and she loves getting her picture taken and performing, basically. Some people do baseball and some people do soccer. This is her sport; this is what she does.”
Torchia said she also likes doing hair and ice skating and wants to try standup paddle boarding next summer.
To help Torchia raise money for her trip to California, donate to http://www.gofundme.com/laneytorchia.

— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Mark Bair to teach old salt figure carving class at Tuckerton Seaport

Photo via Mark Bair
Bair has been creating wood
carvings for the past 10 years.
Local award-winning carver and artist Mark Bair will lead an old salt figure carving class at Tuckerton Seaport on two Saturdays, Sept. 7 and 14, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Starting with a wood blank, Bair will teach participants how to fashion a decorative folk art sea captain.
“We always get a lot of requests for the folk carving,” said Linda Salmons, director of programs at the Seaport. “Decoys are wonderful and beautiful, but they do have a more limited audience. So it’s nice to have the figures because people like to have a decorative folk art figure.”
Carving and painting will begin on Sept. 7 and will conclude on Sept. 14. All experience levels are welcome.
“Some of the people who come to the class are experienced, and others are pretty much beginners that are learning the techniques of figure carving,” said Salmons.
Preregistration for the class is required and costs $110 for nonmembers or $95 for members. Fees include participation in both classes and incorporate all materials.
Bair will also teach a Santa figure carving class in November.
“His figures are very much in demand. We have some beautiful pieces here at the Seaport that we bring out on special occasions of his,” said Salmons.
To register, or for more information, call the Seaport at 609-296-8868.
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.