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Toms River is a township in Ocean County, New Jersey, United States, and the county seat of Ocean County. Formerly known as the Township of Dover, in 2006 voters approved a change of the official name to the Township of Toms River, adopting the name of the largest unincorporated community within the township. As of the 2010 United States Census, the township had a total population of 91,239, with the township ranking as the 8th-most-populous municipality in the state in 2010 (after having been ranked 7th in 2000) and the second most-populous municipality in Ocean County (behind Lakewood Township, which had a population of 92,843). The 2010 population increased by 1,533 (+1.7%) from the 89,706 counted in the 2000 Census, which had in turn increased by 13,335 (+17.5%) from the 76,371 counted in the 1990 Census.
In 2006, Toms River was ranked by Morgan Quitno Press as the 15th safest city in the United States, of 369 cities nationwide. In 2007, Toms River was again ranked as the 14th-safest city in the United States of 371 cities nationwide.
Toms River can be seen in various TV and news media including MTV's Made and Jersey Shore (seasons 1, 3, and 5), HBO's Boardwalk Empire and the original The Amityville Horror movie. In 1998, Toms River East Little League won the Little League World Series. The township has what is said to be the second-largest Halloween parade in the world.
Much of the early history of the settlement of Toms River is obscured by conflicting stories. Various sources list the eponym of the township as either English captain William Tom, farmer and ferryman Thomas Luker, or a Native American named Tom. In 1992, as part of celebrations commemorating the township's 225th anniversary, official recognition was granted to the tradition that the "Tom" in "Toms River" was for Thomas Luker, who ran a ferry across Goose Creek (now the Toms River). During the 19th century, Toms River became a center for shipbuilding, whaling, fishing, and iron and lumber production. The settlement and the river were usually spelled "Tom's River" in its early days, though its current spelling has been standard since the middle of the 19th century.
Toms River was located in the southern section of the Township of Shrewsbury that obtained a royal charter to secede in 1767 and form Dover Township. During the American Revolutionary War, Toms River was home to a strategically important salt works that supplied colonial militias, as well as a base for privateer vessels that plundered British and Tory ships off the coast. In March 1782, a group of British and loyalist soldiers attacked a blockhouse along the river that housed the colonial militia and captured Captain Joshua Huddy, who was later hanged at Sandy Hook. Also destroyed were the salt works and most of the houses in the village. The incident greatly complicated the tense relationship between the British, loyalist, and colonial and was a factor in prolonging the peace negotiations that were then in progress in Paris until 1783.
The village of Toms River is listed on both the national and state registers of historic places.
Dover Township was incorporated as one of New Jersey's first 104 townships by the Township Act of 1798 of the New Jersey Legislature on February 21, 1798. Portions of the township were taken to form Jackson Township (March 6, 1844), Union Township (March 10, 1846, now Barnegat Township), Brick Township (February 15, 1850), Manchester Township (April 6, 1865), Berkeley Township (March 31, 1875), Island Heights (May 6, 1887), Lavallette (December 21, 1887) and Seaside Heights (February 26, 1913). The township's original name was for Dover, England, and was changed to Toms River Township based on a referendum passed in 2006.
In 1850, Toms River became the county seat of the newly created Ocean County when it was formed out of southern Monmouth County. During the second half of the 19th century and the early decades of the 20th, many new towns were carved out of Dover Township, including Brick, Jackson, Lakewood and Berkeley. The Village of Toms River attempted twice—in 1914 and 1926—to secede from Dover Township, but residents were unsuccessful. The part of Toms River on the south side of the river stretching down to Berkeley Township incorporated as South Toms River in 1927, but the core of the original village on the north side remains part of the wider township to this day.
In the last two decades of the twentieth century, the demographics of the township changed substantially, adding over 20,000 residents just in the 1990s. While the village is still the center of municipal and county government, the population in the area exploded in the decades after World War II, due in part to the completion of the Garden State Parkway. Whereas the village was the largest and most densely populated section of the township for over two centuries, the vast majority of residents now shop and work in other sections of the town.
