Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Beach Haven’s Essex Avenue beach closed due to severe erosion from Hermine

Photo by Gretchen Coyle
Storm surges eroded the sand up to
the dunes at the Essex Avenue beach.
While Tropical Storm Hermine fortunately didn’t hit Long Beach Island with severely devastating conditions as initially predicted by some weather forecasters, Beach Haven’s recently replenished beaches were impacted by the strong storm surges.
“All the beaches had a good bit of erosion. Maybe about a quarter to an eighth of what they put down was taken back,” said Beach Haven Police Sgt. Tom Medel.
The replenishment work for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and state Department of Environmental Protection’s post-Superstorm Sandy project was conducted in Beach Haven by Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Co. this past May and June.
The borough’s Essex Avenue beach was the most harshly affected by Hermine, with erosion all the way up to the dune fencing. On Monday the local police department closed off the beach entrance due to a 2-foot drop-off.
“We were afraid that somebody was just going to not see it in the dark or low lighting and possibly hurt themselves,” Medel said.
Although street flooding can also be an issue in town during storms, the borough experienced only very minor flooding.
“We got lucky that way,” Medel stated.
If the storm had created a major issue for the town, local emergency personnel were ready for action.
“We dodged a bullet, but we were prepared,” said Jim White, borough council president.
White, along with Bill Tromm, head of Beach Haven’s Emergency Operations Center, attended a briefing on the storm at the Ocean County Sheriff's Department Office of Emergency Management in Berkeley Township Sunday night. The meeting, led by Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno and DEP Commissioner Bob Martin, was held so state and local officials could discuss the different commodities that were available if necessary.
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Causeway’s East and West Thorofare bridges to reduce to single-lane traffic

Photo by Ryan Morrill
The new traffic pattern will remain

 in place until the springtime.
After Labor Day, traffic on the East and West Thorofare bridges of the Route 72 Manahawkin Bay Bridge will be shifted to the north side and reduced to a single lane in each direction, Kevin Israel, a state Department of Transportation spokesman, told The SandPaper.
This new traffic pattern is expected to remain until spring. During this time, construction will resume on the thorofare bridges. Bridge deck work, scour countermeasures and drainage improvements will be conducted.
The advertisement for the next contract, which involves the rehabilitation of the original bridge, is expected to be announced in the coming weeks. A bid date is projected for the end of September. Labor for this contract consists of the removal and replacement of the complete superstructure, various highway paving, excavating and cofferdam work. Construction is anticipated to start later in the fall, Israel noted.
This summer, work completed included bulkhead repairs at the bridge abutments and the mending of the pier caps at the West Thorofare Bridge. New sidewalks were also created. Parking lot and pedestrian access ramps are presently under construction.
The shuttle service that was reinstated at the end of June for pedestrians and bicyclists to safely cross the bridge will continue to run until the sidewalk on the original bridge is reopened at some point in late 2019 or early 2020, said Israel. The shuttle schedule is not expected to change.
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Mordecai Island projects continue to help curb erosion, keep land thriving

