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 J. Shipers, Esq. founded The Friends of the Belmar Harbor, Inc. along with fellow Belmar resident Patricia Provenzano. Amendments to the and William residents Barry Zimmerman, Patrick McMahon 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 Harbor 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 ofOptis 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, kayaksand 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, windand 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.
In 2018 a new board of trustees increased the emphasis on education. The new leadership, many being long time and highly regarded professional educators, and under the presidency from long time board member and professional mariner Eric Krause, created curriculums that used sailing to teach life skills and youth programs focused on teaching basic marine and environmental sciences. These educational programs have been organized under the name "The Shark River Sailing and Science Academy".