Toms River made international headlines in the 1990s with their Little League Baseball team, nicknamed "Beast from the East", which competed in the Little League World Series three times in five years, winning in 1998 when they defeated Japan by a score of 12–9. More than 40,000 people lined Route 37 for a parade following their victory over Kashima, Japan. Toms River Little League made it to Williamsport in 2010 giving Toms River its record 4th Mid Atlantic championship.
Toms River is also home to many National Champion Pop Warner Football and Cheerleading titles. 1996 Toms River Raider Jr. PeeWee Football team won a National Championship. Cheerleaders from the Toms River Little Indians, Toms River Raiders, and the Toms River Angels (formerly the Saint Joe's Angels) have won many National Titles. The first National Championship title was won in 1993 by the Toms River Little Indian Midget Cheer squad. In 2001, 2002, and 2003 the Toms River Angels brought home national titles resulting in the nations second ever three peat (meaning they brought home three national titles on the same level). In 2005, The Toms River Little Indians brought home two more national titles, and the Toms River Raiders won one. In 2006, The Toms River Angels Midget Large Advanced Cheer Squad and the Toms River Little Indians Midget Small Intermediate Cheer Squad won two more National Titles. In 2007 The Toms River Angels brought home one and the Indians brought back two more to add to their history.
In the mid-1990s, state and federal health and environmental agencies identified an increased incidence of childhood cancers in Toms River from the 1970–1995 period. Multiple investigations by state and federal environmental and health agencies indicated that the likely source of the increased cancer risk was contamination from Toms River Chemical Plant (then operated by Ciba-Geigy), which had been in operation since 1952. The area was designated a United States Environmental Protection Agency Superfund site in 1983 after an underground plume of toxic chemicals was identified. The following year, a discharge pipe was shut down after a sinkhole at the corner of Bay Avenue and Vaughn Avenue revealed that it had been leaking. The plant ceased operation in 1996. A follow up study from the 1996–2000 period indicated that while there were more cancer cases than expected, rates had significantly fallen and the difference was statistically insignificant compared to normal statewide cancer rates. Since 1996, the Toms River water system has been subject to the most stringent water testing in the state and is considered safe for consumption. Dan Fagin's Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation, the 2014 Pulitzer Prize winning book, examined the issue of industrial pollution in detail.
"Toms River" at one time referred only to the rural farming community of Toms River, a small part of the vast Township of Dover that included several other distinct settlements. With the United States Postal Service's adoption of Toms River mailing addresses for Dover Township, coupled with demographic changes in the other sections, those inside and outside began referring to all of mainland Dover Township as Toms River. In the 1990 Census, the census-designated place called "Toms River" only included the downtown village area that included fewer than 8,000 residents in 1990. Due to complaints of confusion, the CDP was broadened to include all of mainland Dover Township to better reflect the more common usage for the area.
Over the years, confusion over the name of the township had become an issue for many residents. A movement organized around the Dover Township Name Change Committee, founded by Mayor Paul Brush and supported by the Ocean County Chamber of Commerce, collected signatures to put a name change question on the ballot in November 2006. On Election Day, November 7, 2006, over 60% of residents voted to approve changing the name from the Township of Dover to the Township of Toms River. The name change campaign featured the slogan "Toms River YES", signifying a yes vote for the name change, and the name was officially changed on November 14, 2006.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the township had a total area of 52.884 square miles (136.969 km2), including 40.488 square miles (104.863 km2) of land and 12.396 square miles (32.105 km2) of water (23.44%). Toms River is 70 miles (110 km) south of Manhattan and 55 miles (89 km) east of Philadelphia.
While most of Toms River is on the mainland, Dover Beaches North and South are situated on the Barnegat Peninsula, a long, narrow barrier peninsula that separates Barnegat Bay from the Atlantic Ocean. Dover Beaches South adjoins the independent municipalities of Lavallette to the north and Seaside Heights to the north.