Mordecai Island, a mile-long marsh situated along the Barnegat Bay shoreline at the south end of Long Beach Island near Beach Haven, has undergone more transformations during the past year than it has in decades. The alterations, led by the Mordecai Land Trust, have been conducted to help curtail the erosion of the island, which has dwindled over the years from 67 to less than 45 acres. The nonprofit group is dedicated to maintaining the land as a natural home for breeding and migratory types of native birds and fish as well as for shielding nearby Beach Haven from flooding.
Photo by Ryan Morrill
The mile-long marsh is situated in the
Barnegat Bay, just west of Beach Haven.
“People don’t realize that those little marsh islands out there are really important,” said Linda Colgan, president of the trust.
For example, she said, the homes in front of Mordecai did not have as much damage as the other LBI houses impacted by Superstorm Sandy.
“It acted like a giant sponge and sort of sucked up the wave accretion that was hitting it. So it just softened the effect of that storm,” she explained.
Last fall, post-Sandy supplemental funds enabled the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to contract Barnegat Bay Dredging Co. of Harvey Cedars for the relocation of nearly 30,000 cubic yards of bottom material, composed of 80 percent sand, from the New Jersey Intracoastal Waterway to a cut between the central point of the island and its northern tip. Colgan first stood on the new land in December.
“You feel like you’re in a whole different world out there; it was just wild,” she said. “It’s this beautiful, little beach, and all these birds were dropping their crab shells and walking along. I couldn’t believe it was open water just a month before that. It’s amazing. The island isn’t even that big, and it makes such an impact.”
Although a turbidity curtain was established on the eastern edge to secure the placed fill and a gently sloping beach was added to help absorb wave energy, filling in the cut wouldn’t be enough to keep it from eroding.
“You need something that’s pretty strong because it’s a harsh environment out there,” Colgan explained. “You can’t have something that’s going to just float along the surface.”
To add structure and strength to the region, salt marsh grasses found in the vicinity needed to be established. In late May, saltmarsh cordgrass was planted in the area with the lowest elevation, which normally gets covered during high tides, and salt meadow hay and saltgrass were planted in the area with the next lowest elevation. Fencing was also added to deter geese, which can destroy a newly planted spot in just hours.
The location with the greatest elevation and the least exposure to salt water was expected to be planted with coastal shrubs, but it was left untouched when officials found it to be a key nesting area for many shore birds.
“The plantings looks great,” said Colgan. “They were looking a little skinny at the beginning of summer, and now they’ve really taken hold. So it’s really turning into a nice marshland in that area.”
At the other end of the island, salt marsh grasses are starting to colonize where geotubes installed in 2010 have been gradually accumulating sand.
“We’re actually making land out there, so we’re making some new Mordecai. It’s great,” Colgan stated.
ReClam the Bay has added 25-pound bags of clam shells to various locations in the area to help support the growth of oyster bars and, in time, the rib mussels that fasten to them. Mussels, which help prevent erosion, grow naturally in the island’s intertidal zone, Colgan noted. The objective of the project is to determine the viability of constructing a man-nature-made reef system to help protect against erosion as well as to make the island an enticing environment for various saltwater organisms.
“We want to build a natural reef because they’ll be there forever and they build on themselves, almost like a coral reef in the Caribbean, to protect the island,” Colgan stated. “It’s the first time we’ve done it on Mordecai Island. So if it works here, it’ll be something for other islands to try. It’ll be a whole new living shoreline approach.”
The trust is also working to restore diamondback terrapin nesting sites on the island. This summer, Kathy Lacey of the Terrapin Nesting Project transferred many nests to the area that were found to have little hatching success on LBI due to human activity and predation. Cages to protect the relocated nests were set up to keep out predators.
The trust’s projects are ongoing and are, in many ways, experimental, Colgan said. Time and regular observation will tell how triumphant the efforts really are.
We’re like a little experiment because everything that we do has not been done before,” she stated. “It’s all about keeping the ecological system intact in Barnegat Bay because we feel like everything we do on Mordecai impacts everything in the bay itself.”
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Country line dance flash mob to kick off the fall season in Beach Haven

Put away the flip-flops and dust off those old cowboy boots because it’s time for a hoedown. Though summer may be coming to an end, Long Beach Island is still kicking in the fall. To celebrate the change of season, Beach Haven will be holding a town-wide country line dance, flash mob-style.
Photo via Oak Leaf Media
Bonnie Wells shows Beach Haven's lifeguards
and badge checkers how to do the dance steps.
The event will kick off the borough’s second annual Fall Festival, hosted by the Long Beach Island Historical Association, as well as help support the community’s businesses and happenings through the creation of a promotional video and photographs. Oak Leaf Media will record footage of participants dancing downtown on Bay Avenue as well as at the ocean and bay beaches in September. The culmination of the video will be shot at the festival on Oct. 22, where performers will gather for one large flash mob at Veterans Memorial Park, between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Area business owners, residents and visitors are encouraged to join the flash mob donning Beach Haven/LBI attire and autumn-inspired line dancing fashions. Students from Beach Haven School and the Southern Regional School District are expected to join the fun.
“We want everyone to participate!” said Bonnie Wells, who’s organizing the event. “Having a flash mob dance through our town will allow us to promote all of the fun-filled activities Beach Haven has to offer.”
Though the very idea of a flash mob is to appear spontaneous, it takes time to coordinate and choreograph a large group of dancers. Early and late practices will be offered to help suit participants’ different schedules. Half-hour rehearsals at 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. will be held Monday through Saturday at 333 Pearl St., beginning Aug. 29. Attending the group practices is encouraged although a YouTube video will also be available for people to practice at home.
The Fall Festival will offer autumn comfort foods and drinks, including a variety of fall beers, wine and cider, as well as pumpkin painting, pumpkin bowling, pony rides, a petting zoo, town-wide scarecrow contest, pie eating/baking contest, seasonal merchandise, live country music and more.
Last year’s inaugural event attracted more than 3,000 people to the area.
“It brought a wonderful sense of community to Beach Haven, with scents and sounds that embraced this wonderful time of the year,” Wells said. “There was something for everyone as Beach Haven came together to celebrate fall, family and friendship.
“As a town, Beach Haven has taken great strides since (Superstorm) Sandy. But we would love to see more activity and families join us in the most beautiful season Beach Haven has to offer – the fall. When people come back to the Island in the off-season, the businesses prosper, the Island comes alive, and people enjoy this nautical paradise,” she added.
The promotional funding is being provided by the Southern Ocean County Chamber of Commerce, Beach Haven borough and Coastal Living Real Estate Group.
For more information about the event, visit beachhavenevents.org or call Wells at 609-492-4444 or Barb Cona at 609-492-1715.
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Route 72 travel delays expected due to emergency work in Ship Bottom

