- Cape May NJ Travel Guide and Vacation Planner Blog

Month: September 2004

To dephrag or not dephrag?

phagmiteslighthouseThat is the question currently being posed by residents of Cape May Point as well as the New Jersey Environmental Federation, the City of Cape May, and the New Jersey Audubon Society (NJAS) as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers moves forward with a plan to spray the glyphosate-based herbicide Rodeo on 57 acres of reeds or Phragmites at South Cape May Meadow in September 7. The Corps will then begin burning dead stalks during the winter and plant marsh vegetation determined to be beneficial to the area in the springtime. It is slated to be a two-year program. Another 43 acres would be sprayed in September 2005.

However, Jane Nogaki, the Pesticide Program Coordinator for the NJ Environmental Federation, disagrees with the Army Corps of Engineers’ approach to the invasive problem of phragmites.. The Environmental Federation is a non-profit citizen-based organization fighting to protect natural resources and clean up pollution in New Jersey. NJEF is the New Jersey chapter of Clean Water Action, a 30-year-old national organization based in Washington, DC. The group opposes the use of Rodeo or “glyphosates in wetland restoration projects such as Cape May Point because there are too many hazards associated with the pesticide.”

phagmitesontrails1Additionally, the group feels the drift caused by a burn planned for winter could “pose risks of drift and fire hazards to the surrounding neighbors.”

phagmitesontrails2Finally, Nogaki points out that the use of pesticides and the burning of stalks has proved ineffective in the past in controlling Phragmites. Similar techniques were used on the Delaware Bay in Salem and Cumberland counties. The spraying of glyphosate-based herbicides has been used there since 1996 and the reeds still survive.

“There are two results of using pesticides,” said Nogaki in a recent telephone interview, “One is that the pesticide is so successful it wipes out all vegetation for two years. There are many birds and butterflies that feed in that area. Where do they go? Secondly, the project is only partially successful in which case they will be forced to repeat the process, 2,3,4,5 years, and the habitat will be pummeled with pesticides.”

Again, she cites the Delaware Bay in Salem and Cumberland counties. The restoration project there was planned for one year. It began in 1996 and is still on going and expected to continue until 2112.

phagmitesontrails3NJEF instead, recommends mowing, which they acknowledge may be more labor intensive but far more effective in that other plant life is allowed to grow.

Another government agency – the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Habitat Improvement Program, or WHIP, has provided one local resident with funding to explore alternative methods to the use of herbicides. According to an article that appeared in The Press of Atlantic City, August 21, WHIP provided Middle Township property owner Dr. Russell Down with a grant of $2,500 to mow seven acres of Phragmites for five years. Dr. Russell uses an old walk-behind mower with a single whirling blade powered by an 8-horsepower engine to keep his 49-acre Bayside property in check.

Dr. Down’s idea is that mowing the thick reeds allows other species a chance to root, thereby permitting a more natural diversity of plant life. Down started cutting the Phragmites down in 1999 and has been able to control three quarters of the seven acres.

phagmitesontrails4One thing all parties agreed on is the fact that Phragmites are invasive and if allowed to go unchecked will alter the biodiversity of the area. They create a “monoculture” in which no other plants can survive.

At a recent presentation by the Army Corps of Engineers held at West Cape May Borough Hall, the use of herbicides and the burning of stalks received the stamp of approval by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as well as The Nature Conservancy, Cape May Point State Park, and the State Department of Environmental Protection.

A representative of the Nature Conservancy Jay Laubengeyer was quoted in an article that appeared in The Press of Atlantic City on August 17 in support of the Army Corps of Engineers’ project. Laubengeyer noted that the Conservancy, which owns the land trust, has taken over 10 years to analyze the project and concluded that “It’s either support the project or watch the biodiversity go downhill.”

NJAS’ Department of Conservation, however, seems to take another approach. Eric Stiles, vice president for conservation and stewardship for NJAS e-mailed with a summary of the NJAS’s position on the proposed Phragmite treatment plan. It concludes: “This project could potentially create a significant amount of valuable habitat in an area that is critically important to wildlife. However, the proposed management strategies may negatively affect significant populations of wildlife, including endangered species and rare plants.

“NJAS believes that additional attention should be given to expected impacts on wildlife and human visitors, timing of the herbicide application and strategies for replanting and restoring the area after phragmites removal. Absent this additional information, New Jersey Audubon has serious reservations and concerns about the Phragmites removal project as planned.”

phagmiteslake3Local resident Barbara Skinner calls the Army Corps of Engineers’ project “asinine” and is anxiously trying to organize concerned citizens who are interested in learning more about the September 7 project. She can be contacted at 609-884-3951.

