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Home | About Us | Branches | Lacey Branch | Community Profile
Lacey Community Profile lacey branch


The first settlers to Lacey were the Lenape Indians, who foraged along the bay for fish and shellfish.  No white settlers arrived until the early eighteenth century.  In the 1760’s, the first house of worship, constructed by Thomas Potter, was established at Good Luck, and later became the birthplace of the Universalist Church of America.  In 1809, John Lacey, a Revolutionary War general, built Ferrago Forge---for his contribution to the growth and importance of the area, the township was named for him when it was incorporated in 1871.

The beginning of the 19th century saw the decline of the lumber and bog ore industries, as resources were depleted.  Fishing, oystering, and the pleasure resort trade became the major industries.  Although less than 500 people lived in Lacey, the town had a number of large hotels: the Lafayette House, the Carman House (which later became Eno’s Riverside Hotel), the Blodgett House, and Parker House (which became the Greyhound Inn).  All these hostelries are gone, except for the Casino of Eno’s Hotel, which today is the Captain’s Inn.  These hotels catered to  tourists who came for boating, fishing, and hunting.  Some local residents found jobs in these tourist-related occupations, but a number of employees were recruited elsewhere.  Other areas of employment for residents centered around cutting ice on the Mill Pond, cutting salt hay in the meadows, farming, a bottling works, and boat building.

The township is still comprised of three specific areas: Forked River, Lanoka Harbor, and Bamber; but they no longer function as separate entities.  Until the 1930’s, each community had its own post office, school, school board, and railroad station isolated from each other by poor roads and distance.  Bamber, located to the west of the Parkway, was served by the Tuckerton Railroad, while Forked River and Lanoka Harbor were serviced by the Central Railroad of New Jersey.

A group of Newark businessmen began the Barnegat Pines development, which subsequently brought new residents from central and northern New Jersey, and also Pennsylvania.


Lacey Township , incorporated in 1871, is located in central Ocean County, along Barnegat Bay.  It is bordered by 5 municipalities: Barnegat, on the southwestern boundary; Ocean Township (Waretown) on the southeastern boundary; Berkeley Township on the northern boundary; Manchester Township on the northwest boundary; and Woodland Township (Burlington County) on the western boundary.  It has a land area of 84.6 square miles.  Of the total land in Lacey Township, 42,469 acres (or 66.4 square miles---primarily west of the Garden State Parkway) fall within the New Jersey Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan of 1979, which has placed limits on the development in these areas.  The Preservation Area (30,532 acres) can be utilized for purposes which are compatible with maintaining its long-term ecological integrity (forestry, fish and wildlife management, berry agriculture, etc.).  The Protection Area (11,837 acres) is divided into 2 divisions: the Forest Area (10,874 acres), which restricts development to one (1) dwelling per 25 acres; and the Rural Development Area (963 acres), which restricts development to one (1) dwelling per 11 acres.  Added to this, 1/3 of the land east of the Garden State Parkway is designated as being freshwater and salt dominant wetlands, which prohibits development.  As these figures illustrate, the amount of buildable land in Lacey Township will soon be exhausted.

One of the land features of Lacey Township, and also a source of humor, is the Forked River Mountains, which are really a pair of prominent sand and gravel hills.  They encompass 20,000 acres in the Pinelands area west of the Garden State Parkway.  The largest one rises 184 feet above sea level---not very high, but due to the levelness of the surrounding area, they provide a scenic view of Barnegat Lighthouse, the vast pine forest, and even the hangar at the Naval Air Engineering Station at Lakehurst.  The Forked River Mountain Coalition is a group of volunteers dedicating their efforts to preserve this area, especially for the endangered plant and animal life that resides there.


Lacey Township has several designations for commercial zones: C-100 Marine Commercial Zone; C-150, C-200, and C-300 Business Zones (Route 9); and O-C Office Commercial Zone (Lacey Road).  Lacey Township’s commercial district is disbursed along Route 9 (the major retailing roadway) and Lacey Road (with strip malls housing medical, legal, and other service providers).  The largest industry in Lacey Township is Amergen Nuclear Power Plant (Oyster Creek), which is in the southern part of Forked River, bordering Waretown.  As more businesses and chain stores open in Lacey Township, the residents no longer need to travel to Toms River or Manahawkin as frequently for their shopping needs.  The Greater Lacey Chamber of Commerce has been actively working to publicize the businesses in Lacey to encourage residents to “shop locally”.


There are 3 major arteries in Lacey Township.  The Garden State Parkway is the major north-south highway, and was recently enlarged to provide entrances and exits for both northbound and southbound traffic, with the addition of a toll for northbound entrance and southbound exit.  Route 9 is also a major north-south thoroughfare, but it is a two-lane roadway, with many stores and businesses, so travel on this road is much slower than on the Parkway.  Lacey Road is the major east-west roadway, stretching from the Manchester border to the bay.  Several other roads in the township have become heavily used as they were discovered to be “short-cuts” to other areas.

The “Rail Trail” project is a much debated transportation issue in Lacey.  There has been talk of using the old Central Railroad right of way (just west of Route 9) as an alternate north-south roadway.  Another view on this issue is to keep the right of way in its natural state and use it as a hiking/bike trail for recreational use.  It may be some time before this issue is decided.

