Photo and story by Joseph SapiaAll ideas are on the table as the county seeks the public’s views on how to deal with the deteriorating 77-year-old Ocean Bridge, spanning the Navesink River between Rumson and Middletown.Overhaul it or build a new bridge? If a new bridge is built, should it be built in the same footprint? Should it be a low, movable bridge like the current one or a fixed, high span?What do motorists, boaters, bicyclists, walkers, those with a view have to say? Should people be allowed to fish off the bridge?“The most important thing is people fill out those (Monmouth County) surveys,” said Todd Thompson, president of the Friends of the Oceanic Bridge. “We’re back to square one.”The county, which owns the 2,700-foot, steel and concrete bridge, is now in the midst of a federally funded $1.2 million concept development phase. This includes collecting the public’s comments over a 30-day period ending Nov. 25.The county hopes the federal government will fund a rehabilitation or new bridge. It began talking to local government officials about a bridge project in April. Work on a bridge rehabilitation or replacement – with a replacement estimated to cost between $100 to $130 million – would run from winter 2023-24 to winter 2026-27.Kim Robinson, 56, a Rumson resident who was at work in Fair Haven, prefers a low, movable bridge – “I think they’re part of the Shore heritage,” she said. “It just blends in with the landscape.”But Robinson questioned if rehabilitating the current one would be feasible.“I love when the bridge is open,” Robinson said. “It makes you pause to look at the scenery. The kids get out of the car.“High bridge, yeck,” Robinson said.“I don’t want a tall bridge,” said Denise Kelleher, 58, who lives in Rumson and owns the Cups and Cakes Bakery there. “The Oceanic Bridge is just special to me. There’s something, just the beauty. I just think a tall bridge would be inappropriate.”Pat Raphael of Fair Haven, who was at the Navesink River waterfront with her family, preferred a new movable, low bridge as well.“I agree, not a big, high bridge,” said Raphael’s husband, Rich. “It changes everything.”Rich Raphael has used the bridge for five years in his work commute. Generally, he does not mind if he has to stop when the bridge is open for boat traffic. Perhaps a drawbridge could be built higher than the current one, which sits 25 feet above high tide, he suggested.Pat Raphael would like to see it built parallel to the current bridge site, so there would not be a need for a months-long, 8-1/2 mile detour – the same length no matter if detouring through Red Bank or Rumson-Sea Bright.The current bridge is two lanes with no shoulders, with a sidewalk along one side.Jim Jaroschak, 44, of Rumson bicycles over the bridge and said it would “be nice to have a bike path.” Now, bicyclists are to dismount and walk their bikes across the bridge.Jaroschak, who was at the Navesink River waterfront in Rumson, prefers a low, movable bridge. “The aesthetics are important,” he said.“Boats going through, it’s not that often,” Jaroschak said. “It’s not a big traffic backlog when they do open it.”“The view is important to a lot of people,” said Steven Krog, 62, a landscape architect from Westchester County, New York, who works on properties along the river. “People like the bridge.”Krog, who was shopping in Fair Haven, figured those people would want a lower, movable bridge for aesthetics, something Frank Giblin, 54, who lives in Middletown’s Locust section near the bridge, favored.“The bridge that’s there now has aged itself,” Giblin said.But Harvey Shooman, an owner of Fair Haven Hardware, said he prefers a high, fixed-span bridge, either in the same footprint or parallel to the current bridge site. A parallel bridge would eliminate the need for months of a detour, he said.“Aesthetic-wise, it would be fine,” said Shooman, 65, who was at work.Shawn Rubin, 46, of Rumson prefers a high, fixed bridge, too.“You need to build a new one, high enough not to open it all the time,” said Rubin, who was at the Navesink River waterfront. “Make it lasting.”Sure, there is a nostalgic feeling for today’s bridge or style, “it’s a beautiful thing, because it’s from a time gone past,” Rubin said. But he prefers a high bridge, one built parallel to decrease detours.Ryan DeVesty, 35, working in his yard in the Navesink-Locust area of Middletown near the bridge, was leaning toward a tall, fixed bridge.“I guess a bridge in the same spot like the (Route 36) Highlands Bridge, where it doesn’t have to open,” DeVesty said.When the bridge was closed a few years ago for repairs, “it certainly affected our business,” Shooman said.“Even when they do work on the bridge and it’s closed for a short amount of time, it really hurts the community,” Rubin said.“I drive that bridge two or three times a week,” Krog said. “I’m on it frequently. That bridge is really important to the organization of my day. You don’t even think about it until it’s not available.”Thompson, 63, lives on one side of the bridge in Fair Haven and is an owner of Guaranteed Plants and Florist on the other side of the bridge in the Locust section of Middletown.“We’d like to see what’s exactly there now, built to contemporary safety standards,” Thompson said. “To have a high, contemporary bridge there would not be conducive to the area. We’re very quick to get rid of our past, we don’t savor our history.”Thompson wants to see the new bridge built just east of the existing bridge.Some are undecided at this point.Michele Peters of Middletown was undecided about a low or high bridge, but she had her priorities.“Safety, and, then aesthetics, and then, practicality,” said Peters, saying the practical aspects should consider motorists, boaters and bicyclists. “I do enjoy the view, I look at it several times a day. It’s a focal point.”“It’s going to be an inconvenience, no matter what,” Krog said. But, Krog added, something has to be done with the bridge.Information on the Oceanic Bridge, including survey forms, is available at monmouthcountyoceanicbridge.com.Comments on the bridge may be directed to Inkyung Englehart, project manager, Monmouth County Division of Engineering and Traffic Safety, Hall of Records Annex, 3rd Floor, 1 E. Main St., Freehold, 07728; email@example.com.