“The timing of this,” she said, “couldn’t be worse. They’re going to start spraying right after Labor Day and the burn is scheduled right before the fall migration. This could affect the migration of the monarch butterfly as well as fish” and other species which make the Lower Cape May Meadows their home.

On Aug. 3, Cape May City Council passed a resolution urging the Army Corps of Engineers to use mechanical means to remove the phragmites instead of spraying them. The resolution states that spraying “might pose a risk to humans and non-targeted species.”

The area in question is approximately 350 acres and contains Cape May Point State Park and the Cape May Migratory Bird Refuge. The first area to be targeted for spraying is near the concrete bunker in the park. The other area is further east near the Cove beach. An additional 27 acres will be sprayed using a truck. Approximately one acre will be hand-sprayed by workers.

A contractor will conduct the aerial spraying and the New Jersey Forest Fire Service will conduct the burn. Both projects are expected to take several hours to complete.

Project Manager for the Army Corps of Engineers J. Bailey Smith said recently in a telephone interview that “spraying is not unsafe. The herbicides are absorbed more effectively” by the phragmites’ rhizomes or root system which moves horizontally and spreads quickly. The plan is to dispense the herbicides by helicopter with an aerial spray in September and use “hand application methods” in 2005.

“When we use the term aerial spray, it’s really not spraying. They’re droplets” as opposed to a spraying mist and will be dropped by the helicopters hovering only a few feet off the ground, for better control and concentration.

“The herbicide will be applied in such a manner,” said Smith, “as to not affect other natural vegetation.” Smith further attests that the herbicide has “no effect on living organisms” such as humans, butterflies and birds which are prone to make Cape May Point and the lower meadows their home or respite.

Nogaki disagrees and said NJEF is looking at “every avenue” available to them to stop the September 7th spraying. vs. Exit Zero: The Surrey Race

OK. Here’s the thing. I’ve never shared this with you – BUT – no one, and I am not exaggerating when I say no one, EVER picked me to be on their team. I was always the last girl standing. I struck out. I dropped the ball. I missed the ball – no matter how large or how obvious. I was a spaz-mataz. Still am, really. A golf instructor once told me that I have the greatest natural golf swing he’s ever seen in a woman who can’t make contact with the ball. I get nervous ya see, very, very nervous.

So, imagine my delight to hear that my assignment this month is to be part of a team. The first official Surrey Rally. My two work colleagues, Stephanie Madsen,’s artistic director, and Chris Goodroe, our assistant techy, are the other two members of the team.

The opposing team? None other than Exit Zero. Jack Wright, editor and chief, heads up the team along with his assistant editor Stefanie Godfrey and one of their top photographers Maciej Nabrdalik.

Celebrities really. Am I wrong? Anyone who lives on the island or even ten minutes off it knows I am not wrong. Great, I shall be humiliated in front of very cool people and shame my co-workers. Yes, I just can’t wait.

At the appointed time – noon – and date – Friday, August 20th – we arrive.’s team looks over the terrain. Our guide to good surreying, Joe Volpe, owner of Cape Island Bike Rentals at Howard and Beach avenues, shows us a very spiffy – Jeepers Creepers this thing is a bloody bus! It’s way too big. It fits six. I’ll be stuck in the caboose. We’ll most definitely turn over in the thing. Wait. Stephanie is talking to Joe and asking her other team members a question. That includes me. Well of course it would. Why wouldn’t they include me?

Ahhh. We think the smaller surrey would be better for us and faster. Exit Zero’s team can pick when they get here. “And I’ll steer,” she says. God Bless her. “And Chris will pedal on the other side.”

Fabulous. I’m in the kid seat and all I have to do is navigate.

Well. All righty then. I’m pumped. I hear the theme music from the movie Rocky blaring in my head. I am prepared. I have my handy dandy pink satchel for carrying notebooks, pens and four bottles of water because it’s about 90 degrees out here. I also have a tape recorder and a cell phone.

As the minutes tick by, however, the theme music from Rocky is fading and I’m starting to nod off in the noonday sun. Maybe Exit Zero will be a no-show. Maybe they’re scaaarrred. Maybe they’re sissies and know they’re in for a surrey whoppin.’ Oops. Wait a minute… here they are. Exit Zero has arrived. Something about a sick puppy named Friday or April I can’t remember which.

Oh Gawd. We’re doomed. We’re going to lose and they’re all wearing very cool Exit Zero t-shirts. Why didn’t we think of that? t-shirts I mean?