Toms River Township borders the Ocean County municipalities of Berkeley Township, Brick Township, Island Heights, Jackson Township, Lakewood Township, Lavallette, Manchester Township, Seaside Heights and South Toms River.
Dover Beaches North (2010 Census population of 1,239), Dover Beaches South (1,209) and Toms River CDP (88,791) are census-designated places and unincorporated communities located within Toms River Township. Other unincorporated communities, localities and place names located partially or completely within the township include Andrew Point, Andrews, Bay Shore, Cattus Island, Cedar Grove, Chadwick, Coates Point, East Dover, Gilford Park, Gilmores Island, Green Island, Long Point, Normandy Beach, Ocean Beach, Ortley Beach, Pelican Island, Pine View, Pleasant Plains, Shelter Cove, Silverton, Tilton Point, West Dover and White Oak Bottom.
Toms River includes the ZIP Codes 08753, 08754, 08755, 08756, 08757 and 08739. Ortley Beach (Dover Beaches South) shares ZIP Code 08751 with Seaside Heights. Manchester Township does not have its own Post Office, and parts of Manchester use a Toms River mailing address under ZIP Code 08757.
Toms River has a humid subtropical climate, with hot, humid summers, mild winters, and warm springs and autumns. The township was severely affected by the damage brought by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012. Many low-lying areas of the township, including Silverton and the downtown area, saw their worst flooding ever when the storm surge overwhelmed the Barnegat Bay up and down the Jersey Shore. The barrier islands, just across the bridge, suffered even worse devastation from the storm surge brought by the Hurricane.
As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 91,239 people, 34,760 households, and 24,367 families residing in the township. The population density was 2,253.5 per square mile (870.1/km2). There were 43,334 housing units at an average density of 1,070.3 per square mile (413.2/km2). The racial makeup of the township was 89.91% (82,035) White, 2.70% (2,465) Black or African American, 0.17% (156) Native American, 3.58% (3,266) Asian, 0.02% (17) Pacific Islander, 1.96% (1,785) from other races, and 1.66% (1,515) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 7.93% (7,231) of the population.
There were 34,760 households out of which 28.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 54.4% were married couples living together, 11.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.9% were non-families. 25.1% of all households were made up of individuals, and 12.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.58 and the average family size was 3.10.
In the township, the population was spread out with 21.3% under the age of 18, 7.9% from 18 to 24, 23.8% from 25 to 44, 29.7% from 45 to 64, and 17.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 43.0 years. For every 100 females there were 92.3 males. For every 100 females ages 18 and older there were 89.6 males.
The Census Bureau's 2006–2010 American Community Survey showed that (in 2010 inflation-adjusted dollars) median household income was $71,934 (with a margin of error of +/- $2,094) and the median family income was $83,924 (+/- $2,842). Males had a median income of $59,860 (+/- $2,733) versus $42,192 (+/- $2,081) for females. The per capita income for the township was $33,423 (+/- $926). About 4.5% of families and 5.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 7.4% of those under age 18 and 4.6% of those age 65 or over.
As of the 2000 United States Census there were 89,706 people, 33,510 households, and 24,428 families residing in the township. The population density was 2,189.5 people per square mile (845.4/km²). There were 41,116 housing units at an average density of 1,003.5 per square mile (387.5/km²). The racial makeup of the township was 93.57% White, 1.75% African American, 0.13% Native American, 2.46% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.95% from other races, and 1.12% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 4.54% of the population.
There were 33,510 households out of which 31.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 59.1% were married couples living together, 10.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 27.1% were non-families. 22.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.62 and the average family size was 3.09.
In the township the population was spread out with 23.3% under the age of 18, 7.2% from 18 to 24, 27.2% from 25 to 44, 25.1% from 45 to 64, and 17.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females, there were 92.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 89.1 males.
