Liquid Lines

A Ridiculous Look at All the Local Development Lately

Grand Hotels, Ziplines, Not-So-Mini-Golf and a Launch pad?
By JON COEN | Jan 23, 2019
Photo by: Marc Halikas Jonathan Hoover takes a frosty swim and bodysurf on Monday when the air temps were 10 degrees and the wind honking offshore. Not sure why, but he loves that stuff.

At the end of every year, my colleague here at The SandPaper, Rick Mellerup does an exhaustive round-up of the biggest stories of the last 12 months. The topics dominating the news were what you’d imagine – elections, Causeway construction, unions, etc.

Somehow, the plastic bag bans were a huge topic, which is the only one I don’t get.

I mean, it’s great that a few local towns finally got there, but I’m not sure why this is a 2018 news story. It should have been a 1998 article with a headline reading, “Residents and Officials Agree: Silly to Use Forever Material Only Once,” followed by an article outlining how everyone got ahold of five canvas bags.

The end.

Of course, one of the hottest topics last year was all the development currently happening on LBI and the mainland. Hey, it’s January, what else do we have to make small talk about? Locals and visitors are often perplexed by all the projects they’re seeing and have questions. Well, I recently got some news tips on the details of these projects and I have the whole scoop.

Warning: If you don’t know what parody is or your sense of humor floated away in Sunday morning’s thunderstorm, skip this next part.

Like I said, there’s a lot going on. And you will never be bored again. As you know, the grand new hotel that greets you as you touch down off the Causeway Bridge applied for and was granted a height variance by the borough of Ship Bottom in 2015. Then last year, it was granted an additional footprint variance. Well, apparently the new variance will allow the building to creep even farther south. The town will be narrowing the yellow lane lines on Ninth Street from the traditional 6 inches to 3 inches. The borough has asked that all eastbound vehicles onto the Island adjust their driver’s side mirrors so they don’t scrape along the southerly walls of the new structure. If you have a Jeep Commander, it is requested you just straddle the middle line.

We understand that the new hotel will have several pools, bars and pool bars. They scrapped the idea for the fire pits and are building a NASA launch pad. And also, corn hole outside.

Next up, if you thought the new golf course in Barnegat Light was looking pretty expansive, the PGA just announced that BL will host a tournament on the 2020 tour. It will be called the Inlet Shootout and it’s a “skins” format, where the winner of each hole gets monkfish skin from the cleaning tables at Viking Village. I’m told the fifth hole is a 500-yard par 4.

And it has corn hole.

By now, I am sure everyone has heard about the new zipline at the Mainland on Route 72 and the new water ferry from Tuckerton Seaport to Beach Haven. They both sound pretty awesome.

But wait until you see the drawings for the new zipline from Beach Haven West to Brant Beach. This is a pretty new development, but it should ease traffic pressure on the bridge and be great for kids who don’t have a license to get to the beach and work. They will be lifted some 900 feet via giant drone and harnessed into a zipline that then wings them across the bay over Flat Island and lands them at Bayview Park. What could be better than that?

And there will be corn hole on both sides.

And long gone are the days of drinking swill. We’re a good five years into the craft brew and artisan cocktail boom. I heard a rumor that there are 17 new breweries coming to Southern Ocean County this year. They will all have corn hole and be creatively marketing different elements of local lifestyle to market those beers. I have a feeling Saturday Turnover Pilsner, Mill Creek Mud IPA, Blinking Amber Traffic Light Amber, and Brant Beach Sugar Sand Wheat, made with real beach sand (not the fake replenishment stuff), will make a splash by summer.

And if you feel the new Route 9 liquor store isn’t big enough, they’re just going to take over the rest of West Creek for 10 square miles of alcoholic retail nirvana. There’s no corn hole yet, but it’s coming.

Now I’m realizing that no one will have the energy for all this putting, sipping and zipping without coffee. And everyone loves to know where their coffee comes from. We want to know that our joe is sustainable, organic, fair trade and generally ethical. Well, now it can be local, too. We’re told there’s a new coffee farm being planted out on 72. It will be called “Local Joe.” I’m not sure how coffee bean plants are going to be grown through our winters. Maybe those Pine Barren micro-climates we always hear about? But I do know there will be corn hole on the farm.

And hopefully it won’t require any land to be cleared. With the current rate of slash and burn forestry techniques in Manahawkin, they’re in danger of losing their “Tree City USA” title. But every coffee house in the area will be grinding up the local beans for mocha lattes and nitro brew.

I know all this seems like a lot, but I get it. Business owners understand that Americans, specifically millennials, are spending more money on “experience” over “stuff” these days. We’re not as interested in retail as we are in activities, entertainment, food and drink (and Instagramming).

That’s the idea that’s likely behind all these new amusements. It’s cool to see we’re fostering better relationships with migratory wildlife. I wouldn’t be surprised to start seeing droves of camera-toting tourists aboard safari vehicles heading into the Forsythe Refuge in search of snowy owls. And then there’s the scuttlebutt about diving with sharks off the beaches of Surf City? Who’s up for that?

And corn hole.

OK, that was fun. But in all seriousness, we’re in a period of rapid change. For some, that’s scary. Let’s all make sure we get the facts before we dive into conversations about these projects as we toss beanbags into holes.

They may bring considerable jobs to the area. And a rising tide lifts all boats. But as a community we have to consider how high we want the tide to go. Will someone drown? Will these quick changes alter the character of LBI forever? As we reach new demographics, will we lose the traditional families that live on and visit LBI? What are we willing to risk?

SCREW THAT: I know that we’ve mostly had a pretty easy winter so far, but you can keep that nonsense we got Sunday into Monday. I don’t mean the surf, but the weather that followed the swell.

