Thursday, July 23, 2009

It's not the usual day at the beach in Strathmere

It's not the usual day at the beach in Strathmere
Dredges and bulldozers working on sand replenishment

By MICHAEL MILLER, Staff Writer, 609-463-6712 Posted: Thursday, July 23, 2009

UPPER TOWNSHIP - When Amy Clauer's family rented a beachfront vacation home weeks ago, they envisioned 180-degree ocean views and the tranquility only Strathmere can provide.
But when the family of 12 arrived from Alloway Township in Salem County, a bustling construction site greeted them.
Great Lakes Dredge & Dock is rebuilding Strathmere's beaches this summer as part of a $6 million state project. The north end of the island is buzzing with the commotion of backhoes, pipe movers and bulldozers. The heavy equipment spreads sand pumped by an enormous dredge moored off Corsons Inlet.
Perhaps the worst part, Clauer said, were the twin portable potties, the doors of which face the family's deck. "We had no knowledge this was going on. The Realtor
didn't say anything about it," she said. Clauer said she does not mind so much. She finds the project endlessly fascinating. "They move like clockwork. They all have a job to do and do it," she said. "All the security guys have been wonderful answering questions."

Clauer is not alone in her interest. Dozens of people strolled along Neptune Avenue on Wednesday to get a closer look at the project as it creeps north to Corsons Inlet State Park, which was devastated by northeasters last winter.

The contractor will pump 200,000 cubic yards of sand on the northern tip of the island to rebuild at least some of the 80 acres of parkland that were eaten away by the tides.
The beach reconstruction gives summer visitors a rare diversion on this natural beach. This shore town has always been a place for beach purists. Here there are no amusement rides, boardwalks, carnival games or promenades to distract from the joy of reclining on the beach with only the sun, the surf and the sand.
"We go out in the ocean, jump in the waves. All the neighbors I have met are very cordial. Last year we collected clamshells and painted and decorated them," Clauer said.
Upper Township resident Dave Palmer watched the crews work from Seaview Avenue. The activity on the island looks so out of place here, he said.
"This is crazy. It's usually so quiet but as soon as I got out of my car it was the noise of generators and back-up beepers," he said.
Mayor Richard Palombo spent last weekend enjoying the beach.
"It's amazing how much sand they can pile on in a single day. People are charting it, watching its progress," he said.
Strathmere is unique among Cape May County beach towns because of its natural charm, he said.
"There isn't a multitude of other activities beyond fishing and enjoying the beach and quietness," he said. "It's a relatively merchant-free community. You don't have people selling Fudgie Wudgies or renting umbrellas. People like the solitude."
Randy and Alex Enterline of Hillsborough Township, Somerset County, agreed, saying they enjoy Strathmere because of its relative peace compared to other shore towns in southern New Jersey.
The crowds are fewer here and the township requires no beach tags. They took a walk to the north end Wednesday to survey the dredging project.
"We're an engineering family," Alex Enterline said. "We find it fascinating just how huge the job is. We liked the tripod that goes out into the ocean."
The towering vehicle resembling the alien machine in "War of the Worlds" monitors beach elevation.
Ron Parks of Medford, Burlington County, peered through binoculars at the dredge pipes and the steel cage the contractors use as a screen to keep unwanted debris off the beach. The state began requiring this screening after an unrelated dredging project accidentally pumped World War II military munitions onto Long Beach Island beaches in 2007.
Parks said he is a metal-detector hobbyist. Dredging projects such as this one sometimes offer a bounty of rare artifacts.
"Last time they had a project here, someone found some Spanish coins, pieces of eight," he said. "I'm curious about what it might dig up."
Parks said he planned to return to the beach to explore the sand himself with his metal detector. Once while scanning a field in Paulsboro, he found a cannonball stamped with an English crown - no doubt fired from a British ship in the Delaware Bay during the Revolutionary War, he said.
Beachgoers have access to the surf despite the giant rusty pipes stretching north and south on the beach. Contractors built small sand ramps over the pipes at regular intervals.
Once the north end is complete, contractors will work from Sherman Avenue south to the border of Sea Isle City. The work is part of an ambitious $20 million state project to rebuild beaches in Sea Isle City, North Wildwood and Stone Harbor.
The Strathmere project is expected to continue through the summer.

E-mail Michael Miller:

(p.s. the Realtor had no idea when the dredging would take when most Summer vacations were booked)

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