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Lake Lily: Pirates, Spies, and Swans

Lake Lily in Cape May Point

Peaceful, picturesque Lake Lily has had a swashbuckling past.

It was a prized watering hole for the Kechemeches, the Native Americans who summered and hunted on the Jersey Cape. When they were pushed out by whalers and farmers in the 1700s, the lake languished in the tangled wilderness known as Stite’s Beach. It was hidden by twisted trees and brambles and locals seldom ventured toward its shores. But word of its fresh water, so near the briny ocean and bay, spread across the Atlantic.

The lake covers 13 acres and is one of nature’s most unusual gifts – as headwaters of a small watershed, all within walking distance of the Atlantic Ocean and Delaware Bay.

Captain Kidd

Captain Kidd

There are legends of marauding British warriors and pirates of the high seas seeking unsalted drink from Lake Lily’s fresh waters. There is lore that pirates, the infamous Captain Kidd himself, anchored off the high dunes of Cape May Point and came ashore in small boats, hiking to the lake to fill their barrels. The lake then was about 10 feet deep.

England in the late 1600s was attempting to control the Atlantic. The king paid privateers to attack enemy ships, thus bolstering the British Navy. Many successful privateers became pirates, including the fearless Scottish-born William Kidd. He seized French ships in the West Indies and hightailed toward American shores with his booty. Legend holds he buried treasure on easily accessible lonely stretches of the Jersey Cape, including Cape May Point and what is now Del Haven.

Word of sighting Kidd’s sails off New Jersey shocked local officials. Colonel Robert Quarry wrote the British Lord of Trades in 1699:

There has arrived about 60 pirates in a ship directly from Malligasco. They are part of the Kidd’s gang. About 16 of them had quitted the ship and are landed in ye government of West Jersey in Cape May. I quickly rounded up two of these pirates and conveyed them safe to Burlington jail. The rest of them are still on board the ship which lies at anchor near ye Cape of this government.

New Jersey Governor Jeremiah Basse, learning Kidd was lurking in a large sloop off Cape May, sailed down to capture the notorious pirate, but Kidd out-maneuvered him, heading north to New York and New England. Kidd’s voyage ended in Boston, where he was captured and sent in chains to England. He was hanged for sea crimes on a Thames River dock in 1701. The mystery of where Kidd buried treasure still lingers as children today learn his legend during lessons at Lighthouse park where once there stood a large twisted cedar tree known as Kidd’s Tree.

During the war of 1812 British warships blocked the mouth of the vital Philadelphia shipping lanes on Delaware Bay. Raiding parties came ashore from both the bay and ocean to steal farm provisions and stop at Lake Lily to replenish their fresh water supplies. It was difficult gathering the local militia in time to catch the marauders.

When the British fleet appeared off the bay in 1813 the locals got serious, forming a coastal militia. They camped on the banks of Cape May Point to watch for the Royal Navy sails and take up arms against British coming ashore.

Robert Crozer Alexander writes in his 1956 Ho! For Cape Island!

… the patriotic residents of Cape May, knowing that the British sometimes filled their ships’ casks with water from a spring-fed, fresh-water pond called Lily Pond on the point of the cape, dug a ditch through meadow, dune and woodland to let salt water into the pond thus rending the water unfit to drink. The ditch extended from the north end of the pond for a distance of over half a mile to Pond Creek, a tidal creek flowing through the salt marshes and emptying into Delaware Bay. This was no inconsiderable undertaking for the patriots who had only axes and shovels. After the war, the ditch was partially filled and the water in the pond became fresh once more. In 1910, at a place where trees had been chopped down to be cut in logs and cordwood, a part of this old ditch was disclosed passing through sand dunes,16 feet high. Traces of the historic ditch are said to be visible even today.

