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Cape May County briefs

Trees return to the beaches: Cape May County briefs

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OCEAN CITY — What began as a temporary way to boost spirits in the dark, pandemic-ridden days of 2020 seems destined to become a holiday tradition.

Christmas trees are back again on multiple area beaches. There is more than one tree on the beach in Ocean City.

Near North Street in Ocean City, which appears to have been the first tree to be put in place to start the trend, this year’s example is set back from the beach to avoid getting in the way of a beach replenishment project staging in that area.

In a recent message to residents, Mayor Jay Gillian had asked that the beach project be kept in mind.

“Because they would have to be removed to avoid being buried, I am reminding residents not to place Christmas trees on the beach in the project area,” Gillian wrote. “The beach replenishment project is expected to extend into early January.”

The project will involve adding 1.5 million cubic yards of sand across the width of the beaches from Seaview Road to the fishing pier at 14th Street.

The North Street tree, set on the path of a beachfront restaurant, has clam shells and permanent markers for people to decorate, and a sign asking that only natural decorations be used to avoid harming the environment. There are also solar lights on the tree.

A tree was first put on the beach there in 2019, when neighbor Sue McElwee put one up for photos and decided to leave it in place through the holidays.

In 2020, many who could not gather indoors or travel to usual holiday destinations visited the shore to visit the tree, and others that were to follow, with word spread through popular images posted on social media.

Cape May police now have a drone

CAPE MAY — In some cases of missing persons and other emergencies, local police have sought help to get a view from the air from the U.S. Coast Guard or State Police, who have been responded with helicopters.

With a new drone, police will be able to get a view from above faster and in bad weather.

City officials recently announced the drone program, after a study by Lt. Kris Mazza, who is said to have spearheaded the effort. Firefighters and officers attended training sessions, with Mazza gaining a Federal Aviation Administration license to fly missions.

Officials say a partnership with AXON AIR and Wawa’s Foundation for Heroes Program allowed the department to create its first drone unit. The foundation helped pay for the equipment, with the balance funded by the city.

“With this new drone, we will be able to rapidly deploy in minutes,” reads a statement from the city.

The city purchased a DJI Matrice 30T, citing its 40-minute flight time, thermal imaging camera, two-way microphone, remote spotlight and ability to fly in severe weather. That style of drone is listed commercially at more than $10,000.

Cape May plans to work with police in neighboring Lower Township, who also have a drone. Officials say it can be used to assess damage from storms or other disasters, investigate serious accidents and give officers a real-time view of an emergency.

“This also gives officers an advantage in dynamic tactical situations, greatly increasing officer safety,” the city said.

Holiday food drive kicks off

SEA ISLE CITY — Mayor Leonard Desiderio’s annual Holiday Toy and Food Drive is underway.

Organizers say donations are now being accepted to help brighten the holidays for families in need.

Donations of non-perishable food and unwrapped toys can be brought to drop-off locations around Sea Isle City, including City Hall at 233 JFK Blvd., Crest Savings Bank at 4415 Landis Ave., First Bank of Sea Isle City at 4301 Landis Ave., KIX Package Goods on 63rd Street, Mrs. Brizzle’s Buns & Deli at 4601 Landis Ave., Rick’s Breakfast House at 6112 Landis Ave., Sands Department Store at 6208 Landis Ave., and the Welcome Center at 300 JFK Blvd. Donations may be made until Dec. 19.

Gift cards and money will also be welcomed and can be mailed or delivered to the mayor’s office at City Hall, 233 JFK Blvd., Sea Isle City, NJ 08243.

Prior to Christmas Day, the gifts that are collected will be delivered to local families, city officials said.

For more information, call 609-263-4461, ext. 1245.

Rebuilding underway at site of Boardwalk blaze

OCEAN CITY — New steel framing is in place and cinderblock is about to be installed at Playland’s Castaway Cove on the Boardwalk, after an arcade there was destroyed by fire in January 2021.

The amusement park was open over the summer, but the building on the Boardwalk remained an empty spot on the otherwise busy block.

The building will look much as it did before the fire, according to Castaway Cove Vice President Brian Hartley, with an arcade downstairs, along with ice cream sales and another tenant on either side.

Upstairs will be offices for the amusement park and storage.

“We can never have enough storage,” Hartley said Wednesday.

He said the contractor has assured the company the building will be ready for use by Memorial Day, but he added he is more cautious, instead suggesting July 4 to ensure enough time to get the games and other attractions in place.

The multi-alarm early morning blaze sent thick, black smoke over the beach and ocean. Crews were able to prevent the fire from spreading. Later investigations found the fire was accidental.

ATV signs vandalized

UPPER TOWNSHIP — People are noticing signs that township officials have put in place to discourage riders from taking ATVs and dirt bikes onto public lands.

“Our ATV signs are being noticed because they’re being pulled out of the ground and thrown in the street,” said Township Committee member Kim Hayes at a recent meeting. “We know that they’re at least reading them, because we’re picking them up and re-securing them.”

Township Administrator Gary DeMarzo said the next phase will be to install barricades and to encourage surrounding property owners to discourage the riders.

Unauthorized use of ATVs on public lands has been a perennial issue in Upper Township. This year, officials have raised concerns with their use in an area in Marmora known as Gandy’s Pit, the site of a former sand mine.

Contact Bill Barlow:


Twitter @jerseynews_bill

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