Exit Zero picks the bigger surrey.

The Boss gives us our instructions. Team One (that’s us) will go to Howard’s End and make a left onto Columbia Avenue. Team Two (that’s them) will go to Howard’s End and make a right onto Columbia Avenue. We have five stops we each have to make.

So. We’re off.

I take the whole adventure like I do everything in life – with ease and calm. Yeah right. In reality, I can be heard screaming all the way up Howard, onto Columbia, and across Hughes. After my teammates tell me politely and respectfully to shut up, I think about the first clue.


1. Go to Howard’s End. Turn Left.

Go downtown. Find a corner that plainly states 1898 in stone. If you’re thinking “Good God,” you’re on the right track. Look to the right of the stone for your next instruction.

2. Go to Congress Hall and pick up a “Camp Congress Hall” brochure. Then go to the Mad Batter and ask for your next instruction.

“Well it has to be either Our Lady Star of the Sea Roman Catholic Church,” says Stephanie, “or First Presbyterian of Cape May.”

“Oh. I know this,” I say. “It’s First Presbyterian. Star of the Sea was built in 1911. I know this. I know it.”

After my teammates tell me politely and respectfully to shut up, we surrey on over to First Presbyterian. Chris jumps out and brings back two envelopes, one marked Team One, the other Team Two.

“No. We have to put one back,” says Stephanie, “These are Exit Zero’s clues.”

Of course, we’re all thinking – well, if we take their clues, we could really jam them up – but we reject such thoughts, put the envelope for Team Two back under the stone and we’re off to Congress Hall.

Mental note to myself – must stop screaming as we run over curbs because tourists are looking very scared.

I run in grab the brochure and we’re off. Chris is in the middle and I’m pedaling on the outside. We swing onto Jackson and head toward The Mad Batter Restaurant.

“The cars. The cars,” says Chris as we swerve a little close to the cars parked along Jackson. Out I pop, run into the restaurant and grab the next clue.

3. Go to the SFISMENHER RIAMELMO (yeh I know it’s at least a mile!) Once there, find the “N” for your next instruction. (Suggested route: Columbia, Michigan, Indiana, Missouri)

Oh no! An Anagram. I hate anagrams.

Then, I have a brainstorm.

“Hey – if the parking garage at the Tides is open at both ends, we could cut through there, cross Decatur and cut over to Columbia without going down Beach Ave. We’d shave at least five minutes off the trip.”

Wreeeeeeek. A sharp turn to the left and through the parking garage we go.

“There’s only one flaw to this,” I say as we whiz toward the Decatur end of the garage. “The garage doors are electronic. They could close at any time.”

But they don’t.

Now what about this anagram. Stephanie takes a quick glance at it while simultaneously pedaling and steering– “Fishermen’s Memorial,” she shouts.

“They totally have the edge with that six-seater surrey,” she says, “I know it’s quicker than this one because three people can pedal at once.”

“We’re right next to Howard and Cape Island Bikes,” says Chris, “let’s switch.”

“Would that be cheating?”

“No. Just evening up the score.”

“We’re passing the street.”

“What should we do?”

“NO.” I say firmly, “Let’s go on in this one.”

“OK,” says Chris, “you had your chance.”

Yes and now it’s time for Chris to takeover the driver’s seat. Stephanie’s in the middle. When we get to Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh, we get out of the surrey and push it across to the Fishermen’s Memorial.

“I bet that Jack steals our clue,” says Stephanie.

Sure enough. Nothing under the letter N or anywhere else, including the trash can.

Now what? The cell phone – that’s what. The Boss must give us the clue over the phone, but he drives up to us as we’re leaving the Memorial to make sure, we actually went there. Fourth clue?

4. First go to the Wawa and get a “Cow Tales.” Then go to the “White House” on Washington Ave. (Suggested route: Mass Ave to West to Washington) If you pass the Physick Estate you’ve gone too far. Look for “BT 190 CA” for your next instruction – Remember there is no parking between the signs.

Stephanie’s back in the driver’s seat and I’m in the middle. Chris bags the “Cow Tales” but we’re exhausted. We may have to quit. It’s too hot. We’re too tired. We’ll never find “The White House.” Besides, isn’t the White House somewhere further down south? Like Virginia. Hey. Wait. This is the next to the last clue. We can do this. We’re psyched. We find the “White House” with no problems and Stephanie spies the clue on the telephone pole marked BT 190 CA which stands between two no parking signs. The final clue?

5. Go to the hotel founded by Henry Sawyer.

Go to the main desk. Hurry up. That’s the finish.