Lake Lily lay in oblivion again in the midst of the Stites Beach wilderness until the 1870s. Devout Presbyterians Alexander Whilldin and John Wanamaker, Philadelphia dry goods tycoons, decided to carve a religious retreat from the 260 acres of virgin woods at Cape May Point. They hired noted British designer-engineer-surveyor James C. Sidney to create a community called Sea Grove.

Lake Lily was a natural centerpiece for the development. Sidney decided there would be no streets, only Avenues, except for one service street and Lake Drive. The drive encircled Lake Lily, offering, as Cape May Point historian Joe J. Jordan writes, “a pleasant track where nouveau-riche drivers could display their fine livery.” There were stables nearby where residents kept their horses and carriages, and visitors rented livery service.

The man-made counterpart to the lake is Pavilion Circle, the large park designed by Sidney, which to this day is the centerpiece from which the avenues branch like spokes from the hub of a wheel. In 1875 when the Sea Grove development was completed, the fancy Victorian open air Pavilion seated 1,500 for religious and musical events.

Also in 1875, as Sea Grove was being completed, Lake Lily was dredged to make it deep enough for boating. Sidney designed a charming boat house at the foot of Central Avenue. From there, small sail and row boats slithered across the glossy lake. The occupants in their Victorian boating attire created romantic scenes pictured on postcards of the day. There were weekly regattas and weekend picnics spread on the banks.

A Sea Grove brochure bragged the lake was “stocked with perch, sunfish and black bass,” a complement to the carp and catfish that always beckoned boys with fishing poles. Nearby was “a handsome and commodious greenhouse, operated by an experienced florist, propagating a large number of flowers to decorate and add beauty to the grounds.” Town folk enjoyed excursions to Lake Lily, featured by the pious Presbyterians as wholesome fun compared to drinking, gambling and prostitution at neighboring watering holes.

In winter, there was ice skating on the lake and a small business of cutting chunks of ice to supply the lakeside Walker Icehouse.

The plain icehouse faced a fancy future. It was purchased by Dr. Randall Hazzard, a Pittsburgh physician. He enhanced his social position rehabilitating the icehouse into an elegant clubhouse called the Cape May Point Social Club. Joe Jordan writes in his Cape May Point Illustrated History: 1875 to Present: “The country club had many aliases. On any day the press might refer to it as the Lakeside Lodge, or Lily Lake Casino or Lakeside Villa.” The clubhouse opened August 11, 1899 with a reception and tea. Jordan says ladies gathered weekly for euchre and whist, there were monthly tea parties and members played golf, tennis, shuffleboard and ping-pong on the lawn.

It was Dr. Hazzard who designed the rustic bridge overlooking the lilies at the northern end of the lake. The bridge was a favored subject for photographs and paintings, and the premiere spot from which to watch the annual water festival with all the boats and structures lit up for spectators who traveled from miles around.

The Ferris family of Philadelphia purchased the lake and the Kechemeche Lodge on West Lake Drive in 1930. Sonia Forey, librarian at the Cape May County Historical and Genealogical Society, says that a member of the family, Jean Leon Gerome Ferris, was a rather famous artist. He painted and studied in Philadelphia and Paris, and in later years, worked at an easel in his lakeside studio. His widow, Annette, bequeathed the lake to the borough of Cape May Point in 1941.

The nasty Ash Wednesday Nor’easter of 1962 pummeled Cape May Point for three days. Twenty-foot waves smashed into the dunes and flooded Lake Lily, polluting it with salt water. The namesake lilies were killed off, not to return for years.

The lake itself was dying in the 1990s. Shaped like a big oval bowl, the lake is at the lowest point of a 120-acre watershed that extends east into a pond at the Cape May Point State Park and further east into the sprawling marshes of the Meadows bird sanctuary. The unusual geography is one of the reasons this area is one of the best bird watching spots in the world. Lake Lily always has been a rest and food stop for millions of migrating birds in the Atlantic Flyway. And that became part of the problem. Over the years, bird waste and silt diminished the lake, destroying its ecological balance.

