to Burlington and Ocean counties
Welcome to the Garden State! New Jersey’s Burlington and Ocean counties, both part of the Delaware Valley area, are east of the Delaware River. Burlington County stretches across the state, with its southeast corner stretching toward estuaries leading to New Jersey’s Great Bay. To the east of Burlington, Ocean County stretches to the Jersey Shore, with most of the county being flat and coastal, including parts of the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge.
Burlington County, population 449,284 in July 2016, is home to the city of Mount Holly Township, the county seat, and McGuire Air Force Base and Fort Dix. Ocean County has 592,497 residents, and its county seat is Toms River. The county is home to NAS Lakehurst.
Both counties are rich in historical and cultural attractions plus modern amenities. In addition to inviting landscapes and peaceful natural settings, there are numerous museums and parks. Outdoor activities abound, among them hiking, camping, biking, beachcombing and more.
There are also shopping, dining and nightlife opportunities to explore: Annual events and festivals celebrate everything from the area’s agriculture to Arts in the Park, and many showcase the history of New Jersey.
Burlington and Ocean counties each have long and rich histories, dating far beyond colonial America.
The indigenous Lenni Lenape were the earliest-known inhabitants of the area that would be Burlington and Ocean counties. Annually, these people migrated from as far away as the area of what would be Delaware to enjoy the shore and its plentiful food supply.
Anglo-European records of Burlington County date to 1681, when a court was established in the Province of West Jersey. The county was formed May 17, 1694, named for Bridlington, a town in England. Burlington County was the seat of government for the Province of West Jersey until its amalgamation with East Jersey in 1702, forming the Province of New Jersey. The county was much larger and was partitioned to form additional counties as the population increased. In 1714 one partition to the north became Hunterdon County, which itself was later partitioned to form three additional counties. The county seat had been in Burlington, but, as the population increased in the interior, away from the Delaware River, a more central location was needed. The seat of government was moved to Mount Holly in 1793.
The 1793 state legislature approved the relocation of the Burlington County seat from Burlington City to Mount Holly, which was approved by voters in a 1796 referendum. Several important municipal buildings were constructed, including the courthouse in 1796 and the county prison built circa 1819. The Burlington County Prison was designed by Robert Mills, a nationally known architect who designed the Washington Monument. The town has numerous 18th- and 19th-century buildings, most of which are included in the Mount Holly Historic District; it is listed in the New Jersey and National Register of Historic Places. Commercial buildings were constructed primarily along High Street. In 1849, the Burlington and Mount Holly Railroad was established, connecting communities along the Delaware River to Philadelphia, the major city of the area. The railroad supported industrialization along its route.
In addition to the indigenous people and the European settlers, people of color played important roles in developing the region. The African-American presence in New Jersey, including the area that encompassed Mount Holly, extended back at least to the late 17th century, when slavery served as a source of labor for agriculture and industry. That practice continued until 1804, when the New Jersey legislature passed “An Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery.” Although this law freed children of enslaved parents when those children reached the age of majority, it did not emancipate those currently enslaved and it permitted the practice of “apprentice for life” until 1865. Members of Burlington County’s African American and Quaker communities participated actively in the antebellum abolition movement, and Mount Holly became one of the original stops on the Underground Railroad. The town’s historic village of Timbuctoo, a community of free African Americans founded in 1820, was such a haven for escaping slaves using this network.
Burlington County’s proximity to the transportation hubs of Philadelphia and Camden, as well as its agricultural, canning, manufacturing and textile industries, contributed to its economic success as a regional force by the onset of the 19th century.
In the 20th century, the region’s economy received a boost from the Camp Dix Army base, established in 1917 as a staging and training center for World War I. During the 1930s, the camp served as a base for members of the Civilian Conservation Corps, and in 1939 the Army made it a permanent military base, Fort Dix. In 1948, Fort Dix Airport was renamed McGuire Air Force Base.
As in Philadelphia and Camden, to which Mount Holly’s economy was closely tied, the latter part of the 20th century became a period of economic decline. National trends of mills, factories and food-processing plants relocating to less unionized states or overseas meant a loss of blue-collar and middle-class jobs and residents.
