UPPER TOWNSHIP — The beach in Chris Twiggs’ and Kaitlyn Minehan’s new neighborhood has it all: warm water, free parking, friendly lifeguards and heavy construction.
The engaged couple’s new beach is on the northern edge of Cape May County, looking out at the Great Egg Harbor Bay in the Beesleys Point section of Upper Township. That gives them the perfect sunny-day location to watch progress on a $200-million or so construction project, replacing the southbound Garden State Parkway bridge over that bay and into Atlantic County.
OK, Twiggs and Minehan, both Ocean City natives, weren’t necessarily looking for a major construction job as one of their beach tourist attractions. But now that they’ve bought a house in Beesleys Point and gotten to know their closest spot of sand, they say they don’t really mind being right in sight and hearing range of the cranes and crews and barges building the newest piece of the parkway.
“This is white noise to me,” Twiggs said, on a hot, steamy Friday when he and his fiancee still had plenty of space to themselves on the beach.
“You can turn it off easily,” added Minehan, who used to live about a block from Ocean City’s busiest bridge, 9th Street, and swears she could hear every car coming into town.
On this day, they knew the scene was a bit more crowded over on the beaches in Ocean City. And speaking of transportation projects, they also knew it would be a major project right then just to get back over to the ocean beaches where they grew up.
Their trip to the new neighborhood beach took about 2 minutes, by Twiggs’ guess. Hitting his old 32nd Street beach would be more like “20 minutes,” he said. “And with parking, forget it — 30 minutes.”
Still, Jill Fitch could have a much shorter trip to her closest beach, because she has a home in Sea Isle City. But she leaves there and drives 20 or 25 minutes across the bay to Beesleys Point mostly because it’s the most convenient spot to bring her disabled son, Brian. She can park right by the beach most days, and there are no dunes to cross when she and Brian want to sit by the water.
“This has been going on a long time, but they’ll get it done,” said Fitch, who discovered the Beesleys Point beach because her family likes to use the ramp beside to get their boat in and out of the water. “The bridge work is almost done, but it will be nice when it’s all done.”
Colleen DeFoney, of Beesleys Point, also likes her local beach because it’s a good spot to get out on the water. But her craft of choice is a kayak.
“I usually come here on weekends, because I can bring the toys a little easier,” she said, waving toward a pair of ocean kayaks she planned to paddle out in with her cousin, Olivia Buccilli. “I just put up with the construction. I know it will be done eventually.”
And now, as it’s going on, she says, “I can just kind of ignore it. It’s not exactly visually pleasing, but it’s not too noisy. I think that would bother me more.”
Logan Pierpoint, of Marmora, has to sit on this beach usually one day a week. He’s a lifeguard with the Upper Township Beach Patrol, which keeps a stand on the sand at Beesleys Point to protect the people who show up — and there are usually many more of them on weekends, Pierpoint says.
He spends most of his work days over on the busier ocean beaches in Strathmere, another section of his home township. But he enjoys life on the bay beach, in part because he’s gotten to watch the construction job go along.
When he started looking, “There was this huge gap in the bridge,” said Pierpoint, who’s also had fun watching work crews maneuver those construction barges that carry the huge cranes that work on the bridge above. “But now, it’s all filled in.”
And for his stand mate on this day, Brooke Handley, the big job right off the beach just isn’t something to worry about.
“For the most part, (the noise) is just kind of like this,” she said, during a fairly quiet stretch in the job. “It’s more entertaining than it is annoying.”
Apparently, that’s also true for some people who drive down to this bay beach — but never actually step onto the beach, Handley adds.
“A lot of times we’ll notice that people will just park,” she said, in those free spots right off the beach. “They sit there and watch the work a while, then they go on with their days and leave.”