Ship Bottom, Kite Festival Organizers Hammering Out Solutions to Improve Traffic Safety

Apr 11, 2018
File Photo by: Ryan Morrill

This year’s kite festival in Ship Bottom is a go, but festival-goers can expect some changes to address traffic safety and improve the overall experience of the popular fall event.

“We’ve had some meetings,” Mayor William Huelsenbeck said recently, “but nothing has been finalized.”

Small changes to accommodate traffic flow and other concerns can be addressed without taking away from the festival, now in its fourth year, he said. Although he likes the location of the festival, on the beaches near the entrance to the Island, there was some discussion earlier this year about moving the event away from that area toward 11th Street. That still hasn’t been decided.

“It became so successful so fast,” he said of the event, adding its popularity has caught nearly everyone off guard.

Recent discussions include road closures and a bigger push for festival-goers to use shuttle buses, which were an option last year, but traffic snarls were still an epic problem in the gateway community to Long Beach Island. Park-and-rides were available from the borough’s boat ramp, a likely location again this year, as well as the Long Beach Island Grade School on Central Avenue in Ship Bottom and the Ethel A. Jacobsen School on Barnegat Avenue in Surf City.

Traffic was so intense during the 2017 festival it prompted a lengthy discussion about the event at a borough council earlier this year when Councilman Tom Tallon, chairman of public safety, raised concerns voiced by the police chief in their meetings.

The event is held Columbus Day weekend, and makes the most of the shoulder season, the time between peak summer and the off-season. However, on Sunday, it coincides with the LBI 18-Mile Run, an annual event on LBI since 1972. The race begins in Holgate and ends in Barnegat Light with some lane closures on most of Long Beach Boulevard, the Island’s main thoroughfare.

Huelsenbeck believes keeping the traffic signals on for the event could help ease some of the snarls. The traffic signals along Long Beach Boulevard, a county road, are turned off the day after Chowderfest, an annual event that occurs the week before the kite festival.

The festival was organized to bring giant inflatable kites to the Island and highlight the sport of kiting. Ship Bottom is the host community, and as the gateway community, it sees all traffic coming on and off the Island. —G.G.S.

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