Department of Planning
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Ocean County is an expanse open before us, wide and endless, and there Where the wind blows, and the white clouds of sky rest; where pine trees hum with bees, and cranberries bloom on the overgrown banks of the rivers and streams.
From the Forked River mountains or on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean dimly seen through the mists of this almost incomprehensible depth and complex landscape stands the Barnegat Lighthouse. A beacon guiding sailors in the night through our pristine estuaries and watersheds.
Blessed with beauty, peace and adventure, this soaring and majestic landscape is intimate to generations of Ocean County.
By Scott Cadigan
Ocean County is located in the Atlantic Coastal Plain in central New Jersey. The County is the second largest in the State in terms of size and one of four New Jersey counties which border the Atlantic Ocean. The County Seat is located withing Toms River Township and is centrally located within Ocean County.
The County is in close proximity to two of the Nation's largest metropolitan centers, New York City, approximately 60 miles to the north and Philadelphia, roughly 50 miles to the west. In addition, Atlantic City is located approximately 50 miles to the south of the County Seat. These metropolitan areas are easily accessible to Ocean County via several major highways, as shown on the Regional Location Map.
Although Ocean County has been settled since colonial times, its presence as a separate political entity is of relatively recent origin. The County was created from lands divided from Monmouth County in 1850. For much of its early history, the County was a rural, agricultural and fishing center. During the latter part of the 1800's and through the 1900's, the resort industry of the New Jersey Shore was developed, and the commercial activities associated with seasonal resorts quickly became the County's economic mainstay.
In the early 1950's, there began a nationwide trend towards suburbanization as people moved outward from the older urban centers into previously sparsely populated or rural areas. The opening of the Garden State Parkway in 1954 permitted access to a large amount of undeveloped and inexpensive land within commuting distance of the labor markets of New York and northern New Jersey. The County also became a desired location for people who wanted to retire away from the more industrial areas to the north. A primarily rural County with a population of 37,675 in 1940, the County's population increased to 510,916 persons by 2000. As evidenced by each of the decennial Censuses during this fifty-year period, Ocean County was the fastest growing county in the State. Almost all of this growth was due to in-migration, rather than the natural increase of the population.
Despite the large growth in population and employment, Ocean County maintains a vast amount of protected open space which will ensure the balanced land use of the area in the future. Much of the area west of the Garden State Parkway contains large tracts of State Parks, Forests and Wildlife Management Areas. In addition, approximately 21,000 acres east of the Parkway are protected under the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge. The Barnegat Bay and Little Egg Harbor, which stretch nearly the entire north-south length of the County, were recently added to the US National Estuary Program. The County partners with the Barnegat Bay Partnership, the NJ Department of Environmental Protection and many other organizations on many environmental protection efforts.
In 1997, the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders established the Ocean County Natural Lands Trust Fund Program to acquire lands in the County for conservation and farmland preservation. By April 2014, 16,096 total acres of productive farmland or environmentally-sensitive natural lands have been preserved through the Natural Lands Trust Fund and Farmland Preservation Programs. The preserved farmland is located mainly in the northern portion of the county in Plumsted, Jackson and Toms River Townships.
The Ocean County Parks Department also maintains an active capital program for parkland acquisition and development to ensure that a variety of recreation opportunities are in close proximity to residents throughout Ocean County. To date, the County Parks Department maintains 23 parks countywide, totally 4,600 acres.
As always, the coastal beaches of Ocean County are foremost among the County's attractions and continue to draw thousands of seasonal visitors to the area each year.
129 Hooper Ave.
PO Box 2191
Toms River, NJ 08754-2191
(732) 244-8396 FAX