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Town wants to preserve, extend fishless pier

By TRUDI GILFILLIAN Staff Writer, (609) 463-6716
Published: Friday, July 28, 2006
Updated: Friday, July 28, 2006

A fisherman casting his line from the end of Wildwood Crest's fishing pier has a better chance of snagging a tourist than a weakfish these days.

The pier, home to the Wildwood Crest Fishing Club, once stood over ocean water, offering anglers the chance to sit back and catch as many fish as they could carry.

But the fishing club could not keep up with the ever-growing beach. It extended the pier, which now stretches about 1,000 feet, many times through the years, but in the end, the beach won.

“We're running out of members. We're running out of water. We're running out of money,” said fishing club President Greg Mazzotta.

At low tide, the edge of the pier is still another 200 feet from the water's edge — conditions are only slightly better at high tide — and a fishing club without the fishing just couldn't survive.

“There's very little water there. People are walking under (the pier),” Mazzotta said

Mazzotta said the club, founded in 1917, is dissolving. It has already handed over control of the pier to Borough Commission, and with just about 22 members left, it stopped charging dues long ago.

“It has a long history, but it had to end,” said Mazzotta, soon to be known as the club's last president.

The future of the pier, however, isn't so bleak.

On Wednesday, Borough Commission approved an application to the state for $250,000 in grant money to make the pier handicapped accessible, and the goal is to get more grant money to rehabilitate the aging wooden boards.

“Ultimately, it makes sense to extend it and add fishing once again. In the meantime, we want to open it up so people can enjoy it,” Commissioner Don Cabrera said.

Cabrera said fixing the pier to bring it into code compliance and up to Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, standards will cost $915,000 and that includes having the borough Public Works crews do some of the work.

Extending the pier to bring back the fisherman would cost another $300,000, he said.

The search for grant money to pay for the work may take awhile, but all three commissioners agreed the pier should remain.

“This is part of (the borough's) history and we have an opportunity to preserve it,” Cabrera said.

The club once had as many as 150 members and there was a waiting list to get a locker at the Heather Road pier clubhouse. And each year, the members and their wives shared dinner and dancing at a formal banquet.

Mazzotta, a member since 1985, said the club and its pier was once a hotbed of activity as members fished and their wives and children joined in.

“The only people there now are trying to get in the shade (under the pier),” Mazzotta said.

Two boxes of memorabilia from the club are being housed in the office of Mayor Carl Groon, and he hopes to hand them over to the town's historical society.

“It was a part of this town,” Mazzotta said.

And Cabrera is hopeful that the pier will continue to be.

“I believe it's a great amenity that hasn't reached its potential,” he said.

To e-mail Trudi Gilfillian at The Press:

[email protected]

9,261 Posts
Thanks for posting this,
although I never fished off this pier I have spent time fishing under it..
In fact I can remember years ago we got into a all out Bass and Blue Blitz back when there was plenty of water under it during the late 80's..

A friend of mine came knocking at the door one fall afternoon when I was living in Wildwood and said birds where all over Hereford Inlet. We jumped into my old JEEP CJ-7 and headed right onto the beach up on the Northend and chased the school of blitzing fish all the way down to the pier and had just a fantasitic bite on both sides of it as it seemed the tide trapped most of the fish and bait there well into dark...We had the place to ourselves,back then you really didn't need a beach buggy permit and not too many people drove the beach like today so nobody bothered you.
And one of our HotSpots along this long stretch of shallow beach was the pilings of this pier, Structure,Structure,Structure......

I for one would like to see this fishing pier extended and opened up to the general public.. But something tells me if they wait too long and it becomes even more expensive to due, it will fall to a future Nor'easter and nothing will ever come of it again. Much like what happend to the old 59Th St. Fishing Pier in OC... Thats another Pier where I could tell you stories..

15,362 Posts
I was a member for 2 yrs. Caught alot of fish off that pier! Would like to see them extend...and it would be nice if it could be a public pier! Hope it works out!

P.S. I was a member the last time they extended it.

Premium Member
5,198 Posts
I to have some fond memories of this pier back in "the day". Not sure it will survive, which is a shame.

395 Posts
I have been a member of the pier for about six or seven years now and it is real sad to see the state we are in. I think I was the only one who still fished off the pier up to last year. This year it has been impossible as the water does not even come close to the pilings. I could not tell you how much I will miss. I took my oldest son up last year (5 yrs old) and he loved it. That is the part that I will miss most of all!!!!!!!!! It is a shame but our membership got so low and it was impossible to get new members when you can't even fish!!! We made a last ditch effort last year to raise funds but it just won't work. Hopefully, somehow someway it can work out. That club has been there since 1917 and if you go in the clubhouse and see some of the old pictures and read the old logs you can see how good it was.

9,261 Posts
Here's a related story -

A Long Way To Fun

Plenty of room in Wildwood, but is a trek to the water
By MICHAEL MILLER Staff Writer, (609) 463-6712
Published: Sunday, July 30, 2006
Updated: Sunday, July 30, 2006

WILDWOOD – Hosi Khan of Montreal stood, hands on hips, looking for the rest of his beach party.

Khan lugged about 40 pounds of cooler, towels, beach chairs, umbrella and snacks piled high on a hand cart from the parking lot past the Wildwoods Convention Center.

