HISTORY OF THE FRIENDS OF BELMAR HARBOR
In 1999, during his tenure as Chair of the Borough of Belmar Harbor Commission and in the
midst of the Borough’s multi-year, multi-million-dollar Seaport Redevelopment Project, William
J. Shipers, Esq. founded The Friends of the Belmar Harbour, Inc. along with fellow Belmar
residents Barry Zimmerman, Patrick McMahon and Patricia Provenzano. Amendments to the
Certificate of Incorporation, signed by Mr. Shipers and Belmar residents Charles Krikorian and
John Vorbach, revised the corporation’s mission statement and changed its name to Friends of
the Belmar Harbour Charitable Education Foundation, Inc. in 2000. Mr. Shipers oversaw the
early growth of what was now being called “FOBH” by arranging for a sailing center adjacent to
the L Street Beach in Maclearie Park on the shores of the Shark River Bay, securing corporate
sponsors to create the first FOBH fleet of Optis with each vessel named by its sponsor, selecting
certified sailing instructors, and overseeing an all-volunteer program of special events and
other fundraising to support FOBH’s programs.
By 2003, FOBH had over 80 active members, was hosting a popular locally-underwritten
Mayor’s Cup Regatta featuring young sailors from Avon-by-the-Sea, Belmar, Neptune City,
Neptune Township and Wall as well as hosting a Friendship Cup Regatta attracting over one
hundred junior sailors from FOBH and neighboring sailing clubs.
Adult sailing and junior sailing programs continued to grow, while active participants in
advancing FOBH’s mission included community leaders such as Tom Arnone, Peter Kellogg, Dan
Pepe, Ken Pringle, Kathy Ellis, John Zeliga, Christine Vey, John Vorbach, Liz Merkler, Theresa
Pringle, and Tom Volker, to name a few. Michael Mixson served on the FOBH Board in several
capacities, eventually becoming President in 2005, and over the next few years contributed to
raising the FOBH profile, increasing membership, and securing financial support from
throughout the region.
A milestone in the history of FOBH occurred in 2005 when the organization, reaching beyond its
loyal and generous group of local donors, applied to the NJ Department of Transportation/
Office of Maritime Resources, for a grant in the amount of $181,033 for the purchase new
boats, kayaks and paddles, trailers and rack as well as one year’s maintenance and repair of the
new and existing fleet. The grant was awarded in April 2005. With this success in hand, FOBH
went on to win financial support from government, corporations, and foundations in its
commitment to harnessing water, wind and sails to enrich youngsters for a lifetime.
FOBH programming over recent years has grown to include a “City Sailors” program designed to
introduce urban youth to the wonders of the Shark River Bay; a “Shark River Discovery Camp”
in which campers get a feel for sailing and an appreciation of the Shark River Bay ecosystem; a
regular program of networking socials for adult sailors and their friends; and an annual
“Christmas Boat Lighting” held the Sunday after Thanksgiving.