Photo by Gail Travers
Construction workers perform emergency

repairs t
o a drainage pipe in Ship Bottom.
Motorists traveling to Long Beach Island should anticipate delays due to emergency repairs to a collapsed pipe on Route 72 eastbound in Ship Bottom. The work, performed by state Department of Transportation contractor Mount Construction, involves opening the road and replacing a drainage pipe.
Travel lanes have been shifted to the right until Saturday morning, Aug. 20. The lanes will then be moved to the left for the conclusion of the repairs. Two lanes will be maintained at all times, according to DOT officials, who expect the work to be finished by Sunday.
Advance notification of all traffic pattern changes are being provided to motorists via variable message signs throughout the project area. For real-time travel updates, visit 511nj.org.
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Mini golf tournament in Surf City draws 99 participants

Photo via Surf City Taxpayers Association
Mark Travers graciously accepts his second
place winnings in the 16 and over age group.
Despite a delay due to rain, nearly 100 miniature golf enthusiasts came out to Island Golf in Surf City to participate in the borough taxpayers association’s second tournament of the summer on Aug. 10. The top of the leader board was very close in all three of the age brackets, said Pete Williams, SCTA president, who noted the prize money for the game was generously donated by Surf City 5 and 10.
First place in the 8 and under age group went to Rylee Guerriero with a score of 44. She is the first girl this year to win her age bracket, Williams pointed out. James Fitzmaurice took second place with a score of 46, and Nathan Eagleson came in third with a total of 50.
Aidan Walker was the first-place winner in the 9 to 15 age group, with a score of 35. Ryan Suarez, who came in second, and Bri Patten, awarded third place, both scored 37 points. Suarez won their playoff with a hole-in-one on the third hole.
Chris Scholl took first place with a score of 33 in the 16 and over age group, followed by Mark Travers, who was awarded second place for his score of 35. Third place went to Al Voytek, who finished the round with 37 strokes.
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Barry’s Do Me a Flavor ‘is a part of people’s lives’

Anyone who’s never been to Barry’s Do Me a Flavor might think it’s just an ice cream parlor. But the Beach Haven establishment, now in its 30th season, has expanded through the years to include a wide variety of flavorful food choices to suit everybody in the family, from a reasonably priced kids menu offering items such as grilled cheese ($4.99) and chicken fingers ($5.99) to salads, wraps, sandwiches, burgers, pizza, pasta and more.
Photo by Jack Reynolds
Customers line up to place their orders.
The local restaurant, which thrives on repeat customers who can’t wait to come back every summer, is known for its Philly-style beef and chicken cheesesteaks. This summer, however, the fish tacos with beer-battered cod, grilled mahi-mahi or Baja shrimp have taken over as the most popular choice. The tacos were added to the menu seasons ago at the request of co-owner Nicole Baxter, proprietor Barry Baxter’s wife, who joined the business more than 10 years ago.
Though over the years Barry’s became known as an Island staple and a long-standing tradition for customers who are excited to catch a glimpse of Baxter in the restaurant or through a window in the kitchen, his interest in the business began to wane after 20 seasons, he said. He credits his wife’s keen awareness of current food trends and enthusiasm for trying new things for keeping him in business this long.
“When Nicole came along full time, she reinvigorated and re-inspired my interest in the restaurant,” Baxter said. “I probably would have been long gone by now if she hadn’t.”
Baxter was fortunate to have family who helped him invest in the restaurant as a way for him to “get started” in life. His parents, Barry and Pat, had recently retired from Snuggery Dock, a former local marina they had owned for many years where Baxter worked as a kid, when they bought the business as equal partners in 1987.
Photo by Jack Reynolds
A server brings out an order of the
restaurant's popular cheesesteaks.
Baxter remembers coming to the building as a kid with his grandmother, when it operated as a yarn shop. It was originally built as a garage with an apartment above in 1929 and later became a public service garage followed by a dry cleaner’s and then an eatery.
When the family bought the restaurant in the ’80s, Do Me a Flavor, which it had already been named a few years before, was mainly an ice cream shop with a limited menu of food. Baxter set out to revamp the establishment by adding “Barry’s” to the name and incorporating some of his mother’s homemade recipes, some of which are still included on the menu. The menu is now about 20 percent ice cream and 80 percent food.
Wait service doesn’t exist at Barry’s, but staff serves up fresh, made-to-order food fast. Because of its counter ordering and self-seating services, wait times are usually minimal despite the often-packed inside and outside eating areas.
Though breakfast isn’t on the menu, boat orders, which normally include such foods as pork roll and sausage sandwiches, are popular among people going out on water trips.
Another draw of the restaurant is its many employees who have worked there for years. Customers get excited to see the familiar faces, and the Baxters are happy to have devoted workers, the owners said.
“We work side by side with these kids all day, every day,” said Nicole Baxter. “We couldn’t do it without them. They’re like family.”
The Baxters’ dedication to the restaurant means they’re there 24/7 throughout the season and often during the winter months. When the building took in 37 inches of water during Superstorm Sandy, they immediately set to work refurbishing the entire place despite not having flood insurance.
“A lot of people don’t make it in this business, and to still be growing after 30 years is amazing,” said Baxter. “This is a part of people’s lives.”
The couple lives above the restaurant with their 4½-year-old son, James, whom they’d like to eventually pass the business on to, if he’s interested.
“I hope that he chooses to be a doctor or a lawyer or a financier or whatever the case may be,” Barry Baxter said. “I hope he doesn’t choose this business, because it is hard. But if he should, hopefully that’ll be an option.”
For now, James, who affectionately says he “owns the place,” seems to be happy answering the phone and helping to pass out menus and drop off customers’ orders.
While many diners have already made up their minds about what they’re having before stepping into the restaurant, new food additions continue to be introduced through daily specials. The items tend to follow food market trends, to cater to people’s current interests. Anything with avocado is especially popular right now. Chloe’s soft serve, made with fruit, water and a touch of cane sugar, was added this year for people who’d like to enjoy a frozen dessert that’s dairy-, fat- and gluten-free. Tofutti dairy-free “ice cream” is also available.
The restaurant offers take-out service and is open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and even later for ice cream.
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Surf City against funding consolidation of Long Beach Island schools