Make sure you have the Cow Tales and the Camp Congress Hall brochure

Chris mans the driver’s seat. Stephanie’s pooped. I’m almost pooped. Chris stands up and looks just like Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic. He is the “king of the world.” He propels us up Washington Street, left onto Madison, and a right back onto Columbia. We stop briefly for Stephanie and me to change seats. Soon we’re at Howard’s End and parking in front of the Chalfonte Hotel.

Now the big question? Are we here before Exit Zero? We don’t see them. The Boss is standing on the porch.

“You won.”

No. There must be a mistake. I look around. No Exit Zero. We won! We won! I was on the winning team and I helped. I helped. Was I a big help? Did I do good?

Could you have won without me? My teammates politely and respectfully tell me to shut up and we wait on the porch for Exit Zero to cross the finish line.

Twelve, count ‘em twelve minutes later up they come from Beach Avenue with their arms raised in triumph. HAHA They think they won. Then they see us lined up along the porch watching them.

“How did you get here before us?” asks Jack, his Scottish accent just a little more Scottish than usual. “You couldn’t have won because I ripped up your clue and hid it under some leaves near the S. Where’s the clue? Where’s the Cow Tales? Where’s the Congress Hall brochure?”

Alack, alas. We did win.

But hey – we’re up for a rematch in the fall.

Whad ya say, Exit Zero?

Carriage Horses Up Close

Who are those horses riding through Cape May? We see them pulling wedding carriages, pulling tourists through the scenic areas of town, and waiting for passengers on Washington Street across from the Washington Commons shops.
But who are they?

Established in 1983 by Beverly Carr, Cape May Carriage Company has served the Cape May community for almost 20 years. Cape May Carriage Company houses a 20+ horse fleet, ranging from Draft, Belgium, Percheron and cross breeds. On August 11th Carr sold Cape May Carriage to her longtime employee Becky Alexander. Becky and her daughter Jasmine were on hand recently to give the inside scoop on the 20 most famous horses in Cape May.

beckyanddukeDuke is 18-years-old and has made Carriage Company his home for the past 14 years. A Belgian breed, he is in semi-retirement. His primary job is to train all the new drivers. Once the driver is trained and graduates to the field, Duke goes back out to pasture to enjoy the sun until the next newbie comes along.

Jenny & Judy are sisters. These two Paints are 15 and 16 respectively and were purchased when they were 2 and 3 years old so they have lived at the Carriage Company their whole working lives. Judy is a particular favorite for weddings. The sisters pull as a team or singly and don’t dare tell one she’s the pretty one ‘cause the other one gets a little huffy.

jenny judy

Simon is a 5-year-old Quarter Horse-Belgian cross breed. This naughty little horse ran under the chain blocking the barn door and tried to escape while our simoncamera was poised. He was rescued from a hormone farm that collects the urine from the horse. When the horse has served his purpose, he is either rescued or sold for meat. It’s hard to look at the totally handsome Simon and think of what his fate could have been – but happy thoughts – because in his first year at Carriage Company he has learned how to drive and works the night shift.

Ike is a 16-year-old full breed Belgian Draft horse who has lived at the farm for 12 ike2years. Although he is currently in semi-retirement along with Duke, he still pulls the wagonette in July and August and takes the rest of the year off.

Magic is a 6-year-old Percheron Mare who has been with the Carriage Company magicfor 4 years. This filly works the day shift “because there is nothing in this world she is afraid of.”

Tucker is spending his first summer in Cape May. This 5-year-old was part of an jamesonandtuckerAmish plow team. The other team members, Jameson and Bishop (not pictured) joined Tucker this summer at Carriage Company. Tucker pulls the wagonette and only had to be in the training program for two weeks. “I think he said to himself, ‘I did not like plowing and this is so much better. I’m very happy.’ ” He particularly likes weddings.

Jameson and Bishop, however, are still in training after two months. Bishop, who was very shy about having his picture taken, is not quite as excited about his new job. Becky says this is because the Amish don’t treat their horses like pets and they are often not accustom to the social niceties that come with being a carriage ride horse. But he’s coming along.

Maxwell is a Belgian Draft horse who never grew to be as big as the Amish farmer who owned him thought he would. His loss is Cape May’s gain. He is 16maxwell hands 2″ high and weighs 1800 pounds. He is 14-years-old and has been at the Carriage Company for 8 years.

Baron is a handsome Black Percheron who was purchased from a Chicago baroncarriage company. He is 10 years old and has been pulling wagonettes in Cape May for two years. Because of his distinguished looks, he is a favorite for weddings.

