Cross-Shaped Pier Sparks Debate Among Ocean Grove Residents

Critics say the use of religious imagery should not be permitted on the public beach. Others view it as a symbol of perseverance and a blessing to the Shore.

The T-shaped pier in Ocean Grove
The T-shaped design of Ocean Grove's new pier has received mixed responses from local residents. Photo courtesy of the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association/Fred Faulhaber

A new cross-shaped pier has opened in Ocean Grove—and it’s been a heated topic of debate. 

Ahead of the April ribbon cutting, some residents voiced concerns about the pier’s T-shaped design resembling a Christian cross. The Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association (OGCMA), a Christian community that has been living in the Shore town for over 150 years, privately funded the reconstruction project. But critics have said that the use of religious imagery should not be permitted on the public beach.

Speculation about the intentional affect of the shape began after the design was unveiled in July 2022. Michael Badger, president of the OGCMA, says the cross was not an intentional choice, but came about naturally in the planning process. “[The design is] intended to open wide the possibilities for everyone,” he says.

Badger says the accessibility of the pier is one of its greatest features. The pier provides the opportunity for people with disabilities to avoid the sandy terrain while still getting to experience the beach. A 103-year-old wheelchair user utilized the pier on the sunny spring day that New Jersey Monthly visited.

The OGCMA originally settled in Ocean Grove for tent-revival meetings in the summer months at the Shore. Today, the OGCMA owns Ocean Grove’s land, beach and new boardwalk.

The OGCMA has previously been embroiled in legal trouble, including a 2007 lawsuit for prohibiting LGBTQ+ couples from using a pavilion for civil unions; though in subsequent years, members of both the OGCMA and the LGBTQ+ community have sought restoration.

“You’re allowed to have your own identity and to embrace it,” Badger says.

The pier opened in April after a 10-month project to restore it to its historic 500 feet, after it was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Despite some pushback, many beachgoers are looking forward to a sunny season in Ocean Grove, viewing the pier as a symbol of perseverance and a blessing to the Shore.

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