Photo by Ryan Morrill
If the project goes through as currently planned, the
E.J. School in Surf City would need to be revamped.
During Surf City Borough Council’s regular monthly meeting Wednesday, Aug. 10, members declined to adopt a resolution, suggested by the Long Beach Island Board of Education, in support of a referendum to fund the expansion and renovation of the Ethel A. Jacobsen School in Surf City for consolidation with the LBI Grade School in Ship Bottom. Before voting, Mayor Francis Hodgson said he would not personally approve the resolution, though he noted he would do so if council members directed him to.
The expansion and renovation of the E.J. School would be required in order to house the district’s entire student body. The district includes all of the Island’s municipalities except Beach Haven, which has its own school. The intended construction would cost nearly $16 million, according to the board’s latest plans.
Board members recently voted to permit DiCara/Rubino Architects of Wayne to put forward plans for the elementary school addition to the state Department of Education with reference to a possible March 2017 referendum backing the project. At the board’s latest meeting, architect Joseph DiCara said that, if the referendum passes, it would translate to a $51 per year increase in taxes for the average home assessed at $600,000. But Michael Gross, Surf City’s chief financial officer, told council the tax increase would be closer to about $72 for the average assessed $600,000 home.
“That isn’t chump change,” Councilman James Russell stated at the Surf City meeting.
Those numbers, however, do not include proceeds from a sale of the grade school or any debt service assistance, which, DiCara has said, would both shrink the tax impact, as would, the board imagines, the consolidation.
Hodgson has suggested making some repairs to each of the schools to keep them open and then revisiting the plan in a few years. The mayor and fellow council members believe the schools can house all of the students. Though Hodgson said he was told earlier in the summer by the board that enrollment had decreased from last year, board President Jen Bott told The SandPaper that she won’t know until the first week of school how enrollment will compare to last year.
“Summer enrollment differs as parents register over the summer up to the week before school starts and sometimes before the first day of school,” she said. “As of June 2016 our enrollment was 234.”
She noted that enrollment was 236 as of May 31 and 234 as of June 21, the last day of school. Last year’s June enrollment was 229 students.
“As you can (see), the number fluctuates,” Bott stated.
Bott also noted that all of the district’s 43 projected School Choice spots are filled and there’s currently a waiting list. Surf City Council members believe bringing in students from outside districts is too costly.
Beach Tidings: In other Surf City news, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) recently visited the area to check out the borough’s beaches following replenishment in the northern section of town. Councilwoman Jackie Siciliano said she was thankful he “made time out of his schedule” to meet with the town.
The replenishment project will wrap up in the borough over the next few weeks, with the installation of dune crossovers and fencing, said Councilman Peter Hartney.
As of Aug. 10, beach revenue topped $538,519, which is $11,444 ahead of last year at this time. As of last week, the borough had sold 105 more badges than last year, which Hartney said is attributable to an additional 460 preseason badges ($25) and 88 seasonal beach badges ($35). The sale of weekly badges, which increased $1 in price this year, had decreased by 240 badges.
The beach patrol plans to purchase four new rescue boards with help from a $5,000 donation from the family of Edgar Ryan, 13, of Pennsylvania, who was rescued by lifeguards last summer when a sand collapse rendered him unconscious. Russell noted some of the SCBP’s current boards are 20 years old.
Beach buggy permits go on sale Sept. 5, though beach buggies will be allowed on the beach only after Sept. 17.
Help Wanted: Siciliano noted the state Department of Environmental Protection is anticipated to set up an in-town meeting with local officials regarding the borough’s request to have the bay dredged in order to help with flooding.
Local homeowner David Mello expressed concern about the conversion of some commercial sites into residential properties. He suggested some “out of the box thinking” would be good for the business community.
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Surf City's annual Sand Sculpture Contest ‘was a complete success’