During Dutch exploration in the early 1600s, Capt. Cornelius Hendrickson charted the New Jersey coast and Barnegat Bay in the areas that would eventually become Ocean County. Hendrickson sailed through Barnegat Inlet into the bay on a small Dutch ship from which he charted the Toms River, the forks of Forked River and Great Bay. By the end of the 17th century, whalers were at work off the coast. This opened the region to settlement. Soon saw and grist mills flourished along the streams and rivers leading into the bay.
These whalers were the grandfathers and fathers of the privateers during the American Revolution. Ocean County endured 23 Loyalist and British attacks on its saltworks, as well as other skirmishes during the Revolution. There were 77 naval battles off the coast.
After the Revolution, new industries grew. Forges and furnaces were built to smelt the local bog ore into pig iron. Thousands of acres of trees were cut to produce charcoal. Commercial fishing and boat building along the coastal region became primary industries in the county. By the mid-1850s, “cranberrying” and farming had expanded in the rural regions of the county.
Ocean County was officially established Feb. 15, 1850, from portions of Monmouth County, with the addition of Little Egg Harbor Township which was annexed from Burlington County March 30, 1891.
Toms River was selected as the seat of the new county government. On May 8, 1850, the first Board of Chosen Freeholders, consisting of two representatives from each of the six original townships, selected insignia to represent the public officials of the time. The sloop, schooner and steamboat are still the official seals of the Freeholders, County Clerk and Surrogate, respectively. The choice of these symbols reflects the maritime tradition of the area.
One of the first tasks was to construct a courthouse and a jail. By September 1851, the new courthouse was serving the public’s needs. The adjoining county jail, containing 10 cells, was of compatible architecture. The sheriff’s residence, built in the courtyard behind the courthouse, remains to this day. The courthouse quickly became a gathering point for social meetings, political rallies and conventions, as well as a mustering center during the Civil War. With the start of the war in 1861, members of the county supported President Lincoln’s call for volunteers to join the Union Army. Of the 478 who served, the county lost 59 to the ultimate sacrifice. It was also during this time that railroad service began in the area, transporting Union troops.
A continuous history of shipping accidents along the coast during the 19th century prompted Congress to appropriate funding for the construction of lifesaving stations. Within a few years, the first station, built in 1849, was joined by many more, every 5 miles along the shore. This early Lifesaving Service became the forerunner to the United States Coast Guard Service founded in 1915. That year also saw Ocean County as the only county in New Jersey to support a referendum to amend the state constitution extending suffrage to women.
As the United States entered World War I, the U.S. Army established Camp Kendrick. The U.S. Navy, which had acquired Camp Kendrick from the Army in 1919, commissioned it in June as Lakehurst Naval Air Station to be used as a lighter-than-air base. Lakehurst NAS was the site where the Hindenburg — a huge, luxurious, German-built dirigible — crashed in a fiery blaze in 1937.
In 1950, Ocean County celebrated its centennial, and in 1954 the Garden State Parkway opened. By the 1970s, the county’s population mushroomed to 208,470. Since 1990, Ocean County has been one of New Jersey’s fastest-growing counties, representing more than 60 racial and ancestral ethnic groups. Ocean County was also the fastest growing county in New Jersey between 2000 and 2010 in terms of increase in the number of residents and second-highest in percentage growth
State of New Jersey
Office of Emergency
The New Jersey Office of Emergency Management, under the direction of the New Jersey State Police, plans for and responds to natural and man-made disasters. The division’s bureaus include Communications, Emergency Response, Recovery and Preparedness. Visit the division’s website for guides on survival kits and evacuations as well as preparedness information for severe weather, pandemics, technological hazards, special resources concerning pets and animals, and more.
Emergency Management 609-518-7200
The Burlington County Office of Emergency Management coordinates, maintains and administers emergency management and homeland security practices through education in the areas of mitigation, preparedness, response, recovery, detection, prevention and protection. Visit the office’s website for the county’s disaster planning guide and other disaster preparedness information.