Citizens of the Point took action to create new life for the lake. Led by then-Mayor Malcolm Fraser, the borough, population 230, contributed $250,000 to more than $750,000 in state money. A contractor was hired in 2003 to dredge the lake in a complex system that pumped dirty water several blocks away to a basin at the old magnesite plant. A series of constructed sediment basins and dikes cleansed the water which was then pumped back into the lake, restoring its health.

In 2005, the Friends of Lake Lily, a non-profit group of concerned citizens, planted 1,000 water lilies from money collected at fundraisers. President Francine Nietubicz says the project is successful. “Lilies have spread all across the southern end by the island, and are now growing along the edges.”

There were some bad days this past summer when record high heat waves and no rain resulted in a fish kill. The Friends work diligently to restore the fish population, reduce algae bloom and assure that drains, filters and pumps are working to keep the water fresh.

Lake Lily and the bird watching it produces are reasons that Francine and her husband Joe chose Cape May Point as their retirement home 11 years ago. They live on East Lake Drive and often are awe-struck by nature’s surprises.

“Last winter there was a frantic knock on the door,” says Francine. “A friend stopped by with a bird alert. ‘Look, look, there’s a bald eagle sitting on the ice in the lake.’ Just now,” she says, “a brown creeper flew from lakeside into my tree. The lake attracts Great Blue Herons and Great Egrets and in summer, when the lake is low, the little shore birds – sandpipers – run along the fringes” There are ducks, swallows, osprey and terns hunting the lake’s smorgasbord. Turtles bask on logs along the shore and frogs serenade into the night.

The largest and most beautiful of all the lake wildlife are the elegant, graceful, glistening white Mute Swans that glide the glassy waters. A pair lives at the lake year round. As the sun grows stronger and spring arrives, they will be nesting. “Last season there were three chicks, or cygnets, as baby swans are called,” says Francine. “They stay the season, until they are strong enough to fly away and make a life of their own.”

Swan couples are committed and romantic, necking on the water, often spending a lifetime together. The male helps with the nest (clutch) and is very protective. “The lake male is very aggressive,” says Francine. “Last season he chased all the Canada geese.” They dared not set foot or wing on the lake. With his long beak and 10-foot wing span, you can’t blame the geese for beating it.

Lake Lily, a miracle of nature, source of legends and traditions, lives on. Beautiful through the seasons, loved by wild fowl; friends and neighbors have joined together to keep this special place fresh and healthy the way it was created. 


Cape May’s First Annual Green Film Series

"No Impact Man" comes to you direct from the Sundance Film Festival at Cape May Stage, April 25, 2010 at 2:00 p.m.

Why in the world would the Cape May Film Society host a Green Film Series just now? Why not years ago? Hasn’t environmental awareness been a long-standing cause? Isn’t Earth Day… like… 40 years old already?

Yes, in fact Earth Day is 40 years old this April. And to celebrate, the Cape May Film Society is hosting a special Green Film Series and kicking it off with one of the best environmental film to come along in years. Best because it is actually as entertaining as it is effective in raising environmental awareness. It’s that “entertaining” factor that is relatively new in the world of environmental films.

"Unstrung," the story of Pat Martino, screens April 24 at 6:30 p.m. at the Gallery Aferro in Newar, NJ.

On Sunday, April 25, at an exclusive 2:00 p.m. matinee at Cape May Stage, Cape May Film Society will partner with Slow Food Cape May to present No Impact Man, a funny environmental film straight from Sundance Film Festival. No Impact Man follows self-proclaimed Guilty Liberal, filmmaker Colin Beavan, who takes his family on a year-long adventure of having no impact on the environment and thus discovers a lot about himself and the way we all live. Question is, “Can he save his family while he saves the planet?”

