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Monday, June 17, 2024

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Residents Reassured on Village Road Beach Access

Christopher South
Beach access at the end of Village Road was temporarily closed due to unsafe conditions.

By Christopher South

VILLAS – Lower Township is reconsidering installing a bulkhead at the beach end of Village Road, after a group of residents expressed concern over the closing of the beach access.

Residents of Village Road and neighboring areas showed up at the Lower Township Council meeting Monday, June 3, to find out what is going on with beach access at the Delaware Bay. The township put up orange, plastic-mesh fencing across the access, with signs reading “Beach Access Closed” and a single metal sign reading “Beach Closed.”

“They should have read ‘Temporarily Closed,’” Township Manager Mike Laffey said.

Laffey said on Tuesday, June 4, that conditions at the beach access were deemed to be unsafe and need to be addressed. Initially, he said, the engineer recommended installing a bulkhead, which would have required the construction of a walk-over to clear the bulkhead, something some of the residents did not want. They cited the need to carry beach gear and kayaks to the water, and steps and a platform would make it more difficult for them.

Both Laffey and Mayor Frank Sippel spoke to the Herald on June 4 and made similar comments – that the township would like to consider the public’s desires while keeping the access for emergency vehicles. Village Road has been an access point for launching Fire Department boats or personal watercraft in the event of water rescues.

Deputy Mayor Dave Perry said the township might have to consider moving the vehicle access to Wildwood Avenue or farther south. However, Laffey said he and Public Works Superintendent Gary Douglass visited the site again on Tuesday morning and determined to get the access back to the way it was. He addressed concerns that the township was closing the access permanently.

“Closing entirely was never true,” Laffey said.

Residents asked what was being done and how long it would be before the beach access was open again. Laffey and the mayor both pointed out that the state Department of Environmental Protection does not allow any beach work to be done between May 7 and July 1, which is the red knot nesting season. Both men said the township would attempt to reestablish the emergency access while providing pedestrian access as well.

The street end of Village Road in Villas. The township has temporarily closed the beach access due to unsafe conditions caused by erosion. Photo Credit: Christopher South

“We can, if possible, widen the street end near the bay, allowing people to access the beach and at the same time keep emergency access,” Sippel said.

Laffey said he would see if it is possible to address the situation earlier than July 1; however, it would be up to the DEP.

He said he believes the township should be able to address the beach access appropriately for every need, and that temporary fixes will hold up better in the summer than in the winter months.

“Summer weather is not as bad, so we will just try to repair it,” he said.

Laffey said there is a paving project on Bay Drive coming up and the township should be able to address the street end at Village Road as well. He said the township would like to establish a loading and unloading zone at the street end.

The manager said the township should have a plan for the street end by the next council meeting, on June 17, and if the township gets permission from the DEP to do the work it will go ahead.

Contact the reporter, Christopher South, at csouth@cmcherald.com or 609-886-8600, ext. 128.

Reporter

Christopher South is a reporter for the Cape May County Herald.

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