By KAYLA J. MARSH
SHREWSBURY – Leaders of local organizations, nonprofits and community programs are looking to the Two River Council of Mayors to spread the word about initiatives aimed at bringing more visitors to Monmouth County and making it a more active, healthy and commuter-friendly area to live in.
The Two River Council of Mayors is an informal body comprised of mayors from 15 local municipalities — Eatontown, Little Silver, Oceanport, Fair Haven, Rumson, Long Branch, West Long Branch, Monmouth Beach, Middletown, Highlands, Ocean Township, Red Bank, Sea Bright, Tinton Falls and Shrewsbury.
At the council’s April 26 meeting at the Shrewsbury’s Town Hall, Mary Eileen Fouratt, executive director of the Monmouth County Arts Council, and Jim Hickey, chairman of the MoCo [Monmouth County] Arts Corridor Partnership, talked to the mayors about ways to bring more arts into the municipalities.
“The MoCo Arts Corridor started in 2011 … and we really just thought there’s got to be more that we can do in matching up all the arts that we have, and building community and helping the local economies,” Fouratt said.
“So we started bringing together not just the arts groups in the county, but also artists, the county’s tourism and economic development offices, New Jersey Transit … and it became a thing without us really knowing.”
Hickey said it is important for local municipalities to keep in mind as they move forward with agendas detailing how beneficial the arts can be economically for communities.
“The reason the local Corridor exists is to leverage the economic power of the arts to the betterment of the community,” he said. “It is our goal to help create jobs in all the towns, help infuse or create capital in all the towns and help improve neighborhoods to the best of our ability.
“We would just like you to keep in mind that the arts are always there and we can be a leader in helping to improve the quality of life throughout the county.”
Fouratt said the idea is to make Monmouth County an arts destination.
“Really the concept is about taking a look at the art assets that you have in your community and seeing how and what you can do with those,” she said. “It is amazing what each town has in terms of arts.”
Fouratt said some examples on how municipalities can participate is by incorporating cultural planning and creative place making into their own master plans and connecting with the Monmouth County Arts Council and the arts groups in the community.
“Once you know what you have, then you can see what makes sense for your town and see how the arts can contribute,” she said. “Utilizing the creative assets that you have already, you can think about what your community needs, what challenges you have and how the arts can contribute to that.”
Hickey said the first step for any headway to be made is by making those partnerships.
“Part of our mission is to get people to understand that the arts are more than just somebody with a paintbrush or somebody playing an instrument, or somebody dancing,” he said. “The arts can be an economic driver for your towns.”
At the council’s April 26 meeting, the mayors also discussed a possible Two River Bikeshare program that would expand Monmouth County’s transportation options and compliment the new dedicated bike-lines recently placed in several municipalities.
“I got to thinking how cool it would be to get on a bike in Red Bank and be able to ride to Sea Bright, or ride to Pier Village and what Bikeshare does is you can have a system of stations throughout the towns, and have bikes at every station as required,” said Jim Duffney founder of Bikeshare and CEO of Corps Logistics.
“We partnered with Bewegen Technologies Inc. … to create a bike that was unique and different than anything else that was out there and this bike is a pedal-assist bike.
“What happens is you get on a bike, it features electric-assisted pedaling and is equipped with GPS technology, and you can ride it, it drives about 15 to 16mph, and it helps you and it assists you.
“A military veteran who has a prosthetic leg can ride that bike, a person who’s not in the best shape can ride that bike [and] it is very inexpensive, it is very forward thinking and the great thing about Bikeshare is that you can take the bike and you control the environment.”
The new Bikeshare program would offer a couple hundred bikes to begin at stations across the Two River area and would charge a less than $100 fee for membership.
“New Jersey really is unproven territory and the Jersey Shore is perfect for Bikeshare,” Duffney said. “You already have bike lanes, and you already have the opportunity to grow and you can start small and build something really wonderful and expand it and then New Jersey would have something that’s unique and different than anybody in the United States.
“This area is such a wonderful area that Red Bank can have stations, Fair Haven can have stations … there’s all different ways to do this.”
Bikeshare was most recently launched in Baltimore, Maryland. Corps Logistics handles the installation, operations, maintenance and customer service and even hires military veterans who maybe homeless or recovering from addictions to assist.
“Five years ago when I was deployed I always used to think, ‘what am I going to do when I get out of the military to try to get a job and do some cools things and created jobs for veterans,’” Duffney said.
“Bikeshare is this really cool thing that now is starting to build steam.
“You get everybody in and then we try to find some federal money to try buying the bikes or finding sponsors or seeing if people would buy stations with the bikes in local towns and we start small and build.
“The beautiful thing is you are getting a system that is so far ahead of what there is now.
“This is a preliminary discussion, but I think you can do a lot of great things with this here and I would love to see Bikeshare here.”