Emergency Management 732-349-2010
Ocean County’s Office of Emergency Management, a division of the county Sheriff’s Office, develops and enhances the county’s disaster preparedness and recovery plans for all hazards. Visit the department’s website for the county’s hurricane guide and other disaster preparedness information.
Weather and Climate
Burlington and Ocean counties enjoy about 200 sunny days per year. Higher humidity in the more inland areas makes summertime temperatures somewhat more uncomfortable.
Burlington County has a humid-subtropical/humid continental transition climate, with relatively cold winters and hot summers. However, the weather of the county is moderated by the nearby Atlantic Ocean. Rain is common year-round, and severe thunderstorms are common during warmer months. Most precipitation falls in summer months, and annual rainfall is about 41 inches. The county’s warmest month is July, with an average high of 87 degrees and an average low of 64 degrees. The coldest month is January, with an average high of 41 degrees and an average low of 22 degrees.
In Ocean County, the warmest month is July, with an average high of 85 degrees and an average low of 64 degrees. The coldest month is January, with an average high of 41 degrees and an average low of 22 degrees. Most precipitation falls in summer months, and average yearly rainfall is about 46 inches. Areas closer to the coast typically experience more mild winters and cooler summers due to the Atlantic Ocean’s influence.
Every second counts in a disaster so planning and preparation can be lifesavers.
The State of New Jersey Department Office of Emergency Management provides residents, communities, public safety professionals, businesses and schools with invaluable information and resources for dealing with calamities, from floods to fires to earthquakes, hazardous waste and terrorism, to name just a few. Go to the website, http://ready.nj.gov, and click on “Plan & Prepare” and then learn how to confront specific emergencies, create an emergency plan and emergency kit, save your pet, and make necessary adaptations for the elderly and those with special needs.
Another great resource for natural disaster and severe weather information is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at www.cdc.gov/disasters. Here you can find information on how to prepare for various weather emergencies.
The following are considered significant hazards in New Jersey.
Earthquakes can occur almost anywhere in New Jersey. Besides the damage from the shaking, earthquakes can trigger landslides, surface fault ruptures and liquefaction, all of which can cause injury or property damage. Contact your local city or county government for information on how to be prepared where you live. More information and ideas on how to secure the contents of your home can be found by visiting http://ready.nj.gov/plan-prepare/earthquakes.shtml.
Extreme Heat and Sun Exposure
Some exposure to sunlight is good, even healthy, but too much can be dangerous. Broad-spectrum ultraviolet radiation, listed as a known carcinogen by the National Institute of Environmental Health Science, can cause blistering sunburns as well as long-term problems like skin cancer, cataracts and immune system suppression. Overexposure also causes wrinkling and premature aging of the skin.
Cloud cover reduces UV levels, but not completely. Depending on cloud cover thickness, you can still burn on a chilly, overcast day, so be prepared with sunglasses, sunscreen, long-sleeved garments, wide-brimmed hats and a parasol.
Because of the county’s high temperatures, it is important to take precautions to avoid heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Stay indoors when temperatures are extreme. Drink cool liquids often, particularly water, even if you do not feel thirsty. Avoid alcoholic beverages as they dehydrate the body. Eat small, frequent meals and avoid foods high in protein, as they increase metabolic heat.
If you must venture outdoors, avoid going out during midday hours. Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing to reflect sunlight. Avoid strenuous activities and keep hydrated. Cover all exposed skin with a high SPF sunscreen and follow general sun exposure precautions. Never leave children or pets alone in closed vehicles.
Heat exhaustion symptoms include heavy sweating; weakness; cold, pale and clammy skin; a fast, weak pulse; nausea or vomiting; and fainting. If you experience symptoms of heat exhaustion, you should move to a cooler location. Lie down and loosen your clothing, then apply cool, wet cloths to your body. Sip water. If you have vomited and it continues, seek medical attention. You should seek out immediate medical attention if you experience symptoms of heat stroke, such as a body temperature of more than 103 degrees; hot, red, dry or moist skin; a rapid and strong pulse; or unconsciousness. For more information, visit www.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat.