Photo by Jack Reynolds
The intricate 'Game of Thrones' Winterfell
castle takes a village of people to construct.
Approximately 120 people, ages 4 to 60, turned out to build a masterpiece on the beach last week during the Surf City Taxpayer Association’s annual Sand Sculpture Contest, held at 14th Street on Wednesday, Aug. 3. The event, sponsored by Ron Jon Surf Shop, has been held in the borough for over 25 years. This year, people came from as far as Canada to compete.
“It was a complete success,” said Jean Daniels, who has chaired the event the past eight years. “Weather was perfect, with a large amount of participants. People were having so much fun. The anticipation and smiles on the faces of the winners made it all worth it.”
The sculptures spanned from the 13th through 15th street beaches. Participants had to build their sculptures using only natural products found on the beach. One of the most interesting pieces was the human octopus, featuring a young girl buried up to her waist with octopus tentacles constructed out of sand. Other attention-grabbing sculptures ranged from a small-scale version of the Barnegat Lighthouse, a mermaid decked out in colorful shells and Olympics-inspired monuments to a giant American flag, sea turtle and snowman.
First-place winners were Lydia from South Orange in the 5 and younger age group; Una Rvvd from Harrisburg, Pa., in the 6 to 10 age group; and Chris Hibberd of Surf City in the 15 and older age group. Adrianna, Sofia and Siena from Surf City received first place for the group category consisting of those 12 and younger. Teams Little Weirdos from NJ and The Winners from Sterling Heights, Mich., tied for first place in the all-ages group.
A total of 18 trophies were presented by the SCTA.
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Barnegat resident one of 53 local kids to experience actual fire service training in junior fire academy

Photo by Melanie Parks
Bryan Parks, 10, can't wait "to
put out a real fire" at the academy.
Ten-year-old Bryan Parks has always dreamed of being a firefighter because he wants to “help and save people.” Now he’s getting the chance to undergo real-world training in the fire service.
The Barnegat resident is one of 53 kids who will participate in the junior fire academy at the Ocean County Fire and EMS Training Center in Waretown next week. The week-long program, started this summer by the Waretown Volunteer Fire Co., aims to prime the recruits for a possible future in the fire service as well as to help promote a stimulating and educational childhood.
“As a junior fire academy in an area completely served by volunteer firefighters, the recruits have an increased opportunity to become certified firefighters in the future,” said Brent Cunningham, Waretown fire chief, who decided to organize the program so local children could experience as many aspects of the fire service as possible. “The academy is also completely run by volunteers whose sole interest is in creating a community service experience that also offers a great deal of excitement,” he added.
From 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., Aug. 22 through Aug. 27, the trainees will be involved in a small-scale version of the actual fire academy training that firefighters undergo. The recruits will be divided into three battalions, with each containing two engine crews, a ladder crew and a rescue crew.
“All of this adds to the realism of the training,” said Cunningham.
Though many towns, including Waretown, have a junior police academy, Cunningham said he’d never heard of a local junior fire academy, and believed it would be an “excellent idea.” He reached out to the Ocean City Fire Department, which runs a similar program in that area.
“We began the program as a way to continue our connection and growth within our community,” Cunningham said.
Parks, who “definitely” wants to be a volunteer firefighter when he’s of age, said he’s “looking forward to training like a real firefighter, and also to put out a real fire.”
“I am sure he will love every aspect of this program,” said Parks’ mother, Melanie. “I am looking forward to him being able to experience up close the hard work and dedication it takes to be a firefighter in our community.”
Parks and his fellow recruits will obtain instruction in fire behavior, basic first aid, search and rescue and fire suppression. Responsibility, personal accountability and the structure of the fire service will also be discussed. A presentation will be offered each day by special guest organizations, including the state police, New Jersey Forest Fire Service and Ocean County Fire Marshal’s Office, among others. At the end of the academy the trainees will attend graduation at the firehouse.
Cunningham hopes the academy will inspire other volunteer fire companies to start their own junior fire academy.
“In the volunteer fire service, it seems like too daunting of an undertaking to put something like this together, but it truly is capable of happening,” he stated. “As a teacher, I strongly feel that anything that can be given to the community, especially in the summer months, to educate and entertain the students is a huge positive that produces the sort of growth that we should all seek.”
The junior fire academy is open to all area children who are entering fourth through sixth grades. If interest continues, Cunningham hopes to hold an additional program week for older kids next year.
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Local, county officials working together to remedy drainage problems in Beach Haven

