Brigantine rejects four-wheel-drive access plan
By JOHN BRAND Staff Writer, (609) 272-7275
BRIGANTINE - On any given summer day fisherman Ken Krebs might bring with him two to four surf-fishing rods, a cooler for his fish, two tackle boxes, fishing waders to protect his clothing, and 4- to 5-feet-tall sand spikes to help hold his line.
And that doesn't include what his two children - ages 10 and 7 - bring along when they join him.
"When you have a lot of gear with you and some kids, carrying that stuff just isn't practical," he said.
Krebs is one of more than 3,500 people who purchase four-wheel drive permits for beach access annually, contributing nearly $400,000 to the city budget.
On the other hand, Nancy Donahue will fill a little red wagon full of the toys her two grandchildren want to take to the beach and then they trek their way to a desirable beach spot.
"Why can't fishermen carry their fishing poles?" she said.
It looks like they might have to.
City Council passed a "voice resolution" at its public meeting Wednesday night that essentially shot down a proposal to allow four-wheel drive access at Brant Avenue.
The resolution will be formally put in writing at the city's Feb. 18 meeting, Mayor Philip J. Guenther said.
City Council created a beach committee in November after a surfer was hooked by a wayward fishing line this summer at the city's popular South End jetty -- a 350-yard swath where hundreds of fishermen, bathers and surfers, many driving SUVs - congregate on any summer day
The committee asked the city to open Brant Avenue, which currently connects to the beach via a small walkway, to four-wheel drive vehicles.
The beach off Brant Avenue and three blocks north would be designated for fishermen and bathers only, therefore, alleviating the density at the jetty, the proposal said.
But a large number of city residents, including many from Cloisters Condominiums, located near the proposed access road, spoke against the proposal.
Many claimed opening the road would drive down property values, create more safety problems, destroy plant and animal ecosystems and ruin their quality of life.
Yet fishermen are beginning to feel unwanted.
Although for most of the year they can drive along and fish off the entire stretch of the city's eight-and-a-half miles of beachfront, they only have two locations where they can drive and park their vehicles in the summer.
One is at the South End jetty, which could cause more safety concerns, and the other is at the state park at the city's northernmost tip.
But, the state's Department of Environmental Protection closes a large portion of the northern beaches to four-wheel drive vehicles each summer because of nesting piping plovers, a federally recognized endangered bird species.
Despite fishermen's concerns, Mayor Guenther thinks the city devotes enough space for fishermen during the summer and in the off-season.
Guenther said that more than five miles of the city's beaches are open to fishermen each summer, but he admitted that most of them couldn't be accessed by SUVs.
"Do we have access to fishing in Brigantine? The answer is yes. We have plenty of room," he said.
"If we try - and this has been the American trend - to so-called super-size our four-wheel drive areas, we may put in jeopardy what we presently have and I'm very concerned with that."
The council voted 5-2 to keep Brant Avenue as it is. Council members Bob Solari and Sue Schilling cast the dissenting votes.