An historic, privately-owned, religiously-affiliated beachfront community in Monmouth County calls FEMA's reversal of an earlier decision to reject their disaster funding request a huge victory.

Damage to the Ocean Grove boardwalk from Sandy
Damage to the Ocean Grove boardwalk from Sandy (Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association)

Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association chief operating officer J.P. Gradone said he believes a recent meeting in the nation's capital led to the change of heart.

"Representatives from our group had a meeting with them (FEMA) a few months ago in Washington, D.C. and explained the emergency services and all that come from the boardwalk area, as well as the relationship with Neptune Township," Gradone said, "and I think they just saw some things, some fresh information, that helped them evaluate it from a different perspective."

Gradone said engineers have placed the cost to repair the local boardwalk and beachfront at around $3 to $3.5 million.

"We have the middle piece of the boardwalk," Gradone said. "We have the north end of the boardwalk, which was removed, then the pier but we're focusing for this immediate project for the middle beach because that's the most critical one."

Gradone said FEMA is helping Ocean Grove navigate through paperwork and different agencies, and to expedite the application process so they can hopefully have the boardwalk rebuilt by this summer.

The Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association had to remove its badly damaged, nearly mile-long boardwalk following Superstorm Sandy, and has reportedly spent $500,000 of its own money to make some repairs. However, Gradone said they have had tremendous support from the public and have been able to raise $1.5 million dollars through the "Together" campaign, to make more repairs.

State Sen. Jennifer Beck (R-Red Bank) issued a statement:

This is great news for Ocean Grove and bodes well for the upcoming summer. The assistance will be incredibly helpful as a key tourist location on the shore continues to rebuild in the wake of Sandy. I believe the whole experience is proof that the process can work and you should never take no for an answer. We worked closely with state, federal and local officials to plead Ocean Grove's case and, while it took some time, I couldn't be happier with the outcome. I have a feeling that the summer of 2014 is going to be a great one."

Gradone said the destroyed boardwalk hasn't harmed Ocean Grove's appeal as a great tourist destination.

"Fodor's Travel ranked the top 15 beaches in the world, and Ocean Grove was ranked number eight, and so I think that's pretty significant awareness," Gradone said.

Ocean Grove is a historic district of Neptune Township. According to its website, it was founded in the late 1860's by the Methodist Episcopal Church as a place to hold spiritual camp meetings.

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