New Jerseyans draw line in the sand over drilling


Alifelong Monmouth County resident was joined at the beach in Long Branch recently by many other concerned individuals who came to protest the possibility that offshore drilling could one day be permitted off the coast of New Jersey.

Protest organized by Hands Across the Sand at Seven Presidents Park, Long Branch, June 26. ERIC SUCAR staff Protest organized by Hands Across the Sand at Seven Presidents Park, Long Branch, June 26. ERIC SUCAR staff Long Branch resident Shawn Torbert led the charge on that city’s Seven Presidents Oceanfront Park beaches on June 26 as part of the Hands Across the Sand movement.

The event, which was scheduled to be held on beaches around the world, encouraged people to join hands for 15 minutes to protest offshore oil drilling.

Torbert said the ongoing oil leak from under the Gulf of Mexico was a leading factor in the organization of the event.

“It is a statement of everyone getting together and drawing a line both literally and figuratively in the sand to try and prevent the type of catastrophe that we are seeing happening in the Gulf from happening again,” he said.

Torbert, who is actively involved in the Surfrider Foundation, a local nonprofit that works to protect the ocean, said growing up near the beach makes it important for him to protect it.

“I grew up here in Monmouth County and I’ve been going to the beaches since before I could walk,” he said. “Protecting the coastline has always been very important to me. Even back in the 1980s when I was in high school, I was involved in Clean Ocean Action and beach cleanups, and I’ve been involved with the Surfrider Foundation for several years here.”

Torbert said he thinks between 200 and 300 people, possibly more, participated in the June 26 event at Seven Presidents beaches.

“It was difficult to count,” he said on June 28, “because some beach-goers who were not necessarily there for the gathering decided to join the line to say no to offshore drilling and yes to clean energy.”

Torbert said the ongoing oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico, which has led to an economic and environmental crisis in bordering Gulf states, is helping to spread awareness of the issues.

“It is nothing new; I think it’s just what’s going in the Gulf has finally raised the awareness to the general public,” he said. “It is an opportunity for all of us to get together regardless of political affiliation to make a statement.

“No one industry should be able to put an entire coastal economy and marine and coastal environment at risk,” he added. “This isn’t about politics; it’s about protection of our oceans and marine life, our coastal environment and our coastal economies.”

Torbert said the Surfrider Foundation was one of many nonprofit organizations involved with Hands Across the Sand, including the Sierra Club and Clean Ocean Action.

Greater Media Newspapers staff writer Adele Young contributed to this story.