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Dock Road Renaissance – Good and Getting Better

By ANTHONY J. CIRILLO | May 16, 2018
Courtesy of: 18 Miles of History on Long Beach Island/Down the Shore Publishing Dock Road, on Mud Hen Creek, was Beach Haven’s transportation hub in the 1800s before the railroad came in.

As a 50-year summer resident of Dock Road in Beach Haven, and someone who worked many summers at Morrison’s Seafood restaurant (before it burned down), I have seen many changes to the street and its character. 

Traversing this time, these were days when the Black Whale was the Rancher Steakhouse; the Ketch was the Acme Bar (in the same building as today), which was next to the Rip Tide bar, which backed up against the Fat Chance, a guys’ summer rental garage apartment (not an apartment over a garage, but a garage that was the apartment), whose front entrance was a garage door that was open every night to casual passersby, preferably girls, for impromptu partying; and Fegley’s Diner, just off Dock Road across from Polly’s Dock, a classic stainless steel, trailer-sized diner where you could get a good, cheap breakfast and maybe a date (not so cheap).

Today the street is undergoing another renaissance with new construction. While perhaps part of a master plan, and more likely the result of Superstorm Sandy, time and real estate values, this Maritime District and renaissance is good and capable of being even better, given the street’s rich history in making Beach Haven the epicenter of LBI that it is today.

Dock Road is a one-way, narrow street with parking allowed on one side. It is the only east-west running street in Beach Haven that does not run from the bay to the ocean – for good reason. This is because, historically, Dock Road, before it was back-filled with dredge material, was Mud Hen Creek.

Circa 1874, the creek was used as a gateway to buildable land on the Island. It ran through the bay marshes and meadows to end at sand dunes – that is, buildable land at what is now Bay Avenue. At high tide, the creek was deep enough to run building material-laden boats, called scows, across the bay from Tuckerton (there would not be a railroad for about another 15 years and there was no bridge) and have them directly off-loaded to solid ground. 

This was a huge benefit for real estate developers of the time. It enabled Beach Haven to become the first formally organized town on LBI. The Dock Road area also was the center of town, as noted in the name of the road a half block away, Centre Street.   

With all of the arts, entertainment, restaurants, B&Bs, museums, shops and leisure activities offered here, many located on Dock Road, Beach Haven has become the heart of the Island.  

While Mud Hen Creek Road once might have been a more fitting name for the street, Dock Road became its name after it was back-filled, circa 1915. It was an appropriate name at the time the creek existed because the waterway had a dock. This small, adjacent road along the creek’s entire length enabled horse-drawn barges or wagons to bring materials to the center of town.

With Dock Road’s deep and rich history, and its current residential and commercial renaissance, several minor infrastructure improvements would only add to its character, preservation and beauty. 

First, the roadway is in dire need of repaving, given the past and recent addition of survey markings on the street. I hope this effort is well underway. The road is full of potholes and water meter installation take-off cuts and patches. The road bed is severely worn from heavy – literally and figuratively – traffic. 

Because of the restaurants, museum, bar and beautiful sunset views from the Dock Road-Second Street wharf, Dock Road sees a lot of automobile traffic. It also sees a lot of very heavy trucks, including semis and full tractor trailers. With two very wide, adjacent streets, Second and Centre, there is no good reason, other than following your GPS, that such large and roadway-damaging, heavy trucks beyond municipal service vehicles should be permitted on such a narrow, light-duty street. A 5-ton limit would be reasonable. 

Second, in view of Dock Road’s heritage as a creek, tinting the repaved road with the equivalent of an acrylic-like seal coat a blue-ish-green color would be a nice touch. And lastly, going hand-in-glove with the tinting – in case passersby wonder “Why is this the only road that is colored?”– would be the addition of plaques at each of the four crossroads that denote Mud Hen Creek’s conversion to Dock Road, circa March 1915. 

 Anthony J. Cirillo, when he isn’t enjoying summer living on Dock Road in Beach Haven, is a senior project director at AECOM in Princeton, N.J., a global planning, engineering, development and construction company.

 

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