Water drainage issues in Beach Haven hopefully will be remedied soon as local officials will be meeting with county engineers to discuss ways to resolve the various problems, which have plagued the town for months. The town and county’s drainage systems are “intricately meshed together” with the main drains running down Bay Avenue and the county’s outfall pipes running into the bay, Borough Manager Richard Crane explained at the town council’s monthly meeting Monday, Aug. 8.
Photo by Ryan Morrill
Icebergs float down the main drag in Beach Haven
when Winter Storm Jonas clobbered LBI in January.
“When they don’t work, we don’t drain,” he stated.
At first, town officials hadn’t been getting much help from the county engineer’s office, so Crane reached out to Freeholder Deputy Director Gerry P. Little, who’s now helping to move the process along.
Crane noted that an outfall pipe at Ocean Street, where drainage has been “really, really bad,” had been fixed by county engineers when it collapsed during the winter, though drainage is still a problem in that region.
“It’s probably the worst area in town,” he said, adding that televising the system will hopefully help diagnose the issue.
Russel Hill, who lives at the corner of Ocean Street, told council members he’s been keeping a record of the drainage and he’d like to be involved in the discussions. The mayor said it would be “very helpful” for officials to look over his documents.
In other meeting news, Council Preisident Jim White said the lifeguards have been “inundated” with rescues due to rip currents. He shared details of a recent save of an unresponsive, 58-year-old male who was rescued from the water by lifeguards at Pearl Street with help from the local police and first aid squad.
“We’re so lucky to have them,” White said as the audience clapped in agreement.
Crane noted lifeguard rescues through Aug. 7 totaled 158, with six EMS activation on-beach incidents, 13 EMS first-responder incidents and 139 first aid calls.
Mayor Nancy Taggart Davis said many people are getting hurt riding the waves, which are breaking closer to shore due to beach replenishment. Though the issue will resolve itself over time, she said, the town may re-create a bay beach for toddlers and other small children to swim safely.
The mayor also suggested the town expand its lifeguard barracks since the housing has helped the borough secure well-trained individuals who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford the high cost of living on LBI.
Crane noted the total of sales for beach badges through Aug. 4 was $426,810. Though this may seem like a lot, the borough manager said last year’s total around this time of the season was nearly $20,000 more.
Resident Scott Cunningham said he was “sorry” to hear the town has not accrued as much of a profit on beach badges, though he thinks it’s “not too much to ask” for locals to get a free badge.
He also suggested construction on Saturdays from June 15 to Sept. 15 begin at 8 a.m. as opposed to the current 7 a.m. allowed start since many people are spending thousands of dollars a week to vacation in town.
Crane noted the rebidding for construction of the new municipal building project, which has been reworked to lower costs, has been pushed back a week, to Tuesday, Aug. 16, at 1 p.m., at the request of several of the bidders.
Council approved a number of ordinances and ordinance amendments on first reading, including the requirement of property owners to post their house number and the renewal of an agreement with Verizon to use various public streets for its communication needs, as well as to do away with a local canvass of dogs.
Michael Peeler, who regularly attends the meetings, told council he disapproved of Gov. Christie’s fairness formula, which council showed support for that night via an adopted resolution. Though the proposed solution aims to provide tax fairness as well as better public education, Peeler believes it would adversely affect poorer districts. Davis, who noted the state has the highest property taxes in the country, said the formula should equalize the payments and help lower taxes.
Peeler also said he believes the borough’s recently adopted smoking ban should include higher fines.
Local developer Bill Burris urged council to have the Town Club maintain its property. Burris helped develop the agreement, which he said requires the club to upkeep specific areas in town.
“If public works doesn’t do something and the Town Club doesn’t do something, I’m going to do something, and it’s going to involve all of us because they’re just not doing what they’re supposed to do,” he stated.
Mary Ann Hovan, who’s come before council many times regarding the overgrowth near her Dock Road home due to vacant properties that have not been maintained, thanked “whoever” finally cut the weeds around her house.
Councilman Don Kakstis noted that a fundraiser for Councilman Bob Keeler’s daughter, who was critically injured in a head-on car collision, will be held at Buckalew’s Restaurant and Tavern on Sept. 7, from 6 to 8 p.m. Donations can also be dropped off at borough hall. The mayor noted Keeler’s daughter may have to go through rehabilitation for two years.
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Federally funded Route 72 Bridges Project continues