The ocean has continued to produce for us with several days of waves last week and a south swell that set up Saturday into Sunday. Nothing like waking up to a thunderstorm in January. The weather moved through in a timely manner on Sunday and the sun eventually came out at the same time the polar air started whipping down from the Arctic Circle.

When the wind went offshore, it cleaned up a hearty overhead swell. It seems this winter there has been no shortage of raw swell. This one had a few hundred miles of southerly fetch behind it. By January, we only see the truly dedicated in the water and Sunday was one of those days for all the local crew and not a whole lot of visitors.

This was a decent combo swell. Like many winter days, you have to find the right tide. The wind was generally light at midday when the tide was out. But it came up like a banshee, keeping that tide from coming back up. The drops were tough and the beatings plenty. Any time you see that hard offshore gale in the forecast, you know nothing is going to come easy. But with enough skill and a bit of luck you could put yourself into one of the good ones and walk away saying, “Man, what a great weekend.” It’s like finding the single ripe avocado amid all those green baseballs in the produce aisle of ShopRite.

The high temps for the day hit about 50 and the low Sunday night was 10, with wind chills below zero. It was possible that the temperature dropped some 30 degrees from the time you paddled out until you paddled in.

Mother Nature put on a display Sunday night, teasing us with a perfect night to view the Blood Wolf Moon lunar eclipse and then tormenting us with frigid whipping winds as we went outside to see it. Monday morning was blustery and brutal in every sense, the only silver lining being hints of sea smoke on the water. What was really interesting was how far the tide pulled out between the full moon and howling offshore winds. Some of the sandbars were fully dry in the early afternoon. The bay was about as low as it gets. The 12-degree reading was the coldest it’s been all winter. I love and respect Martin Luther King and everything he stood for, but there was no good way to celebrate his legacy anywhere outdoors on Monday.

Fortunately, we’ve rebounded to simply “January cold” here again for the middle of the week. Also fortunately, we’re looking at another, potentially stronger swell building now. We have to keep an eye on the wind switch Thursday as it could be another day of death-or-glory bombs.

STATE OF OUR BEACHES: Winter is normally a time of year we worry about storms and beach erosion, but this winter our beaches are bigger than ever.

We know that storms create wave action, which is responsible for gnawing away at our sand. But right now, I’m not sure we’ve ever had wider beaches. Take Harvey Cedars, which has historically been a hotspot for beach erosion. New sandbars formed after last summer’s beach replenishment, and with the dunes, wide beach and new outer bars, I don’t know that the waves have ever broken so far from the homes. And we’ve had plenty of storms and wave action. We even had some bay flooding. The key is where the low pressure passes us.

If the low moves to our west, which has been happening pretty much once a week, we get a southerly blow. These tend to be quick and painless to our beaches. If the low moves to our east, we get a northerly blow. These are the rough ones. Now, when the low is just off the coast and hits a ridge of blocking high pressure to our north, the storm just sits there. We get days and days with multiple high tides eating at our beaches.

We haven’t had any of that this year and we’re all pretty grateful for it – although March does tend to be a time when these things happen. Hopefully, the girth we’ve built up will get us through any of that.

LOCAL HAPS: I feel like this is the time of year more than any other that we need to get out and support things happening on LBI. Being stuck inside for most of Monday and Tuesday was rough for most of us. Make plans, wrap up the kids if you have them, and get to these events. Not only does it allow for future gatherings, but it makes the winter seem not so long.

This Friday night is Deep Freeze Fest at the Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts and Sciences with live music, a German-style pretzel bar, fire pits, s'mores, snacks and cold brews. Temps will be just below freezing with some wind.

This weekend continues Science Saturdays at the Foundation. ReClam the Bay’s own Rick Bushnell will present on “Using Shellfish in Living Shorelines.” As the program states, a number of municipalities are planning projects that use shellfish to stabilize the shoreline. And since they are living, they will grow up as the water rises. Let’s not discount the filtering ability of these bivalves either. Shellfish are so important to our bay and our lives here in every way. So often the answers to our problems are natural ones.

On Feb. 2, John Wnek of the Marine Academy of Technology and Environmental Science and Stockton University will present a two-part presentation on local terrapins. As always, Science Saturdays are $5 and free for Foundation members.

This will be my final column to remind everyone about South End’s Polar Paddle race on Feb. 2. You can register online for this at PaddleGuru or the day of. The course begins at Pearl Street and goes around Mordecai Island. The short course (one loop) is 2 miles. The long course (two loops) is 4 miles.

If you’re a competent paddler (as in, you won’t fall in) and a first-time winter racer, you’ll obviously need some rubber. If it’s a warm day, you can get away with a thinner wetsuit, but either way, get some 7-mil boots. A wind piece over the wetsuit can work as well. A beanie is a definite. Maybe even consider wool-lined fishing gloves.

The $40 race fee benefits Alliance for a Living Ocean. The race will be followed by a potluck party at South End Surf N’ Paddle. Email spaynter12@yahoo.com if you can bring a dish. It’s a nice way to warm up after the race.

I’d also like to remind everyone about the Wild Life Photography Exhibition at the LBIF that is currently hanging. You can meet these artists, many of whom are surf shooters and lend their work to Liquid Lines, at an Artist Reception and Potluck on Feb. 15. It’s always cool to be reminded of what amazing creatures we share this local ecosystem with and admire the patience and skill that these photogs have in capturing them.

Beyond that, the Arctic Outreach, a clambake of arctic proportions, will be Saturday, Feb. 23. This is winter. Embrace it because this summer could be nuts with the new indoor ski dome coming to Harvey Cedars.

joncoen@thesandpaper.net

 

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