By Donald Wittkowski
The birds, turtles and other wildlife that call Sea Isle City’s tranquil back bays their home will soon be sharing this picturesque setting with others – kayakers, paddleboarders and fishing enthusiasts.
In a boost for the project, Sea Isle is lining up $935,605 in funding from Cape May County to finance a fishing pier and what will be the city’s first public launch site for kayaks and paddleboards along the bayfront. It is expected to be ready in 2020.
Mayor Leonard Desiderio announced during the City Council meeting Tuesday that the county Open Space Board has endorsed the project. The next step calls for the county Board of Freeholders to give final approval to the funding.
“I’m confident it will be met with approval,” said Desiderio, who is a member of the Board of Freeholders in addition to serving as Sea Isle mayor.
Crowded with upscale homes, the bayfront offers few places where kayakers, paddleboarders and anglers have access to the water. Sea Isle will open up a spot to the bay by building the new project behind the city’s Dealy Field athletic complex near 60th Street.
It will include a fishing pier, a launch site for kayaks and paddleboards and decorative lighting. The kayak launch site will also have access for disabled people. There will also be a pier with a covered pavilion for nature watching and to soak up the bayside scenery.
“I think the public will enjoy it,” Council President Jack Gibson said.
City Business Administrator George Savastano said the project should be completed by the summer of 2020. He estimated it will take about six months to secure permits from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. Barring any delays, construction will get underway in fall 2019.
For Sea Isle’s kayakers and paddleboarders who want to enjoy the ocean, all they have to do is launch off the beach. Gaining access to the bays, however, is a little more difficult for them because of all of the houses dominating the bayfront.
“It’s clear, kayaking is growing in popularity and there is a need for access to the bayfront. But if you don’t have a bayfront house, there are few places to launch a kayak along the bayfront,” city spokeswoman Katherine Custer said in a recent interview.
A communitywide survey conducted in 2015 prompted responses from local residents urging the city to create more access to the bayfront for kayakers as a way to enhance recreation.
About a year ago, Sea Isle officials and the city engineer settled on Dealy Field as the best location for a kayak launch site and fishing pier. Dealy Field, which includes parking, is the hub of the city’s recreation facilities.
The city was able to acquire some additional property recently that could be incorporated in the proposed fishing pier and kayak launch site. The property consists of wetlands overlooking the bayfront near 59th Street. Sea Isle foreclosed on the wetlands site after the owner failed to pay property taxes for years, City Solicitor Paul Baldini said.
Paddleboarding video from Sea Isle City Facebook page