Photo by Ryan Morrill
Crews continue work underneath the bridge. 
While there doesn’t seem to be much happening on the $3.5 million Route 72 Manahawkin Bay Bridges Project, work is continuing below the surface throughout the summer. Concrete beam repairs, painting and the cleaning of bridge bearings as well as earth grading near the bulkheads is being conducted underneath the original bridge.
The contract for the rehabilitation of that bridge is projected to be advertised by the end of the summer with construction beginning in the fall, according to Kevin Israel, a New Jersey Department of Transportation spokesman. Since the bridges project is federally funded, it is not affected by the current statewide shutdown, he noted.
Although locals have spotted pedestrians and bicyclists crossing the original bridge, Israel told The SandPaper that the bridge is closed to all public traffic, including walkers and bikers. A shuttle service is being offered to transport pedestrians and bicyclists across the bridge. The shuttle schedule can be viewed here.
Construction of a new parking lot on the north side of Bonnet Island (referred to as Cedar Bonnet Island in the project) is anticipated to resume in the coming weeks. All major earthwork in this area is complete. Landscaping will begin soon and continue through the fall.
“We want to remind the public that (Bonnet Island) is an active construction site and closed until further notice,” said Israel.
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Surf City’s beach replenishment ‘looks great’

Beach replenishment in Surf City is complete. The North Beach-northern Surf City portion of the project work, performed by Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Co., started about two weeks ago.
“It looks great,” said Councilman Peter Hartney. He reported the work was finished Monday night.
Photo via Surf City Police
Surf City's 21st through 25th street
beaches are now open to the public.
Surf City’s beaches were partially replenished during the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and state Department of Environmental Protection’s original project in 2006. The blocks between 12th and 22nd streets were also repaired after the nor’easter in 2009. After Superstorm Sandy, the whole portion was restored. The borough had been waiting for the remaining northern area to be completed after replenishment in neighboring North Beach.
Following the completion of replenishment in Surf City, local officials will now continue advocating for USACE to make repairs to the dunes that were damaged during Winter Storm Jonas in January. While Jonas repair work in the borough and other sections of Long Beach Island following the completion of the overall replenishment project has been approved by USACE, appropriations from Congress for the project are currently in the pipeline.
“So that’s a whole other process. It never ends,” Hartney stated.
The town recently had to fund repairs to the beach entrances between 20th and 13th streets, which were inaccessible due to the severe storm destruction. Hartney took a tour of the beach with the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s public works director in June in hopes of getting reimbursement for the repairs. The town is still waiting to find out if it will be able to recoup those costs through FEMA’s Public Assistance grant program offered to state and local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations that needed emergency work due to Jonas.
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Celebrating 40 years, Thundering Surf Waterpark readies to expand again