Floods are the most common natural disaster in the United States. Even beyond coastal regions, flash floods, inland flooding and seasonal storms affect every region of the country, damaging homes and businesses. It is dangerous to underestimate the force and power of water.
During a flood watch or warning, gather your emergency supplies and stay tuned to local radio or TV stations for further weather information. If you are outdoors during a rainstorm, seek higher ground. Avoid walking through any floodwaters — even water 6 inches deep can sweep you off your feet. If you are driving, avoid flooded areas. The majority of deaths in floods occur when people drive through flooded areas. Roads concealed by water may not be intact. Water only a foot deep can displace a vehicle. If your vehicle stalls, leave it immediately and seek higher ground. Rapidly rising water can engulf a vehicle and sweep it away.
For more on protecting yourself from flooding in New Jersey, go to http://ready.nj.gov/plan-prepare/floods.shtml.
Hurricane season begins June 1 and ends Nov. 30. Hurricane hazards come in many forms, including high winds, heavy rain, flooding and storm surges (high tidal waves). Visit http://ready.nj.gov/plan-prepare/hurricanes.shtml for preparedness tips and help in creating a hurricane emergency plan.
While more likely at certain times of the year, thunderstorms can happen anytime. A severe thunderstorm can knock out power; bring high winds, lightning, flash floods and hail; and spin into a twister in seconds. Pay attention to storm warnings. Remember the rule: “When thunder roars, head indoors.” The National Weather Service recommends following the 30/30 rule: People should seek shelter if the “flash-to-bang” delay — length of time in seconds from the sight of the lightning flash to the arrival of its subsequent thunder — is 30 seconds or less, and remain under cover for 30 minutes after the final thunderclap.
For more information, visit the National Weather Service’s website at http://ready.nj.gov/plan-prepare/thunderstorms-lightning.shtml.
Tornadoes can develop quickly, with minimal warning, so it is important to have a plan in place before they occur. If a tornado watch is issued, weather conditions favor the formation of tornadoes, such as during a severe thunderstorm. A tornado warning is issued when a tornado funnel is sighted or indicated by weather radar. You should take shelter immediately during a tornado warning.
For more information on tornado preparedness, go to http://ready.nj.gov/plan-prepare/tornadoes.shtml.
The majority of wildfires are caused by humans. Causes include arson, recreational fires that get out of control, negligently discarded cigarettes and debris burning. Natural causes like lightning can also cause a wildfire.
If your home is in an area prone to wildfires, you can mitigate your risk. Have an evacuation plan and maintain a defensible area that is free of anything that will burn, such as wood piles, dried leaves, newspapers and other brush.
Even if your home is not in the vicinity of a wildfire, the smoke and ash produced by wildfires can create air quality issues for hundreds of miles. Pay attention to local air quality reports following a wildfire in your area.
Wildfires are unpredictable and impossible to forecast so preparation is especially important. Visit http://ready.nj.gov/plan-prepare/wildfires.shtml for information on wildfire preparedness.
Prepare for winter storms by assembling a disaster supply kit for your home and vehicle. Have your car winterized before the winter storm season arrives. Listen to weather forecasts and plan ahead.
When winter storms and blizzards hit, dangers include strong winds, blinding snow and frigid wind chills. Avoid unnecessary travel during storm watches and warnings and stay indoors.
Winter storms can also cause power outages. During a power outage, gather in a central room with an alternative heat source. Use fireplaces, wood stoves and other heaters only if they are properly vented to the outside. Never use an electric generator or a gas or charcoal grill indoors. The fumes are deadly. If you use a space heater, keep the heater away from any object that may catch fire (drapes, furniture or bedding) and never leave it unattended. Avoid letting pipes freeze and rupture by leaving faucets slightly open so they drip continuously.
For more information on winter preparedness and winterizing your home and vehicles, visit http://ready.nj.gov/plan-prepare/winter.shtml.