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Open House Highlights Cape May Beach Safety Committee’s Priorities

Visitors inspect gear on the beach atCape May Beach Safety Committee’s open house
Courtesy Cape May City’s Facebook page

Visitors inspect gear on the beach atCape May Beach Safety Committee’s open house, June 24. 

By Vince Conti

CAPE MAY – Cape May City Council’s Advisory Committee on Beach Safety teamed with the city’s Beach Patrol to host an open house, June 24, at the Beach Patrol building on Beach Avenue.  

The event promotes public awareness of the advisory committee’s initiatives and provides safety tips for beachgoers in America’s oldest seashore resort. 

The very next day, the DeSatnick Foundation held its annual Around the Cape Paddle, a fundraiser that contributes funds to the foundation’s mission of support for those living with paralysis and spinal cord injuries. 

The two events are inextricably linked by history. 

In 2001, Chad DeSatnick injured his spine in a surfing accident off a Cape May beach. Following the injury and long years of rehabilitation, the DeSatnick family became prominent advocates for beach safety with a heavy emphasis on the sand slopes that they say was linked to erosion following federal beach replenishments. 

Dennis DeSatnick, Chad DeSatnick’s father, chaired the city’s first Advisory Committee on Beach Safety until a proposed new resolution altered the mission of the committee at the end of 2021.  

The resolution broadened the scope of the committee’s mission, and, for both Dennis and Chad DeSatnick, it seemed to place less emphasis on the safety issues they felt should be at the center of the committee’s work. Both resigned from the committee.  

Chad DeSatnick made the split very public with a letter to the editor in the Press of Atlantic City dated Nov. 14, 2021. In that letter, he went so far as to say, “I think fiction has met reality and ‘Jaws’ has become the Cape May surf zone.”  

The new administration, under Mayor Zack Mullock, did not agree that the beaches are dangerous traps for the unwary.  

Both Chad and Dennis DeSatnick argued for coordination with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to develop a demonstration project to make the beaches safer, the hiring by the city of a coastal engineer to study the issues and continued focus of the committee on safety as its central mission.  

When that did not happen in the way they thought it should, the advisory committee and the DeSatnick family went their separate ways, with happenstance leading each to sponsor an event on this same weekend in June. 

The committee has continued its efforts under a broader charter with a focus on public outreach and education concerning safe beach practices, ongoing evaluation of water quality, improving beach accessibility, and keeping a responsibility for monitoring issues related to beach slope.  

The committee has been involved in the new public address system improvements at the beach, brochure development, and social media efforts on beach safety.  

Committee meetings have also addressed broadening state permits for beach repair and addressing issues of safety related to beach replenishment.  

On the weekend of June 24, the open house and the paddle were held. The advisory committee and the DeSatnick Foundation both moved their missions forward.   

Contact the author, Vince Conti, email vconti@cmcherald.com. 

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