The Cape May Film Festival is taking its show on the road – again! In a special event held in conjunction with the Smithsonian Institute’s Jazz Appreciation Month, the Festival will screen Unstrung, the story of Pat Martino, at the Gallery Aferro in Newar, NJ. Mr. Martino will be on hand to answer questions, as will filmmaker Ian Knox from the UK. The program will be held on Saturday night, April 24 at 6:30 p.m. Details at www.capemayfilm.org or by calling 609-884-6700.

Also being shown with the feature film No Impact Man is the environmental music video What About Tomorrow? produced by Charles Alexander. This year marks the 20th anniversary of What About Tomorrow?, The following is an excerpt written by Alexander looking back on the production of the video.

The music for the video is taken from a little-known song by Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, who are now more famous than ever because of the current global success of Jersey Boys, the Tony-winning play based on their lives..

At the time I produced this video, I was science and environment editor at TIME magazine. Instead of having our customary “Person of the Year” in 1989, we named “Endangered Earth” as “Planet of the Year” and compiled a 33-page special report on such dangers as global warming, deforestation and species extinction. The issue generated enormous interest, and I got invitations to address audiences from Maui to Moscow.

Working on one of those speeches in late 1989, I came up with a line something like, “We have enough resources today, but what about tomorrow?” That made me think of a song called What About Tomorrow? which was an obscure track on Streetfighter, one of the Four Seasons’ least known albums. But it was written by those same two Jersey Boys, Bob Gaudio and Bob Crewe, who wrote Big Girls Don’t Cry, Walk Like a Man, Rag Doll, and Can’t Take My Eyes Off You. What About Tomorrow? is a typically melodic Four Seasons’ love song. Yet, I thought it could be much more. Within a day, I had rewritten the lyrics to make What About Tomorrow? into a call for environmental action.

After obtaining the permission of the Four Seasons Partnership (Frankie Valli and Bob Gaudio) in early 1990, I immediately set out to make my rewrite into an environmental music video. Time was short. I wanted the video to have its premiere on April 22, 1990, the 20th anniversary of the first Earth Day.

To perform the soundtrack, I recruited my friends Bill Oliver and Glen Waldeck, a folk-singing duo who made a career of playing songs about the environment. Oliver happened to hail from the musical hotbed of Austin, Texas. To arrange the music and gather musicians for the soundtrack, he lined up Reese Wynans, at the time the keyboard player for the late Stevie Ray Vaughan. Wynans, in turn, put together an all-star Austin band. Percussionist Paul Pearcy, for example, had just been named one of the city’s top musicians at an annual awards dinner and also played on Willie Nelson’s and the Dixie Chicks’ albums.

With soundtrack in hand, I found a willing video producer, whose company did environmental documentary work for the Smithsonian Institution, in Sam Green, owner of the Edit Room in Washington, D.C. After listening to the song, Green and Jeff Consiglio, who became the director and editor, suggested that we could put together a video by using stock footage of nature scenes and filming original scenes featuring children, for whose sake we need to preserve the environment. Consiglio recently edited the documentary feature film War/Dance, which was nominated last year for an Academy Award, and also edited Weezer’s music video Pork and Beans, which won Best Short Form Video at the 2009 Grammy Awards.

To shoot the original scenes, Green and Consiglio hired skilled cinematographer Erich Roland. In recent years, Roland has shot footage for such prestigious TV shows as Frontline, Nature and American Masters. But perhaps his most celebrated year came just before he shot What About Tomorrow?. In 1989, Roland was camera operator on the Academy Award-winning Driving Miss Daisy and cinematographer for The Johnstown Flood, which took home the Oscar for best documentary short subject.

What About Tomorrow? premiered on Earth Day 1990 on the VH-1 national cable-TV network as well as airing on several local TV stations, including major network affiliates in Cleveland and Indianapolis. A couple of weeks later I was interviewed about my video on Nine Broadcast Plaza, a show produced by Channel 9, based in Secaucus, NJ, and serving New York City. The substitute host that day was an up-and-coming TV personality named Matt Lauer.