The median income for a household in the township was $54,776, and the median income for a family was $62,561. Males had a median income of $47,390 versus $30,834 for females. The per capita income for the township was $25,010. About 4.0% of families and 5.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 6.7% of those under age 18 and 6.1% of those age 65 or over.
Toms River has many shopping malls including Ocean County Mall (the only enclosed mall in Ocean County) and Seacourt Pavilion, located across Bay Avenue from the Ocean County Mall.
The Pine Belt Arena, a 3,500-seat public arena connected to Toms River High School North, is used for major concert events and small local events throughout the year to raise money for the school district. Starting in January 2018, the name was officially changed to the "RWJBarnabas Health Arena" after the district signed a five-year deal with RWJBarnabas Health under which the district will be paid a total of $637,500 for the naming rights.
Toms River Fest has been held during the summer in Toms River, bringing many people from in and out of the area, with 25,000 attendees at the 2008 event.
Joshua Huddy Park is located in Downtown Toms River and is host to a replica constructed in 1931 of the Revolutionary War fort that was once standing near the site. The town hosted a miniature battle during the Revolution in which Captain Joshua Huddy was captured and hung. The trail of Huddy can be followed throughout the town.
The Asbury Park Press provides daily news coverage of Toms River Township, as does WOBM-FM radio. The government of the town provides columns and commentary to The Toms River Times, which is one of seven weekly papers from Micromedia Publications.
The John Bennett Indoor Athletic Complex is the only indoor athletic complex bubble in Ocean County and one of the largest in New Jersey. It was severely damaged as a result of Hurricane Sandy, reopening in January 2013 after repairs were completed.
Since 2002, Toms River Township has operated within the Faulkner Act (formally known as the Optional Municipal Charter Law) under the Mayor-Council form of New Jersey municipal government. The council consists of seven members, four of whom represent one of four wards of the township and three who are chosen at-large. The mayor and the seven council members are chosen on a partisan basis as part of the November general election to serve four-year terms of office on a staggered basis, with the mayor and three at-large seats elected together and the four ward seats chosen simultaneously two years later.
As of 2018, the Mayor of Toms River is Republican Thomas P. Kelaher, whose term of office expires December 31, 2019. Township Council members are Council President Brian S. Kubiel (R, 2019; at large), Council Vice President George E. Wittmann Jr. (R, 2019; at large), Maurice "Mo" B. Hill Jr. (R, 2019; at large), Laurie Huryk (D, 2021; Ward 3), Maria L. Maruca (R, 2021; Ward 1), Daniel Rodrick (D, 2021; Ward 2) and Terrance Turnbach (D, 2021; Ward 4).
In February 2016, Kevin Geoghegan was appointed to fill the vacant Ward 2 seat expiring in 2017 of Brian Kubiel, who won election to an at-large seat in the November 2015 general election; Geoghegan served on an interim basis until the November 2016 general election, when voters chose Geoghegan to serve the balance of the term of office.
In December 2017, the Township Council appointed Don Guardian, the former Mayor of Atlantic City to replace Paul J. Shives; Guardian will be paid an annual salary of $175,000, while Shives had been paid $223,000.
Toms River Township is located in the 3rd Congressional District and is part of New Jersey's 10th state legislative district.
New Jersey's 3rd Congressional District is represented by Tom MacArthur (R, Toms River). New Jersey is represented in the United States Senate by Democrats Cory Booker (Newark, term ends 2021) and Bob Menendez (Paramus, 2019).
For the 2018–2019 session (Senate, General Assembly), the 10th Legislative District of the New Jersey Legislature is represented in the State Senate by James W. Holzapfel (R, Toms River Township) and in the General Assembly by Gregory P. McGuckin (R, Toms River Township) and David W. Wolfe (R, Brick Township). The Governor of New Jersey is Phil Murphy (D, Middletown Township). The Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey is Sheila Oliver (D, East Orange).