But he stopped after 100 feet when he realized he wasn't sure where he was going. The rest of his family was nowhere in sight. With acres of deep sand surrounding him, he was looking for a beeline.

Finally, he spotted them waving about 100 yards north. With a grunt he leaned forward and continued the slog.

“My sister-in-law picked the place,” he said, panting a little as the cart's almost useless wheels dug parallel furrows in the hot sand. “She had to pick the farthest spot.”

With him pulling and his brother-in-law Tuan Vu pushing, they made it to the family's umbrella planted like an explorer's flag in their patch of white beach.

Families such as Khan's make this pilgrimage to the sea every summer day — sometimes many times throughout the day. The walk never gets any shorter.

Wildwood has the Mount Everest of beaches. It's so vast the city has dirtbike rallies here. It's so immense, it serves as a drop zone for skydivers every summer and boasts two outdoor movie theaters with room enough for thousands of beach towels, sandcastles and umbrellas.

The only erosion here is the kind that nibbles at your will to keep moving toward the mirage that is the water.

“We call it the desert,” said Drew Landes of Boyertown, Pa., still dripping from a refreshing ocean swim.

“We like that it's a long stretch of sand. It never gets too crowded,” he said.

Tour operators have taken full advantage. One company gives rides on the beach in a cherry-red monster truck named The Jersey Devil. Another enterprising businessman approached commissioners in 2000 about giving camel rides on the city's own Sahara.

Perhaps, as Landes suggests, some people are intimidated by the prospect of crossing to the water's edge without help from a Sherpa. More likely, the ample beach creates an optical illusion that there are fewer people here than in neighboring towns. After all, there are no beach tags here.

Celine Pilon of La Chute, Quebec, used a beach ball the size of a coffee table to play kickball with three children. They only needed a courtyard's worth of room but had enough empty acreage around them to fill Citizens Bank Park.

“We went to Cape May first. Here, it's better for the children,” Pilon said. “They have more room.”

Why so big?

Wildwood hasn't always had such a generous strand. Aerial photographs from 1920 show a consistent strip of sandy coastline resembling beaches in Ocean City today.

What happened? Two major things, beach expert Stewart Farrell said.

He is director of the Coastal Research Center at The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.

When the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built twin jetties along either side of Cold Spring Inlet, the rocks began trapping sand that might otherwise have drifted south to Cape May and the Delaware Bay, he said.

Then in 1922, an entire channel called Turtle Gut Inlet became choked with sand forming what is now Sunset Lake in Wildwood Crest. The sand from the inlet began to collect, helping to form what is now a Wildwoods phenomenon.

Another reason Wildwood has such amazing beaches is the sand itself. Five Mile Island has the finest sand in New Jersey, Jeffrey Gebert said.

He runs the coastal planning section of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Philadelphia.

“The smallest grain size of sand along 125 miles of New Jersey coast is in the zone occupied by the Wildwoods,” he said.

The difference is tangible. Wildwood's beaches actually feel different beneath bare feet than Strathmere's or Atlantic City's. The fine sand in the surf can be packed so tight it feels smooth and hard like marble. The dry stuff can be silty.

“There is a progressive fining as you go south along the coast,” Gebert said. “The grain size gets smaller and smaller until you get to Wildwood.”

Contrarily, Delaware Bay beaches have larger grains and even bits of polished quartz known locally as Cape May diamonds.

The grain of the sand has a correlation with the slope of the beach, Gebert said. Wildwood has some of the flattest beaches, too, in New Jersey.

“The larger the grain size, the steeper the slope,” he said.

So even though beachgoers have a long walk, at least it's flat.

Shifting sands

Farrell said Wildwood's colossal beach likely won't get much bigger.

“The rate of growth has come to a standstill on Wildwood's beaches. They won't get even 100 feet wider naturally,” he said.

This is good news in some ways. The city has to work daily to keep storm-water pipes free of sand. The bigger the beach, the more time it takes for tractors to rake trash and debris every morning.

The creeping beach has dry docked the fishing pier on Heather Road in Wildwood Crest. At low tide, anglers with the local fishing club can cast 200 feet and still miss the water.

The Army Corps launched a study of the island's beaches this year. North Wildwood's northern beaches have lost as much as 800 feet of sand in the past decade.

Gebert said tourism dollars are a factor in his agency's analyses for shore protection projects. There is no telling whether the island's large beaches attract tourists for the elbow room or keep them away because of the daunting hike, he said.

“As a beachgoer, the quarter mile of hot, dry beach to get to the Boardwalk or where you park your car. To me, that would not be an advantage,” he said. “Does it have an impact on the number of beach users?”

Not judging by Saturday's crowds. The beaches were dotted with umbrellas as far as the eye could see.

People seemed to enjoy the space, flying kites and building enormous castles. Wildwood hosted an Ultimate Frisbee tournament Saturday. The Poplar Avenue beach fit 60 fields with space for team tents.

Lifeguards in some towns rigidly enforce rules against tossing footballs or Frisbees on crowded beaches. Not here, Caroline Pauze of Montreal said.

”We used to go to Ocean City. But the lifeguards made you swim between the flags,” she said, toting a beach chair and a backpack full of drinks and summer reading.

“But I'm not here to play games today. I just want to relax.”

And here, more than at any beach in New Jersey, there is plenty of room for that.

To e-mail Michael Miller at The Press:

[email protected]
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