New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was in high spirits during a visit to the Belmar boardwalk Wednesday afternoon.
A jubilant Christie came to the borough's Taylor Pavilion at 6th and Ocean avenues as part of a tour of the Jersey Shore to promote environmental issues and tourism. The governor also has planned stops in Manasquan, Seaside Heights, Atlantic City and a make-up appearance after being rained out in Ocean City on Tuesday.
Arriving at by helicopter and then being shuttled to the beachfront in an SUV, Christie spoke briefly and then took questions from the press before strolling the boardwalk and greeting constituents.
"This beats being in Trenton," Christie joked from the podium.
The governor explained that with nearly 193,000 jobs and $6 billion in wages, the success of Shore businesses is vital to the state economy and protecting the Shore as a natural resource is an administration priority.
The governor highlighted his administration's efforts and accomplishments in protecting natural resources at the Jersey Shore, which were met with applause from a crowd of onlookers who gathered to hear his speech.
Christie also took on issues regarding Barnegat Bay and Oyster Creek.
"It was the Christie administration that now has Oyster Creek nuclear plant closing by 2019, which will do more to improve the health of Barnegat Bay than anything else that's being done," Christie said.
"It was our administration that signed the law for the toughest restrictions for fertilizer in the country in order to improve the quality of the water in Barnegat Bay," he added.
"We are doing more for the Barnegat Bay than any Democratic administration did in the last 10 years, or Republican administration in the last 20," Christie said. "We don't do it by talking. We do it by acting."
Christie reaffirmed his opposition to a proposed liquified natural gas terminal off the coast of New Jersey as well as off-shore drilling.
"Accidents that could happen with those kind of facilities could ruin this beautiful shore behind us and could hurt the economic viability of the state," he said, gesturing to the beach.
Addressing comments made by Democratic Assemblyman John McKeon, Christie defended his administration's response to air quality concerns in New Jersey.
"We've already seen that we are beyond the air quality goals that were set by the Corzine administration," Christie said.
In outlining the state's role in continued environmental protection, Christie pointed to $650 million in low-cost loans being made available for environmental projects to municipalities throughout the state, including $27 million for seven water quality improvement projects in Monmouth County.
On the issue of beach access, Christie defended rule changes made by the Department of Environmental Protection under commissioner Bob Martin.
"We have fantastic coastal access at 1,000 different points," Christie said, noting that the new rules will maintain all existing access and, he believes, lead to overall improved access.
"We had to come up with new rules because the courts threw out the old ones," he added.
Christie's remarks were underpinned by a sense of community and family.
"I want to make our economy better so that we can preserve the opportunity for folks to be able to continue to live here," he said.
Fresh off a visit to the Seaside Heights boardwalk with his family last week, the governor joked that "it's an interesting place still.
"We're trying to protect the environment, we're trying to create environmental growth, but it's not just for those reasons," he said. "The core reason is because we want New Jersey to continue to be a place where we can raise our families and maintain the traditions that are so important and so much a part of New Jersey and who we are."
Many local officials, including members of the Belmar Mayor and Council and the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders, came out for the governor's appearance, and the governor expressed gratitude not only for their hospitality but for the work they've done.
"Regardless of party, they deserve to be commended for the hard work that they put in," he said.
"It's great to have the governor come to Belmar, particularly to highlight tourism and its importance here in New Jersey," Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty said. "Belmar is a great destination for middle-class families, and it's great to have the governor here with us."
Christie is expected to make a similar appearance in Manasquan near the inlet at 2 p.m. Thursday and head immediately to Seaside Heights.