Ocean County is governed by a Board of Chosen Freeholders consisting of five members, elected on an at-large basis in partisan elections and serving staggered three-year terms of office, with either one or two seats coming up for election each year as part of the November general election. At an annual reorganization held in the beginning of January, the board chooses a Director and a Deputy Director from among its members. As of 2015, Ocean County's Freeholders (with party affiliation, term-end year, residence and department directorship listed in parentheses) are Freeholder Director John C. Bartlett, Jr. (R, term ends December 31, 2015, Pine Beach; Finance, Parks and Recreation), Freeholder Deputy Director Gerry P. Little (R, 2015, Surf City; Human Services), John P. Kelly (R, 2016, Eagleswood Township; Law and Public Safety), James F. Lacey (R, 2016, Brick Township; Transportation) and Joseph H. Vicari (R, 2017, Toms River; Senior Services and County Operations). Constitutional officers elected on a countywide basis are County Clerk Scott M. Colabella (R, 2015, Barnegat Light), Sheriff Michael Mastronardy (R, 2016; Toms River) and Surrogate Jeffrey Moran (R, 2018, Beachwood).
As of March 23, 2011, there were a total of 59,987 registered voters in Toms River Township, of which 11,617 (19.4%) were registered as Democrats, 15,749 (26.3%) were registered as Republicans and 32,592 (54.3%) were registered as Unaffiliated. There were 29 voters registered to other parties. Among the township's 2010 Census population, 65.7% (vs. 63.2% in Ocean County) were registered to vote, including 83.6% of those ages 18 and over (vs. 82.6% countywide).
In the 2012 presidential election, Republican Mitt Romney received 57.0% of the vote (22,773 cast), ahead of Democrat Barack Obama with 42.0% (16,776 votes), and other candidates with 1.0% (408 votes), among the 40,235 ballots cast by the township's 62,614 registered voters (278 ballots were spoiled), for a turnout of 64.3%. In the 2008 presidential election, Republican John McCain received 57.2% of the vote (25,881 cast), ahead of Democrat Barack Obama with 40.8% (18,439 votes) and other candidates with 1.3% (600 votes), among the 45,215 ballots cast by the township's 62,909 registered voters, for a turnout of 71.9%. In the 2004 presidential election, Republican George W. Bush received 60.7% of the vote (26,203 ballots cast), outpolling Democrat John Kerry with 38.1% (16,467 votes) and other candidates with 0.6% (360 votes), among the 43,170 ballots cast by the township's 59,544 registered voters, for a turnout percentage of 72.5.
In the 2013 gubernatorial election, Republican Chris Christie received 74.5% of the vote (19,317 cast), ahead of Democrat Barbara Buono with 24.2% (6,269 votes), and other candidates with 1.3% (330 votes), among the 26,470 ballots cast by the township's 61,593 registered voters (554 ballots were spoiled), for a turnout of 43.0%. In the 2009 gubernatorial election, Republican Chris Christie received 66.8% of the votes (19,906 ballots cast), ahead of Democrat Jon Corzine with 26.7% (7,948 votes), Independent Chris Daggett with 4.6% (1,372 votes) and other candidates with 1.0% (283 votes), among the 29,782 ballots cast by the township's 61,578 registered voters, yielding a 48.4% turnout.
Students in pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade attend the Toms River Regional Schools, a regional public school system (centered primarily in Toms River Township) that is the largest suburban school district in New Jersey. In addition to students from Toms River, the district also serves the adjoining boroughs of Beachwood, Pine Beach and South Toms River. It is the largest suburban school district in the state, and the fourth largest school district in New Jersey (after Newark, Jersey City and Paterson). It is also the largest school district in the state that is not an Abbott District. As of the 2014–15 school year, the district and its 18 schools had an enrollment of 16,125 students and 1,177.2 classroom teachers (on an FTE basis), for a student–teacher ratio of 13.7:1.
