Improving Public Access at Sandy Hook, NJ

by John Toth
(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association February 2021 Newsletter)

I recently wrote an article about the closure of the False Hook at Sandy Hook, NJ and it detailed how the Army Corps of Engineers surprisingly showed up to dredge this area resulting in the closure of this prime fishing area for surf fishing enthusiasts. Anglers were not happy about this surprise and the Access Chairman of the Jersey Coast Anglers Association (JCAA), George Browne, and myself engaged the offices of Senator Booker and Congressman Frank Pallone to intervene with the Army Corps so that we could receive more information on when this dredging project would be completed and how we can be better notified when the Army Corps plans to dredge this area in the future. (The Army Corps responds more quickly to legislators). The dredging of the False Hook is expected to be completed by the end of January 2021.

The question came up of why the management of Gateway National Park did not reach out to the fishing community more quickly concerning the impending closure of the False Hook so that anglers would be aware of it and alter their plans to fish in this area. To receive a better understanding of this issue and others related to Gateway Park, Zach McCue, Chief of Staff for Senator Booker, set up a telephone conference call on November 12th with George Browne, myself, and the managers of the National Park Service, Pete McCarthy and Patty Rafferty, to see if we can improve our lines of communication, especially for anglers using this recreational area. This conference call produced unexpected positive results and that included:

The National Park Service (NPS) will keep us updated on the dredging now in progress at False Hook and when it will be finally completed. Furthermore, the NPS will notify us of future dredging projects planned in this area so that we can quickly get this information out to the angling community.

This park is home to many species of birds, like piping plovers, that the park is required to protect as mandated by our federal government. The nesting areas of these birds and others are off limits to access by anglers. However, these bird nesting areas always change in their locations and result in confusion as to where anglers can and cannot fish. The NPS agreed to do a better job with their signage at the park to direct anglers to where they can fish while protecting the nesting areas of the endangered birds.

The NPS sends out permits to anglers who apply for them to fish in the park. The NPS indicated that they will develop a flyer that provides an overview of the park and the services it provides. This new flyer will accompany permits sent to anglers so that they have a better understanding of where they can fish in this park.

The NPS indicated that they will develop a power point presentation that they can take to fishing clubs and other organizations to better explain what the park has to offer not only for anglers but the public as well.

The NPS also agreed to produce a flyer that is tailored to anglers so that it shows fishing areas and what they also need to know about for birds and their restricted areas that are off limits to anglers. We agreed to place this information in our JCAA newsletter and it can also be posted in the Federationís newspaper.

I have been involved in a number of telephone calls with members of various organizations and, all too often, these calls do not result in the desired results or resolutions. Our call to the National Park Service was just to introduce ourselves to them and for the Park Service to give us advance information about when the Army Corps plans to do their future dredging and the location of it. This call was one of those rare calls that achieved more than the intended result and a Big Thanks goes to Zach McCue from Senator Bookerís office for bringing us all together so that anglers can have better use of the Gateway National Park.

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