Why is this 1990 video still relevant? Well, the environment is even more in the news than usual, as Congress struggles to pass the first U.S. legislation to fight climate change. Unfortunately, little has changed in two decades. In fact, such ominous trends as global warming and habitat destruction have accelerated. The environment is more imperiled than ever. The future in which our children and grandchildren will live is more in danger than ever.

For decades, the music of the Four Seasons has brought joy to millions. But few people realize that Seasons’ music has also been used to deliver a powerful and vital environmental message in What About Tomorrow?

– Charles Alexander


Artificial Reefs: Insurance for Future Fishing

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An old boat is towed to the Cape May Reef for sinking

editors-note
This article originally appeared in Cape May Magazine, Winter 2008.

On any given day the most popular fishing ground off Cape May is none other than the Cape May Reef, aka the Sanctuary. Located 9.1 nautical miles from Cape May inlet on a course heading of 128 °, it is home to more marine species than any other marine structure inshore. The Cape May Reef is man-made and is the largest artificial reef, at 4.5 square miles, and the oldest artificial reef site in New Jersey. The Cape May Reef was originally started in 1982 by the Cape May County Party and Charter Boat Association. In 1984 the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Division of Fish and Wildlife took over all reef building responsibilities in the state from several private reef associations. It’s been a true success story between man and nature.

The objectives of the reef program are to provide:

  • Hard-substrate “reef” habitat in the ocean for certain species of fish and shellfish.
  • New fishing grounds for anglers.
  • Underwater structure for scuba divers.
  • Economic returns for tourism and sportfishing industries.

prep sinkingBy constructing and managing reefs, the goal is to spread the benefits of the reef’s resources to as many people as possible.

At less than 10 nautical miles from the inlet most boats have the range to fish the Cape May Reef. There are currently two other reef sites off the coast of Cape May County within 10 miles of major inlets: the Wildwood Reef and the T.I. Reef. There are a total of 15 reef sites encompassing a total of 25 square miles of sea floor in New Jersey. Part of the reef’s goal is not to change New Jersey’s marine environment, but to enhance a small controlled portion. Reefs such as the Cape May Reef are home to over 150 marine species. Some of the most common species preferred by anglers and divers are black sea bass, summer flounder, tautog, blue fish, Atlantic bonito, porgy and, of course, lobster.

sinking 2The Cape May Reef works like this: a hard substrate in the ocean provides an attachment surface for a variety of encrusting or fouling organisms called epibenthos such as mussels, sponges and barnacles. This creates a protective mat for species at the bottom of the reef’s food chain, which includes Crabs, Snails and Shrimp. In the middle of the reef’s food chain are bottom fish, like Sea Bass that feed on Crabs and Tautog that feed on Mussels. Schooling bait fish migrating through tend to like high structures such as sunken ships. Pelagic predators (free swimming) including Sharks, Blue Fish and Mahi Mahi are at the top of the reef’s food chain feeding on these bait fish and each other. Hard substrates also protect fish from not only predators but surges and current. Reefs create a cycle of life that is critical in supporting life in the ocean.

Removing the wheel house before sinking

The wheel house is removed prior to sinking

Since New Jersey has a very gently sloping, shallow coastal floor with very little hard structure such as outcroppings, and, although there are an estimated 500 to 3,000 shipwrecks off  New Jersey’s coast, many of these wrecks are slowly destroyed over time by the forces of the sea. The intentional sinking of vessels helps to replace deteriorating wrecks. As of 2007, the Cape May Reef is home to 21 sunken ships such as clam boats, Coast Guard cutters, cargo ships and tug boats. Other structures sunk at the reef are subway cars, barges, concrete ballasted tires, concrete castings and army tanks. All of these ships and structures have to be cleaned of all pollutants and pass a U.S. Coast Guard pollution inspection. All loose and floating debris must be removed as well. The next step is to vent all internal water, tighten bulkheads and, in some cases, cut holes just above the water line to assist in the sinking of the vessel. These holes are covered with a “soft patch” such as plywood to prevent leaking during the tow to the reef.