Ulysses is the biggest horse in Cape May Carriage’s barn. He is a Black Percheron who stands 18 hands 2″ tall and weighs in at 2500 pounds. The 8-year-old ulyssesUlysses has been a Cape May resident one-year. Previously, he pulled caissons as part of a Revolutionary War Reenactment. Can you figure out which side he was on?

Dotty is a Quarter Horse Percheron Mare who is 5-years old and is a relative dottienewcomer to Cape May. She came to Cape May three months ago from an Amish farm. She pulls the private carriage on the day shift.

Sterling is a Percheron Cross. He is 10-years-old and pulls the private carriage on the day shift, although he is flexible and will work at night if asked nicely. Hesterling has a little quirk in his personality in that he is a “one driver type of horse.” So when his rider of choice – Monica Flad – is off two days a week, so is Sterling. Smart horse. And anyone else who tries to ride him? He bites and kicks and has a hissy fit until the driver gets off.

Bella is a 10-year-old White Percheron Mare who – simply put – does not like bellaandjacksonpulling carriages. She did pull carriages at one time for someone else but gave up her career to be a mother. She had four babies in five years and feels she’s done enough. Her main job at Cape May Carriage Company is to be Jackson’s sidekick. He loves her and she loves him. The end.
Jackson is 21-years-old and Becky’s mother, Gayle Donaghy’s personal horse. Gayle retired from Carriage Company three years ago but still comes in with Jackson one day a week to work the night shift. Jackson was in poor health a while back when he slipped on a manhole cover and went down on both knees. Gayle, who is a Reiki Master, worked with Jackson so he would not have to be put down. After a long rehabilitation, Jackson is now healthy and enjoying his semi-retirement.

Buck is the oldest horse in the barn. At 22 or maybe 23 years of age he has earned the title Senior Horse. He has been retired for two years. Because he worked so many years for Carriage Company, he has many devoted fans whobuck still request Buck so he is still on call for the occasional wedding. His story goes like this:
Buck was a logging horse down in West Virginia. When former Carriage Company owner Beverly Carr found him he was grossly underweight and very sick. Beverly  brought him back to health and, in response, Buck took to pulling carriages quite nicely. Because of his years of food deprivation though, Buck has a few issues. Every time he saw someone with food, he would steal it. The kid on the corner with the ice cream cone had to watch out because he or she might look up to see a hairy snout reaching down to steal the cone right out of the kid’s hand. Think you’d be safe in the car? Not with Buck out on the street. He’d reach right in and take that sandwich out of your hand. And Lord help you if Buck caught you wearing a straw hat. Off the head and into the tummy. Yum, yum yummy. Nor was anyone with food safe on the sidewalk. If Buck eyed food, he’d come after it. He even learned how to drink soda out of a soda can. His favorite treat? French bread. The folks at Carriage Company are planning a real retirement party for him in the fall.

Prince is a 7-year-old Dappled Grey Percheron who came to Cape May with his princemother Patty. Prince is the second largest horse in the barn and the most commonly requested for weddings. He has a great personality and loves everyone except any male horse who comes between him and his mom.

Yes, he has mommy issues and still lives with her at home.

Patty, Prince’s mother, is a Black Percheron Mare, 12-years-old, and is the quiet level-headed horse in the barn. She works the night shift but is currently pattyrecovering from a pelvis injury sustained in July when a New Jersey Transit Bus struck her from behind on West Perry Street pulling her backwards. Becky hopes Patty will have recovered by next spring but her rehabilitation may take longer.

Prince has been right by her side the whole time.

Knight is an 11-year-old Clydesdale cross-breed. He’s been with the Carriage knightCompany for 8 years. Knight is a true carriage horse and has a reputation for being an “endurance” horse. “He’s the energizer bunny of horses.”

Oreo is a 5-year-old Paso Fino breed. He is used only as a riding horse and is privately owned by former Cape May Carriage owner Beverly Carr. He stays on the property and his job is to “Meet and Greet” visitors and, of course, the otheroreo horses. He has been a resident for one year and knows perfectly well that he’s cutie-patutie.

You can have a mono y mono with most of the horses. The Cape May Carriage Company offers – weather permitting of course, half-hour tours on weekends during the spring and fall months, daily during the summer and during the Christmas season.

All carriage tours leave from the corner of Ocean Street and the Washington Street Mall and tickets can be purchased during regular hours of operation at this location only.

Sorry no phone reservations but you can contact The Cape May Carriage Company at their website at