Belmar would officially be part of Central Jersey under a new tourism plan that advanced in the Assembly Thursday. (Daniella Heminghaus for New Jersey Monitor)
The disputed existence of Central Jersey is one step closer to official government endorsement under a bill advanced by lawmakers Thursday that is intended to overhaul how the state attracts tourists.
The measure, A5098, would establish the boundaries of North, Central, and South Jersey and allow the state’s tourism division to create up to three subregions within those three.
Assemblyman Roy Freiman (D-Somerset), the bill’s prime sponsor, said the state’s existing tourism regions — which include the Skylands and Delaware River regions — are “not consistent with how people think of New Jersey.”
“This isn’t just about harping on Central Jersey. This is about New Jersey’s economy overall,” Freiman said.
Under the legislation, the northern region would include Sussex, Warren, Morris, Passaic, Essex, Bergen, and Hudson counties. Central Jersey would comprise Hunterdon, Somerset, Union, Middlesex, Mercer, Monmouth, and Ocean. And Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Atlantic, Salem, Cumberland, and Cape May counties would make up the southern region.
Freiman said the bill highlights the differences within the regions — how Central Jersey encompasses both the farmland in Hunterdon County and the coastline of the Atlantic Ocean in Monmouth County.
Assembly members on Thursday teased each other during the hearing about whether Central Jersey truly exists, and claimed this legislation is the first official piece of paper recognizing the region.
“People in Central Jersey are still arguing whether North Jersey and South Jersey exist,” joked Assemblyman Joe Danielsen (D-Somerset).
With the 2026 World Cup on the horizon and several cities still recovering from the economic damage caused by the pandemic, the bill would help boost economic growth, said Chris Emigholz of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association.
The New Jersey Tourism Industry Association opposes the measure but did not testify Thursday. A spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.
Related bills also advanced Thursday would appropriate $2.5 million for the state’s tourism fund, create a tourism trail sign program to mark historic sites, and require the state to develop a five-year master tourism plan.
The bills all advanced out of the Assembly’s tourism committee unanimously and now head to the full chamber for a vote (they do not have Senate companions). Freiman said he expects bipartisan support.
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