Reef balls

Concrete reef balls

Another very important structure are reef balls made entirely of concrete four feet in diameter and weighing 1,800 pounds each. These reef balls resemble small igloos with many holes. In the fall of 2007 over 500 of these reef balls will be towed by barge by Sea Tow Cape May and sunk on the reefs’ sites off Cape May County. It’s important to note that most of the sinkings of these structures are funded by the private sector such as the sportfishing fund and non-profit organizations that have raised donations from fishing and diving clubs. Without these clubs and organizations much of the success from the reef program would not be possible.

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Most of the fishing on the Cape May Reef is done by drifting and fishing off the bottom and, since it’s such a large reef with so much structure, fishermen can make long drifts and the reef can handle hundreds of boats fishing the reef at the same time. Most of the drift fishing is done in the middle of the reef in approximately 65 feet of water. The northern end of the reef is the shallowest area – about 55 feet. Wrecks and reef balls are spaced far enough apart that boats can easily anchor. The lower end of the reef is the deepest at about 70 feet. Here there are larger wrecks and subway cars. This area is preferred by scuba divers. Many party and charter boats fish the Cape May reef daily from late spring through the fall. Most of these trips last between six and eight hours.

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Artificial reefs such as the Cape May Reef ensure fishing for future generations. So, next time you fish the reef and your fishing rig gets snagged, think of what’s below you and all the work it took to enable you to catch that fish!

steve-spagnuolaStephen Spagnuola, a graduate of Visual Arts, New York City, worked as art director for many ad agencies in New York before leaving advertising to pursue fashion photography, and worked on such magazines as Stuff, Flatiron, and Zink. Stephen is a freelance photographer and marketing director for Sea Tow Cape May. Visit Steve online


Blame it on Mother Nature

DSC_0512sm“Blame it on Mother Nature.”

According to City Manager Bruce MacLeod the sudden disappearance of the Cove beach is the direct result of “astronomical [literally] extreme high tides” over the last month and particularly during the full moon July 7. MacLeod said the Cove was never part of the state and federal Beach Replenishment program which has been pumping sand back into the beaches of Cape May since 1991. He said the sand was only pumped up to the jetty at what is commonly referred to as Third Avenue. The Cove is considered part of Cape Meadows. The fact that the Cove beach expanded to the point where city officials in 1995 felt compelled to put a lifeguard stand in has all been part of a natural evolution. And, it seems, what Mother Nature giveth, she has decided to take back. City officials are also worried about a mass of salt water that invaded the Mt. Vernon section of the beach and headed into the South Meadows. MacLeod said a swab of salt water some “30 to 40 feet wide” found its way into the Meadows last Thursday. MacLeod said representatives from the Army Corp of Engineers and the Bureau of Coastal Management are coming to Cape May in the next few days to inspect that site.

DSC_0524smLocals say the Cove is just going back to the way it was 20 or 30 years ago. In fact, MacLeod said longtime Cape May Beach Patrol lifeguard Lt. Harry Back predicted city officials would start seeing another jetty by the Mt. Vernon beach entrance reappear. “Sure enough, after the weekend, we spotted it,” said MacLeod.

According to MacLeod, Cove beachgoers will have to check the tide charts and make sure their bathing is at low tide until Mother Nature again decides to shine down on the little strip of beach at the end of Cape May. Don’t forget, at one time that area was the site of another borough, known as South Cape May. There’s a reason why it isn’t there anymore – Mother Nature.

Aerial view of the Cove beach in 2006

Aerial view of the Cove beach in 2006

Learn more about beach replenishment and erosion in Cape May

Rebuilding a Beach
Nature Meets Nurture at Saint Mary by the Sea
Cape May Beach Replenishment Project
What happened to South Cape May?


