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By Anne Geggis

An effort to shore up the facts about Manalapan’s coastline — and form a committee to study the state of the town’s sandy stretch — won the unanimous approval of the Town Commission May 28.

The action follows a May 16 workshop at which commissioners heard conflicting opinions from a county official, a beach raker and advocates for taming human involvement in the town’s shifting landform on which much of its property values are built.

Commissioner Elliot Bonner volunteered to organize the committee, noting he has no stake in the outcome of this fact-finding mission: His property is not on the beach.

“There’s a lot of information presented on both sides, so I thought I’d bring sort of an impartial view to sort out and pull all the information together,” Bonner said.

Photographs presented at the workshop, for example, showed tire tracks over what appeared to be turtle nests. The new beach committee will look at whether the photos have timestamps. Also, the sand transfer plant that sits on the north side of the Boynton Beach Inlet, also known as the South Lake Worth Inlet, was presented as illegally robbing Manalapan of sand for the benefit of Ocean Ridge — even though the transfer plant operates under an agreement that was the result of a lawsuit Ocean Ridge filed against Manalapan that contended not enough sand was coming Ocean Ridge’s way.

But officials from the county, which operates the plant with the state’s say-so, say it’s a necessary part of the system that compensates for the effect of the manmade inlet.

“Some people were saying, ‘Hey, this is the worst thing ever,’ and others were saying, ‘Hey, this is the only way to do it,’” Bonner said, recalling the workshop. “So I want to get down to the facts.”

Bonner said he envisions including both commissioners and everyday people on the committee. It’s yet to be determined whether those who don’t live in Manalapan are eligible to serve on the committee, which will have announced public meetings open to all.

“It’s going to be boots on the ground, like let’s go walk out, then sort of talk to people,” Bonner said.

Turtle advocates say that, when it comes to beach raking and turtle nest patrols, the actual policies that sound reasonable in theory — like not raking west of the high-tide line on private beaches — are not being followed. And it’s all too rare that policymakers experience what’s happening on the disappearing shore, they say.

“It’s a step in the right direction and much appreciated,” said Kim Jones, an Ocean Ridge resident who was among those who spoke at the workshop warning about the effects of raking and urging the commission to prohibit it during turtle nesting season.

Also, at Manalapan’s monthly meeting: Assistant Town Manager Eric Marmer gave his first manager’s report, a preview of when he’ll be taking over from longtime Town Manager Linda Stumpf.

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