UPPER TOWNSHIP — Beesleys Point is often called New Jersey’s largest cul-de-sac.
The community at the northern tip of Cape May County once had hundreds of cars cruise through it a day, traveling north and south on Route 9, to and from the Beesleys Point Bridge.
Then, on a June afternoon in 2004, the bridge was closed because a concrete support collapsed. The necessary repairs turned out to be cost-prohibitive. The span never reopened, and the state will start knocking it down next year. Now the only access into Beesleys Point is from the south.
It is now a quieter neighborhood, with safer walkways and less noise for homeowners, especially in the summer when it was once along a busy highway to the shore.
“I’m glad the bridge is gone,” said Jody Vaughn, who has lived on Route 9 for 25 years. “It’s quieter. We always had the Harleys take the scenic route every Sunday, so we always had them roaring by.”
Seemingly just as many other people are annoyed about the now-permanent detour.
“I like the quiet, but I much more value the access to the mainland and Shore Memorial Hospital,” said South Drive resident Eydie Tormey.
For people living on Harbor Road, at the northernmost part of the community on the Great Egg Harbor Bay, the bridge closing has added four miles to a trip to Somers Point.
To get there, they have to drive underneath the Garden State Parkway bridge, turn left on North Shore Road, which was formerly Route 9, drive south to Marmora, get onto the Garden State Parkway and drive back north, passing their own homes as they go.
“That’s four miles wasted,” said Howard Platt, who has lived on Harbor Road for 60 years.
There are only a few businesses in that part of town, but some have been hurt. The most affected has been the Tuckahoe Inn, which sits at the foot of the soon-to-be-gone span.
It used to be on the way, but now it’s out of the way, and it has essentially lost all happenstance clientele that would visit if driving by.
“We still have people who call and ask how to get here from Somers Point,” said general manager Matt DiNardo.
The restaurant sits on the site of a hotel built in 1848, 80 years before the Beesleys Point Bridge was built in 1928. The hotel burned down in 1961, and it reopened as the Tuckahoe Inn in 1963. The current owners took it over in 1996.
Business was a lot better a decade ago, DiNardo said, when they would regularly have waits at the door for weekday lunch. It’s still very popular, but it will never be the same as before.
Across the street from the Tuckahoe Inn is Beesleys Point Sea-Doo, a boat and personal watercraft dealer. Behind that is the B.L. England Generating Station, which has between 50 and 75 employees depending on the time of year. There used to be a nine-hole golf course next to B.L. England, but it closed at the end of 2009.
The area looks expansive on a map, but it is actually a thin strip of developed land squeezed by wetlands. Most of the community is only a half-mile wide from east to west, half the width of neighboring Ocean City in places.
The “Entering Beesleys Point” sign is between Teal and Gardners lanes, so from north to south the area is 1.4 miles in length, a little smaller than Northfield or Ventnor. That’s enough space for about 400 homes.
It’s also a historical area, first settled by Native Americans. Many burial grounds have been unearthed here by farmers and builders, and in 1991 workers found thousands of prehistoric artifacts near B.L. England that archaeologists estimated to be as ancient as 4,000 years old.
It was named Beesleys Point, after Thomas Beesley in the early 19th century, and his home still remains at the end of Beesleys Place. The area was also known as Goldins Point, Willets Point and Stites Point in its history.
Today, it’s Upper Township’s premier community, with lots of old homes in close proximity to the water.
“Beesleys Point has always been a little more high-end than the rest of Upper Township,” said Lynda Greaves, of Upper’s Petersburg section, a broker and sales associate at Grace Realty.
Jen and McLane Peter live on Route 9 in Beesleys Point. The recently married couple like to ride their bicycles, and they think it will be a safe place to raise a family.
Taxes are low, held down by money that comes from the nearby power plant, which will also soon be switching to cleaner-burning natural gas from coal. Their children would go to a quality high school in Ocean City, and they are only a half-mile south from a guarded beach on the bay.
Many of the initial concerns when the bridge closed were that it would increase response times for emergency vehicles, especially if there were an accident blocking the Garden State Parkway on the Great Egg Harbor Bridge.
Some of those concerns remain, although there is a turn-off for only official vehicles on the east side of the parkway before the bridge. It exits onto Cove Road, a dirt road to a couple of homes by the marsh, and provides quicker access to the northern part of Beesleys Point than going all the way south to Marmora.
The Great Egg Harbor Bridge is actually divided into two parallel spans. The southbound section was built in 1955, the northbound part in 1973.
Work to build a new southbound section twice as wide as the older one will start in March and finish in 2016. The new bridge would have a shoulder allowing emergency vehicles to pass, as well as a mixed-use walkway to again allow pedestrian and bicycle access across.
Demolition of the Beesleys Point Bridge will also begin in March.
Some locals have suggested installing an off-ramp on the new bridge that would at least allow southbound vehicles to get directly to Beesleys Point.
“I don’t know if I’d even be an advocate for that,” said Mayor Richard Palombo, who also lives in Beesleys Point.
Palombo said that everyone still sees plenty of people mistakenly try to take the Beesleys Point Bridge, ignoring orange signs saying the bridge is closed, maybe following outdated directions or misguided navigational systems, before turning around at the line of cones assembled at the bridge’s bottom.
“There’s no question Beesleys Point is a giant cul-de-sac,” Palombo said.
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