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DEP Approves Plans for Wildwood Crest’s Revamped Lifeguard Building

Wildwood Crest's beach patrol headquarters are seen in the background. The building is getting a big renovation.

By Christopher South

WILDWOOD CREST – The Borough of Wildwood Crest was notified by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Oct. 20 that it could make proposed upgrades to the existing Wildwood Crest Beach Patrol headquarters building at the end of Rambler Road. 
The approval letter says the renovation will include upgrades to the building facade, windows, doors, and the construction of an attic loft with a pitched roof to replace a leaking flat roof. The last change will increase the height of the building by 15 feet. 
The approval also allows for the reconstruction of a one-story, 230-square-foot addition that was originally built between 1991 and 1995. The DEP’s letter indicated the borough did not need a Coastal Area Facility Review Act (CAFRA) permit to reconstruct the addition for several reasons, including that it was not encroaching on the high-water mark, did not require extra parking, was not a substantial improvement and was not increasing the footprint of the building. 
An ADA-accessible entry ramp on the west side of the building was also part of the proposed improvements. 
Commissioner Joseph Schiff, the borough’s Director of Public Safety, said the DEP’s letter was needed to get the project going. 
“We’re staying in the footprint, we’re not expanding at all, there are no whistles and bells, no HVAC system,” Schiff said. 
Schiff said the plan is to match the exterior and roofing with the old library, which is also being rehabilitated while making the interior more functional and up to date.  
Beach Patrol Chief Buddy Johnson has been with the Wildwood Crest Beach Patrol since 1966 and is familiar with the history of the headquarters building. 
“The facility we are talking about was built in the late 50s as a two-room building with a small porch out front with a ramp so you could drive a vehicle up on it,” he said. 
Johnson said the borough added a garage about 10 years later. As the beach patrol increased its workforce in the 1970s, they needed more space and added a second floor in 1978 or 1979.
“Since that time, nothing has been done. Essentially, for 40 years it’s remained the same,” he said. 
Johnson said the cinderblock building with a stucco facade has been sitting in a beach environment the entire time. Johnson said the electrical and plumbing need to be upgraded. He said last year the showers were not operational and they had to bring in portable showers to get through the summer. When the water was turned off a couple of weeks ago, the plumber went under the building and found deteriorated pipes. A lot of the sinks were draining onto the beach under the building.
“He said, ‘It’s time’,” Johnson said. 
Johnson echoed that sentiment and said the building has served the community well, but it’s time for something new. 
“(The community) got their money’s worth out of the building,” he said.  
All the while, the beach patrol has grown from 20 lifeguards in the 1950s to 92 employees today. Over a quarter of the guards are female and are sharing a 200-square-foot locker room. 
“We need to increase the space for the ladies,” he said. “The locker rooms will be more equal – women to men – and there will be more room to store equipment, and a classroom upstairs,” Johnson said. 
With the approval from the DEP, the commissioners put the job out to bid, with a contract to be awarded sometime in February. Johnson thought some of the upgrades could be completed by Memorial Day when the season opens.
Schiff, who just completed his 11th season as a volunteer with the beach patrol, had praise for Johnson and the WCBP. 
“Our beach patrol is second to none, and Buddy Johnson is a great leader,” he said. 
Thoughts? Comments? Email csouth@cmcherald.com or call 609-886-8600 ext. 129.

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