By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
At a new fishing pier just outside Sea Isle City, there is plenty of room to stand around to fish or crab, plenty of room to stand around to watch the wildlife and plenty of room to stand around to soak up the picturesque views of the bay.
If all of that standing makes you a bit tired, feel free to take a seat. But wait a minute. There’s nowhere to sit down because there are no benches at the pier.
The newly built fishing pier parallels Sea Isle Boulevard and is quickly becoming a treasured hangout for anglers, crabbers and nature lovers. But at this point, they have to bring their own chairs to sit down and take a rest.
However, Sea Isle Mayor Leonard Desiderio and Dennis Township Mayor Zeth Matalucci are discussing the possibility of asking Cape May County’s Open Space Board for money to pay for benches at the fishing pier.
The fishing pier was built as part of Cape May County’s $12.7 million reconstruction of Sea Isle Boulevard into an elevated roadway protected from coastal flooding. The nearly two-mile road connects Sea Isle and Dennis Township.
Visible from the roadway, the fishing pier is not far from the bridge leading into Sea Isle. Simply turn onto the off-ramp marked by a large sign for Minmar Marine and then make a quick right to follow a road that skirts the marshlands of Sunks Creek for about a quarter-mile.
A small brown sign pointing in the direction of the fishing pier says “Sunks Creek Recreation Area.”
Served by a small parking lot, the pier consists of a long concrete walkway, a metal railing that makes it safer for children to fish and crab and a handicap-accessible area. But there are no benches.
Sea Isle spokeswoman Katherine Custer said two options being considered for paying for new benches. The first is obtaining money from the county’s Open Space Board, which pays for parks and recreation projects. Another possibility is that 1st Bank of Sea Isle City might pay for benches.
“It’s a maybe from 1st Bank. But they’re going down that other route first to see if they get money from open spaces,” Custer said of the Open Space Board.
Mayor Matalucci wants to pursue Open Space funding to see if grant money is available, Custer noted.
Desiderio, meanwhile, already has a relationship with both the county Open Space Board and the bank. In addition to his role as mayor of Sea Isle, he also serves as a Cape May County freeholder, an elected position overseeing county government. He is also a member of 1st Bank’s board of directors.
Last year, Sea Isle was approved for a $935,605 grant from the Open Space Board to fund the city’s proposed bayfront kayak launch site and fishing pier near 60th Street next to the Dealy Field recreation complex. The city expects to build the project in 2020.
Sea Isle’s kayak launch site and fishing pier project is separate from the newly built county fishing pier at Sunks Creek along Sea Isle Boulevard.
Desiderio first publicly mentioned the possibility of adding benches to the Sunks Creek fishing pier during the Jan. 16 meeting of the Sea Isle City Tourism Commission. At that time, he agreed with Sea Isle Councilman William Kehner, a member of the Tourism Commission, that the benches could possibly serve as a memorial for deceased loved ones.
Sea Isle once had a program allowing people to memorialize their loved ones with personal inscriptions on benches lining the popular Promenade walkway. Although that program ended years ago, the fishing pier at Sunks Creek may provide a new location for memorial benches.