Photo by Ryan Morrill
Swimmers get drenched by a giant
bucket in the Kiddie Play Structure.
When husband and wife Chris and Julie Mesanko opened Thundering Surf Waterpark on Long Beach Island in 1977, there were no real plans to grow the Beach Haven business outside its four slides, which were all made of concrete. But 40 summers later, New Jersey’s first-ever waterpark is still in existence, and it’s continuing to expand.
“The year we started I just thought it was the coolest thing to be in the amusement business, and, honestly, it gave me an opportunity to go surfing because I could open for 100 days, make my money, pack it up, and then I could go to Hawaii and surf for the next 200 days,” said Chris Mesanko, who was inducted into the World Waterpark Association Hall of Fame this past October. “I never thought anything beyond the water slide. There wasn’t anything to think of, honestly. It grew.”
Construction will begin this fall on a new, giant racer speed slide.
“It’s head-first. It’s really cool,” Mesanko said.
An activity area with a pool and cabanas for adults to sit and cool off is also being constructed.
“If you’re an adult and your kids are on a water slide, you don’t want to just sit there. Now I’m going to give them a place to go,” said Mesanko, who has pioneered many of the industry’s standard attractions of today.
The park’s 36-hole, multilevel, adventure miniature golf course, which is 28 years old, will also be revamped. Mesanko had originally seen the design at the International Association of Amusement Parks’ annual show in Orlando, Fla. The adventure golf course at Thundering Surf was the first in New Jersey and one of the first in the world.
“The waterpark industry has grown incrementally with somebody coming up with a bright idea and then everybody in the world quickly does it because you need variety,” said Mesanko, adding that he always meets with the original architect of each of his park’s additions.
Next summer, Thundering Surf’s park passes will include three-hour or all-day options, rather than the current two- or three-hour options.
Photo by Ryan Morrill
A young boy enjoys a slippery ride down
one of the park's winding water slides.
“I want to give people more time here,” Mesanko stated, noting prices may increase slightly.
“We’ve held the same price since (Superstorm) Sandy because we wanted to do the right thing and not jack it up based on everybody’s misery, because everybody’s suffering a little bit,” he remarked.
Mesanko has been honored by the WWA for his imaginative, revolutionary technology and concentration on innovation as well as for bringing many firsts to the industry, including play structures and the Lazy Crazy River featuring interactives in and out of the river.
Fresh out of college at 22 years old, Mesanko first saw the now-defunct Water Boggan water slide in Myrtle Beach, S.C., while traveling along the East Coast as a representative of Lightning Bolt Surf Co., originally started by world-famous surfer Gerry Lopez.
“I saw it and I thought, ‘Wow, that thing is amazing,’” Mesanko remembered. “It was at the end of the summer, and it was just packed. There was a line around the block.”
Photo by Ryan Morrill
Kids wait for their turn on the Flow Rider.
The following year, Mesanko saw two water slides in Myrtle Beach as well as one in Wrightsville Beach, N.C., and another in Virginia Beach. It was then, he said, he knew this was something he needed to bring to his home state.
“I immediately say, after seeing the fourth one, ‘Oh my God, this is going to be a trend. This is what I got to do,’” Mesanko recalled. “It was a crazy, crazy, crazy success. Right from the second I opened the door it was crazy.
“Those other four slides that came before me, they’re out of business now. That makes me the oldest guy in the business, continuously, in the world,” he added. “To be around for 40 years is special. I’m proud of it because there’s not many businesses that last 40 years.”
Julie Mesanko, who decided not to pursue a career as a health and physical education teacher to instead focus on the seasonal waterpark business, said she “can’t believe it’s been that many years.”
“It’s allowed us to travel, if we could, whereas if I was a teacher, I really couldn’t do that,” she said. “I’m involved every summer pretty much 100 percent. It’s been quite an adventure watching it grow. It’s pretty exciting that it’s been that long. Time flies.”
The same year they opened Thundering Surf, the Mesankos opened Rainbow Rapids Waterpark, which also included four concrete flume slides, in Chris’s hometown of Seaside Heights. But while the Seaside Heights waterpark closed in 1990, Thundering Surf kept growing.
By that time, Thundering Surf’s concrete slides had just been torn down and rebuilt at the back of the property out of fiberglass, which became available in the late ’80s. The park’s mini golf course, along with an ice cream shop that later included other food, was built in the slides’ former place.
“It was a clean demolition of the property,” Chris Mesanko said, noting the fiberglass slides were a priority since people often hurt themselves on the concrete. At that time, there were no regulations since it was a brand-new ride, he noted, adding that, thankfully, no one ever sued the park.
“Every day maybe 10 people (got hurt on the concrete slides). It was crazy; it was so dangerous,” said Mesanko. “Nobody ever saw a water slide in New Jersey. Nobody looked at my drawings. I just built it. People would bang their eyes on the concrete, and they’d get stitches. They’d bang their teeth and break them out. (The water slides were) painted, so it would chip and go under their toenails. Everybody had scraped elbows. It was a mess.”
During the following years the park continued to expand. Two slides were added as well as a kiddie play structure, which was redone this past winter. The children’s area includes nine slides with interactive water play activities and three giant tipping buckets. The structure arrived in March from Guadalajara, Mexico, and installation took place until the season opened on June 18.
Batting cages – which were quickly taken out because Mesanko “wanted it to be a waterpark” – as well as a toddler area, Lazy Crazy River and a Flow House were also built. The $1.5 million Flow House attraction was designed a few years ago by Dan Sprague of Stafford Township, the park’s overall manager.
“In this business you have to change and keep adding. You have to grow,” said Mesanko.
The Mesankos, who have been together for 50 years, plan to continue running the park with their two kids, Brooke, 36, and Devin, 33, who are general managers there, though Chris Mesanko noted his son plans to pursue a career as a doctor. Both Brooke and Devin have worked at the park since they were 14 years old.
“They were born into it,” Mesanko stated. “They were playing at the water slide as babies. It was a natural kind of thing. We sell fun; that’s what we’re selling. It’s pretty hard not to like the fun.
“I’m 64 and I’m just as enthusiastic as the first day, and I love the business,” he added. “I have no thoughts of retiring. I’ll be here as long as I’m having fun and am able to, as is my wife. It’s not work when you enjoy what you’re doing. I could see myself doing it for at least 15 more years, God willing.”
— Kelley Anne Essinger

This article was published in The SandPaper.