New Jersey Transit operates buses along Route 9, providing transportation to Atlantic City, Toms River, Lakewood, and (with a change of buses) New York City.  Lacey is also served by “OceanRide”, a service funded by the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders, providing transportation for the general public, with handicapped and elderly riders paying a reduced fare.

Community Organization

Lacey Township has a large “club” population.  It has been estimated that 60-70% of the population belongs to at least one club.  There are clubs for seniors (AARP, Old Guard, Bell System Pioneers, etc.); civic/fraternal clubs (Rotary, Elks Moose, Knights of Columbus, etc.); children/recreational (Little League, Pop Warner Football, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Forked River Tuna Club, etc.); veteran’s groups (American Legion, VFW, etc.); environmental (Garden Club, etc.); social/womens (Woman’s Club, Italian American Social Club, etc.); political (Republican Club, Democrats, etc.); cultural (Historical Society, Friends of the Library, etc.); emergency services (fire companies, first aid squads, etc.); and houses or worship (Catholic, Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist, etc.).  Many of these organizations do not have their own meeting place, and they use the Community Hall (at the corner of Lacey Road and Route 9) for their activities.  Many of these groups can be found in the Clubs and Organizations directory, compiled by the Ocean County Library.

Recreation and Entertainment

Lacey has an abundance of waterfronts---bay, river, creek, and lakes.  The Forked River State Marina is located on Route 9, just south of Lacey Road.  There are several township parks and playgrounds, including the newest one (Gille Park) on Manchester Avenue, which has a roller hockey rink.  Eno’s Pond County Park is located at the eastern end of Lacey Road.  There are several youth team organizations (soccer, softball, etc.).  Many organizations, including the Lacey Township Community Education Department, run cultural bus trips to theaters, restaurants, Atlantic City, and occasionally overnight trips out of state.  Ocean County College offers musical and theatrical presentations, as well as a changing schedule of shows at their planetarium.  The Ocean County Library system offers numerous lectures, seminars, programs, and author book signings at many of its locations.  There are no movie theaters or bowling alleys in town, but there are martial arts establishments, craft and  hobby stores, many restaurants, and several video stores.  Popcorn Park Zoo is located on Lacey Road, about 7 miles west of the Garden State Parkway, and is home to injured or unwanted exotic, domestic, and wild animals. 

Lacey Township has several annual activities.  They have a “Christmas Parade” on the first Sunday in December, and “Lacey Day” is celebrated in August. Local clubs, organizations, and businesses take part in these activities.  There is a Miss Lacey Teen pageant each spring, and a “Night of Lights” decorated boat parade on the Forked River on the first Saturday in August.  Many of the organizations have functions of their own (Rotary, Woman’s Club, PTA’s, etc.), which they publicize through the local papers, and fliers posted in stores and businesses.


Lacey Township is located equi-distant from Community Medical Center in Toms River and Southern Ocean County Hospital in Manahawkin.  Lacey Center Genesis Eldercare is a nursing and rehabilitation facility located just off Lacey Road, next to the Municipal Building.  Spring Oak, on Route 9 in Lanoka Harbor, is an assisted living facility.  Ocean Residential Group Center is an institution for male youths who have been in trouble with the law.  The Lacey Township School District has three elementary schools for grades k to 4, one elementary school for grades 5 and 6, a middle school for grades 7 and 8, and a high school.  There is also a private Montessori school for grades K to 3, and a special education school which also accepts students from other school districts in Ocean County.  There is also a small number of home schooled children in Lacey Township.  There are several nursery and pre-schools in Lacey Township. The Lacey Township Adult/Community Education Department offers courses twice a year, in the fall and the spring, and Ocean County College schedules courses at Lacey High School, and also at its Southern Education Center in Manahawkin.  The educational history of the township is preserved in the One Room Schoolhouse, on Route 9, which houses the Lacey Historical Society.  The township has been helping the Historical Society with the restoration and preservation of this landmark, dating back to 1860. 

There are 10,580 housing units in Lacey Township. There are no public housing or apartment units in Lacey---most residences are privately owned.  Some of these are available for rental through ads in the local papers, as well as through one of the real estate agencies in town.  The population of Lacey Township (25,346 according to the 2000 Census) is comprised of “transplants” from other areas, as well as descendants of those who lived in Forked River during the first part of the 20th century.  The population is divided very uniformly by age groupings, with no group far outnumbering any other.


Lacey Township is served by several local newspapers, which are printed and distributed for the entire county: the Asbury Park Press and the Ocean County Observer, and the Press of Atlantic City .  The Lacey Beacon is published weekly, on Thursday.  The Forked River Gazette is locally owned and operated, and is published monthly, and is distributed free at over 125 locations from Manahawkin to Beachwood, and west to Whiting.  It brings club, library, church, and school news to residents, as well as feature stories and columns on health, local history, and municipal happenings.  There are 2 local radio stations: Soft Rock 92.7 WOBM, in Bayville, and Oldies 100.1, in Manahawkin.  There is a local television channel (Channel 8), provided by Comcast Cable, and also WLTH, Channel 21, which is the Lacey High School television channel.  Local events, news broadcasts, and public service announcements are televised.  Channel 21 also televises the Lacey Township Committee meetings, which take place twice a month on Thursday evenings.

Compiled by Kathy Lanzim
Branch Manager, Lacey Branch

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