Schools in the district (with 2014–15 enrollment data from the National Center for Education Statistics) are Beachwood Elementary School (568 students; in grades K-5), Cedar Grove Elementary School (874; K-5), Joseph A. Citta Elementary School (636; K-5), East Dover Elementary School (685; K-5), Hooper Avenue Elementary School (726; K-5), North Dover Elementary School (594; K-5), Pine Beach Elementary School (436; K-5), Silver Bay Elementary School (610; K-5), South Toms River Elementary School (350; K-5), Walnut Street Elementary School (758; K-5), Washington Street Elementary School (379; K-5), West Dover Elementary School (393; K-5), Toms River Intermediate East (1,350; 6–8), Toms River Intermediate North (1,276; 6–8), Toms River Intermediate South (1,078; 6–8), Toms River High School East (1,234; 9–12), Toms River High School North (2,364; 9–12) and Toms River High School South (1,391; 9–12).
Donovan Catholic High School, Ocean County's only Catholic high school, operates under the auspices of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Trenton. The diocese also operates St. Joseph's Grade School for students in Kindergarten through 8th grade.
Ocean County College, a two-year college that offers four-year options in cooperation with other New Jersey colleges and universities, is located on Hooper Avenue in Toms River. In May 2014, The Jay and Linda Grunin Foundation announced a $5.7 million donation to establish The Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts, the largest single donation received in OCC's 50-year history.
Ambassador Christian Academy is a non-denominational Christian elementary school founded in 1979 and located in downtown Toms River that teaches students from grades Pre-K to 8th Grade.It's associated with both the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools and the Association of Christian Schools International.
As of May 2010, the township had a total of 453.89 miles (730.47 km) of roadways, of which 351.13 miles (565.09 km) were maintained by the municipality, 72.45 miles (116.60 km) by Ocean County and 24.04 miles (38.69 km) by the New Jersey Department of Transportation and 6.27 miles (10.09 km) by the New Jersey Turnpike Authority.
Toms River is crisscrossed by several major roadways, including the Garden State Parkway and U.S. Route 9, as well as Route 35, Route 37, Route 70, Route 166, County Route 527, County Route 530, County Route 549, County Route 571.
Two of the most congested roads are Hooper Avenue and Route 37. Route 37 sees extra traffic from travelers to the Jersey shore during the summertime, due to it being a main artery to the shore from the Garden State Parkway at interchange 82. The township is also home to one of the state's only at-grade cloverleafs, at the intersection of Hooper Avenue and County Route 571 (Bay Avenue).
The New Jersey Turnpike Authority proposed in 1971 to build the Driscoll Expressway which was to start from exit 80 of the parkway and end 3 miles (4.8 km) north of exit 8A of the New Jersey Turnpike in South Brunswick Township. This project was killed in 1980.
The major bus station in Toms River is located downtown, off exit 81 of the Garden State Parkway. The township is served by NJ Transit bus routes 67 (to Newark and Journal Square), 137 (to the Port Authority Bus Terminal (PABT) in Midtown Manhattan), 319 (PABT in New York City and the Atlantic City Bus Terminal), and 559 (to the Atlantic City Bus Terminal).
Ocean Ride local service is provided on the OC1 Whiting, OC1A Whiting Express, OC2 Manchester, OC3 Brick – Lakewood – Toms River, OC3A Brick – Point Pleasant and the OC10 Toms River Connection routes.
There are a number of taxi services around and within Toms River. Fares vary depending on the service.
The Central Railroad of New Jersey and Pennsylvania Railroad ended service to the township in the late 1940s. The nearest rail station is the terminus of the North Jersey Coast Line in Bay Head. Service is currently being evaluated to nearby Lakehurst on the proposed Monmouth-Ocean-Middlesex Line.
The Robert J. Miller Air Park, a public-use airport, is located in Berkeley Township, 5 miles (8.0 km) southwest of the central business district.
People who were born in, residents of, or otherwise closely associated with Toms River include:
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