Barnegat Lighthouse State Park Is a Draw Even in Winter

Jan 24, 2018

Winter can’t stop walkers and wildlife gawkers. Despite the calendar saying January, visitor numbers at Barnegat Lighthouse State Park are brisk. One recent Sunday found 221 cars in the parking lot, following 175 the day before.

It no doubt helps that there is no charge to climb the lighthouse tower in the off-season. The lighthouse doors are open weekends from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The rest of the park is accessible anytime.

The beacon is an irresistible attraction, but birdwatching is in season. Harlequin ducks were recent visitors, but not in the past couple of weeks. Die-hard spotters know when and where to look.

“On a cold day, but it was sunny, in an hour when I was outside, I saw at least a dozen going by with binoculars and spotting scopes,” noted Park Superintendent Cynthia Coritz.

The winter lecture series hosted by the Friends of Barnegat Lighthouse State Park is another draw – the next date is Saturday, Feb. 3, at 1 p.m. when presenter Tim Hart speaks on World War I in Ocean County.

These traditionally cold months of the new year are actually better for visitors in one more way: The waterside walkway and full sand grounds are back open now that a state channel dredging and deposition of dredged sand is done.

The state park was never closed during the November and December project, but a large portion of the walkway and the beach was off-limits to the public when conduits carried dredged material over the walkway and onto a deposition site on the beach.

“We did our walk-through with the (state) Department of Transportation on Jan. 3 as the equipment operator was finishing up,” Coritz said last week. “He was dragging a pipe behind him to smooth out all the tracks from the vehicles and bring the sand back to a natural look.”

Ice did its prohibitive part after the January blizzard roared through, but last weekend, sunshine brought visitors back to see what’s up at the extreme north end of Long Beach Island.  —M.S.

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