Hot Dogs & Soda for Cape May Point

Hot dogs, sodas and bicycles are coming to Cape May Point State Park this summer. For the first time in itscmp-hotdogs 38 year history, Cape May Point State Park is advertising for vendors – one for a mobile food concession and another for bicycle rental.

Communications coordinator for the NJ Division of Parks and Forestry, Dana Loschiavo, confirmed that a notice was placed on the New Jersey Parks’ newly launched website, www.njparksandforests.org Wednesday, March 25 seeking “new business opportunities” for two venues – a mobile food cart and bicycle rental – for Cape May Point State Park.

Although other state parks do have concessionaires, up until now Cape May Point State Park has been vendor free. Loschiavo conceded that economics was part of the decision, but the move was also motivated “basically, by word-of-mouth” from visitors and reports from park superintendents who are frequently asked where they can buy a drink or a snack. “It’s not that the park is remote,” said Loschiavo, “but there is not a lot of food or restaurants unless go you into the towns of Cape May cmp-deckor West Cape May and many also said, ‘I don’t feel like walking or riding a bike all the way to the Point from Cape May.’ ”

A press release issued from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) states that the DEP is offering opportunities for businesses to operate concessions in many of New Jersey’s state parks, forests and recreation areas. Acting Commissioner Mark N. Mauriello is quoted as saying, “There’s no better time than right now to embrace these opportunities to become a concessionaire. Not only is it a chance to launch a rewarding and lucrative business, concessions add something extra special to the experiences millions enjoy in New Jersey’s parks and other recreation areas,” Commissioner Mauriello said. “What’s more, we’re always cmp-beachinterested in exploring new ideas for business opportunities and partnerships.”

According to the press release, the DEP’s State Park Service is seeking proposals from private and nonprofit sectors to operate 23 concessions throughout the state parks, forests, recreation areas and marinas, beginning Memorial Day weekend. Business opportunities range from food services to boat and bicycle rentals.

Concession opportunities are available through a public bidding process. Bids will be accepted until April 29 at 10 a.m. Businesses or individuals interested in submitting bids must first pre-qualify. Prequalification applications must be received by April 17 at 11 a.m.

The State Park Service currently manages some 40 seasonal concessions that generate $1.3 million annually. Cape May Point State Park encompasses 190 acres of the state’s most renowned migration habitats.

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Governor Jon Corzine

In an exclusive Cape May Magazine interview, Governor Jon Corzine was asked about the effect the new concessionaire policy would have on the environment  at the migratory park. “It depends,” said the governor, “on the specifics of the concession that they’re doing. I don’t want to speak to it until I know the facts. If you’re going to be putting neon signs outside next to a trailer selling hot dogs, [that’s a problem]. I think there is a way of having concessions that are very unobtrusive that are really supportive of a visit to one of our open spaces and beaches.”

When asked if this new policy is a reflection of proposed budget cuts, Governor Corzine said, “We’re trying to do everything we can to maintain our parks. It’s tight budgets. We’re not putting any more money in and there are been some increases in fees to allow us to have resources. By the way, that seems reasonable since they have not stayed up with inflation over the years. On the other hand, we’re trying to make them affordable so that people can use our parks and beaches. As you know we have this beach badge controversy up and down the Jersey shore which is really a local issue [Cape May charges for in-season beach access. Wildwood, for example, does not.] as opposed to a state issue. cmp-telescopeEveryone is pressed for resources. You can’t fill a $7 billion hole without making some tough choices.”

Loschiavo said the continuation of the vendors or the addition of more “novelty” vendors will be reevaluated on a yearly basis.

Asked to comment on the new additions, Don Feriday, director of birding programs for the New Jersey Audubon Society, said “We really have no comment. It is something that is done in other state parks and as long as the additions have no negative ecological impact, and I don’t see that happening with what they propose to do with Cape May Point State Park, we really don’t have any reason to comment on it.”

He added that, from a birder’s perspective, “biking is a great way to go birding and has far less carbon imprint than driving around Cape May Point in a car.”