A New Summer Celebration on Evolving LBI Is in the Making

By GLORIA C. ENDRES | Aug 08, 2018
Courtesy of: Gloria C. Endres The author and daughter Claire, on the Beach Haven beach July 11, are counting the days until the first of a new generation of LBI lovers makes his appearance.

As those who follow The SandPaper know, I have written many columns based on day trips accompanied by my daughter, Claire, to Long Beach Island, especially in the last eight years since my husband, Stanley, passed away. Each year we have checked out changes to the Island, especially after storm damage like Sandy in 2012. Every summer brings new surprises.

It was no different this year. We usually come down in August near my wedding anniversary on Aug. 12. This year, because Claire is expecting her first child in August, we changed the date to July 11, her own summer birthday.

The first thing we noticed entering the Causeway from Route 72 was the new construction linking Ship Bottom to the mainland. LBI has come a long way since rail and then wooden automobile bridges first gave access to the Island. The initial view of the bayside from the Causeway always gives me a thrill. This July 11 was a particularly spectacular day. The sky was a bright azure blue dotted with just a few puffs of cirrus clouds. Humidity was low. It was a perfect beach day.

Driving along Long Beach Boulevard going south to Bay Avenue, we noticed lots of new construction and renovation as well as signs of new ownership of hotels and businesses along the way. Long Beach Island is always reinventing itself.

Naturally we had to stop to eat first, and our favorite spot for brunch is Uncle Will’s in Beach Haven. It was mobbed, of course, but not as much as last year when rain drove everyone indoors. This time Claire had only 10 minutes to shop in the area instead of the hour she had last year before we were called to a table. After brunch, it was off to see the ocean.

The nice thing about the beach on a barrier island is how the sand is constantly pounded and softened by the ocean. To me it looked lighter in color and felt much softer than the coarse orange-colored sand used to replace the damaged beaches after Sandy. Thanks to the engineering of higher and more protective dunes, you cannot see the ocean until you mount the crest of the dune. Basically, the replacement job put greater distance between the ocean and the buildings on the shore, obviously for greater protection from giant storms.

Claire parked on Engleside Avenue, and we entered the beach there, lugging our chairs, bags and umbrella. It was a good thing we had foot covering because the sand was especially hot. But what a sight from the top of the dune! I do not recall a wider beach on that stretch of Beach Haven for decades.

On this particular day, the surf seemed to stretch out forever until the first breakers splashed down. Claire remarked that she had never seen clearer water. It was indeed totally transparent – and cold at first. We went in as far as our ankles.

Everyone that day who could was on the beach or in the water. Maybe it gets more crowded on the weekends, but it was a packed beach. There had been warnings of rip currents, so the lifeguards were kept busy looking out for the bathers. Neither of us was in any condition to swim, so we were content to dip our feet a couple of times and return to our beach chairs.

I always take my aquarelle pencils and sketchbook with me. I did a quick sketch of Claire lounging in her chair, not including her baby bump. I was surprised at how she managed to maneuver in the thick sand while balancing all that weight.

After a pleasant time by the sea, it was time to shop. For that she drove us to Bay Village and Schooner's Wharf. It was almost deserted since nearly everyone was on the beach. We stopped for sorbet and ice cream in between shopping. I was content to buy a white baseball cap that had “Bad Hair Day” embroidered on it. Included in Claire’s purchases were several books for her expected baby boy.

Because of Claire’s condition, we decided to skip the usual long ride northward to Barnegat Light. Instead, we walked up to the bay beyond the parking lot adjacent to Bay Village and Fantasy Island. There are two pavilions there to give you shade while observing the bay. There was a pleasant breeze and a wonderful view of the bay. I noticed a change there, also. There used to be a small stretch of sandy beach near the water. I recall taking my 1-year-old Claire there to try out her first sand bucket and shovel. Now the sand has been replaced with coarse, gravelly chips.  You can walk on it, but it is not for play. There is no more beach entry to the water. Change. Always change.

We talked about the future when Claire and Steve’s son, Stanley Joseph, is born. She would love to take him down someday to the same place where she first met the Atlantic Ocean. That would mean a slightly longer stay than a day trip. It is not as if Beach Haven is around the corner. They live in Delaware County; I live in South Philadelphia. But it would thrill me to see my grandchild enjoying some of the same sights, sounds and smells that his mother, grandmother and great-grandmother enjoyed for so many years.

We will have much to celebrate then on our beloved, evolving Long Beach Island.

Gloria C. Endres of Philadelphia is a long-time visitor to Long Beach Island.





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