Barnegat, NJ — People checking out Barnegat Township’s events calendar for 2020 were in for a big surprise when they saw the fireworks display scheduled for Thursday, July 2, will be held at the high school football field rather than the municipal dock, where they have been shot out over the bay for more than 45 years. The decision to move the fireworks to the high school was based upon a recommendation from Police Chief Keith Germain, who discussed his reasons on the department’s Facebook Page.
“While I love the fireworks over the water as much now as I did back when I was a kid, the world we live in, and the dangers it presents, have changed drastically over that 46 years,” he said. “Our fireworks display constitutes what the Department of Homeland Security defines as a mass gathering and, further, what is called a soft target – typically defined as a location or environment that is easily accessible, attracts large numbers of people on a predictable or semi-predictable basis, and may be vulnerable to attacks using simple tactics and readily available weapons.”
Germain said if people think police shouldn’t be concerned about a soft target attack in Barnegat, he pointed out Seaside Park suffered such an attack with a pipe bomb three years ago.
“New York City, just more than two years ago, saw eight people killed by a terrorist who used a readily available truck to run down bicyclists and pedestrians – something that gave me pause this past year as I watched hundreds upon hundreds of you walking up to a mile in lines along the shoulders of Bayshore Drive and East Bay Avenue due to the lack of adequate parking at the dock,” he said. “In addition, the Department of Homeland Security warned just days before the 4th of July this past year of the potential for domestic terror attacks at 4th of July celebrations.”
He said one of the main advantages of moving the event is that between the high school and the nearby Joseph Donahue Elementary School, the area can provide 723 marked parking spaces – nearly triple the 250 available at the dock.
“And that doesn’t count the spaces available at Project Playground,” he said. “It is much easier for us to control traffic with less officers. We have multiple exit routes available, including Pennsylvania Avenue and emergency egress via Periwinkle Drive. We also have ample experience handling large flows of traffic there with regular events like graduation and football and sporting events. Additionally, we can reduce the number of officers needed to manage the event by approximately 30 percent by moving it to the high school, a not-so-insignificant savings.”
Township Committeeman Albert Bille, recreation department liaison, said he felt that keeping the fireworks at the dock could pose a danger to pedestrians.
“When the show is over, there are a lot of people walking on East Bay Avenue by all the parked cars,” he said. “And with all the people leaving the parking lot at night, it gets very hectic.”
Bille said with the fireworks at the high school, people living in areas east and west of the Garden State Parkway will be able to see the fireworks.
“That will mean a lot less people driving to see them because they’ll be able to watch them from their yards,” he said.
Traditionally, the fireworks shows open with a concert. Jeanne Broadbent, recreation director, said a band had not been scheduled yet.
“We may try some other form of entertainment,” she said.
— Eric Englund