Asbury Park’s North End - Beginning of a New Error

Capt. Paul Eidman, Board member & Forage Fish Committee Chairman
(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association February 2019 Newsletter)

If you haven’t been to Asbury Park in a while, you would be shocked to see the direction things are taking. Yes, AP has had its challenges over the years, but as of late, it seemed to all be coming together. I for one was truly looking forward to the new open-minded Asbury, same old place, with down to earth people of all ages, varieties, and classes, forming a stew of liberal coolness, all hanging out and having fun. Throw in a cool mix of music, bars, restaurants, beach and layer it gently over an air of old school nostalgia at the base of it all.

Unexpectedly, I am seeing an emerging style that I am not thrilled with and it goes against the image of Asbury that I saw developing. After a decade of lurking behind the scenes, a smooth, slippery slithering snake has raised its head to convert this potential wonderfulness into a new metropolis of sanitized concrete, polished stone with plenty of stainless and AstroTurf thrown in for good measure. The elites will be very happy with this for sure.

The snake, I mean developer, IStar has kept everything quiet with no planning transparency, that is until one day last week when tall fences were put up from the convention center, north all the way to the end of fisherman’s lot. I could not access the beach unable to get to my fishing spot and was completely prevented from fishing the north end, right in the middle of Striped bass season. Overnight, they rolled the bull dozers in and ripped up Asbury’s famous boardwalk with zero public notice to area residents.

Last week there was an Asbury Park city council meeting. The developer was supposed to do a public update plans for the north end, which were supposed to include a private pool club, cleverly placed sand dunes and taking the existing herringbone 60 ft wide boardwalk down to a “meandering 15 ft wide walkway thru the dunes”.

The future of the North end has been an ongoing issue since 2002 but that was when the only plan was to construct townhouses at the north end and remove the dirt lot completely. It seems as if overnight the north end project came alive in a major way. Over 400 people showed up to speak out and stop the development of the north end of the Boardwalk, but many were prevented from entering due to the 150 person room capacity. Important to note that many of the attendees were locals from the surrounding neighborhoods as well as surfers and beachgoers. Besides myself, I am unaware of any other fisherman in attendance or speaking out in objection to the project. This has got to change!

After waiting outside with everybody for almost 2 hours, I finally got my three-minute chance at the microphone to express my views for the record and this is what I said,

I live about 6 miles away from here in Tinton Falls, and I visit this cool little area that folks have renamed “Bradley Cove,” but I just know it as the dirt lot. I park to go surf fishing here, run my dogs and sometimes just to watch the sea. Up until recently, this lot has always been the last little free and organic spot at the beach.

We need to make sure that everyone feels welcome here in Asbury and not excluded. I for one feel that we need to have the north end reserved as a natural area and make it a retreat from the center of town. At the same time, we need to have extra sensitivity to the non-human residents around here.

Deal Lake is one of three area coastal lakes that is an historic spawning site for Alewife and Blueback Herring which are collectively known as river herring. Developer ISTAR plans to pave/extend the parking lot and boardwalk right next to the especially constructed Herring flume that we spent 7 million dollars on back in 2005 to make sure that migratory species can get to and from Deal Lake.

The population of river herring is in trouble and pretty much circling the drain. Every single fish counts right now on the east coast. That makes this an even more important issue.

There are also American eel and several types of shad that need to migrate in and out of this flume. I am concerned that this new development is being done without consideration for the ecology of this diverse little ecosystem we have here in the middle of all this civilization.

Adding more pavement and possibly townhomes will clearly encroach upon this area, and the roadway runoff, fertilizer, weed killer and more will pollute the waters around this area. Increased sediments & sand could block the entrance to the flume even more than they do now. All these factors could deter what’s left of the returning river herring from spawning and migrating.

We need to make sure the dunes that are going to be rebuilt are done with the needs of the Least Terns, Black Skimmers, Piping Plovers and Sea Beach Amaranth in mind.

Let’s not forget that this is home to others that aren’t as threatened… Great Blue Heron, Black Crowned night heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Osprey, Grebes, Merganser and countless other fish-eating birds that depend upon this very area as a food source.

Important to remember that this area is a floodplain. Have we not learned anything from the past decade of superstorms? The other two lakes (Lake Takanasee & Wreck Pond) just miles away from here got completely ripped open by the storms and ran out to the sea just like it did when the Indians were here.

There should be no construction of hard structures in front of a coastal lake. In the event of a storm the lake rises and flows over the roadway, across the beach and out to the ocean. This is not an area that should be under consideration for townhomes. Deal lake will flow right through them! Give us a seat at the table and let’s develop the north end together and make it open accessible natural space.

At the end of the meeting that night, many people had already left, but we were alerted by the mayor, “please don’t leave.” They adjourned for 10 minutes, returned and advised us that they had decided to HALT the development plan as it stands and redesign with public input. The night was a great example of what happens when a community activates, steps up to the plate and speaks out. We are grateful to Asbury’s city council and hope that they will keep the promises made to improve the design and resilience to storms in the future.

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