CAPE MAY - The city held its sixth-annual Harbor Fest on Saturday to showcase one of the Victorian resort's least appreciated natural attractions.
Hundreds of visitors flocked to the harbor to enjoy music, food and take in the picturesque view of sailboats and kayaks on the water.
Environmental attractions such as the Nature Center of Cape May and the Wetlands Institute in Middle Township offered exhibits for children.
Hadley Hinmon, 7, gingerly reached to pet a diamondback terrapin, half-expecting it to be slimy or gross.
"It's wet. And cold," she said.
She and her mother, Robin Hinmon, were visiting from Wilmington, Del. One of their favorite things to do in Cape May is to seine the harbor to see what creatures they can find. Last time they found a stingray, she said.
Ecotourism is a $544 million industry in Cape May County. Countless businesses rely on environmentally minded visitors for at least part of their livelihoods.
"It's perfect for us," said Gary Schempp, a beekeeper from Middle Township who sells wildflower honey made in Cape May County at his Busy Bees.
"We go to vineyard festivals and a lot of things tied to agri-tourism," he said.
He thinks his honey has curative powers for people with seasonal allergies. The honey is infused with local pollen, he said.
Lund's Fisheries Inc., of Cape May, promoted its canned clams and the city's important commercial fishing port, the second-most lucrative on the East Coast.
Jeff Kaelin, of Cape May, who handles government relations for the company, said his industry has a strong interest in promoting eco-tourism.
"We work closely with the recreational fishing advocates in the state. We're all in it together," he said.
The Cape May National Wildlife Refuge promoted its Saturday birding walks on Diamond Beach in Lower Township.
Visitor Service Manager David Bocanegra-Ramirez, of Mays Landing, said the sprawling federal refuge is under-appreciated, much like Cape May Harbor compared it to its more famous beaches and Victorian charm.
"Ecotourism at the refuge is not as big as we'd like it to be," he said. "One thing we're looking at is partnering with other entities. We're trying to build relationships with groups like the Wetlands Institute to support ecotourism."
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