ABSECON — The push continues to reinvent and revive a waterway that many say is unique for mainland communities and the city’s best-kept secret as officials fight for funding for the Absecon Creek area.
City marina owners and Mayor John Armstrong are in agreement that efforts to revive Absecon Creek have been neglected for many years.
Armstrong, who lives along the creek, contends that most city residents do not use the creek, and Dave Showell, owner of Absecon Bay Sportsmen Center, says that is bad for business.
“The city has in the past turned its back on the creek and master planning needs to be done,” said Armstrong, who took office in January. “The reason Absecon exists is that it was a shipbuilding community like Tuckerton and it fell by the wayside.”
The city owns about an acre of property adjacent to Absecon Creek that starts at the parcel formerly known as Kunkle’s Marina, Armstrong said. The property extends along a narrow strip of sand that runs along the waterfront and wraps around the creek toward Up the Creek Marina on Faunce Landing Road, Armstrong said.
Absecon Creek has been connected to plans to revitalize the city’s main street of New Jersey Avenue and develop the land near the waterway. Those plans included adding a small park with a boardwalk, so visitors could patronize the businesses in the area.
Showell said business depends completely on boaters and fishermen coming in through the creek and launching vessels off the creek at this underused destination spot. There should be room for people to come in, sit down and have a picnic, Showell said. The creek’s current setup makes it difficult for any commercial possibility, he said.
“The biggest problem with doing anything on the waterfront is always the (state) regulations. We have a beautiful area that could be used for recreation, and it amazes me that they make it so hard for even a good use,” he said.
Parking in the area is also problematic for visitors accessing the boat ramp, especially on a busy summer day. Because of the lack of parking, most times visitors resort to parking their vehicles along the area’s residential streets, which results in neighbors complaining.
“It’s amazing how many people want water access in this area. ... This creek has great crabbing and fishing and can give access to those people,” he said.
Armstrong said he wants to make Absecon Creek and the area surrounding the waterway a destination for visitors to the city. His plans for the area’s new image include a fishing pier and new boat ramps, along with the park with pavilions and boardwalk.
This requires money, of course, and Armstrong said to make it happen the city will have to work through the grant process.
“If we create an interest there, we will create attraction to the creek. Absecon needs a draw, and this could be it,” he said.
There is a grant application still outstanding with the Federal Emergency Management Agency for an area near the creek for a $450,000 project to add parking, dig up old concrete and replace the old dam with a pier.
Also still in the works are plans for a $580,000 project to redevelop an area on East Faunce Landing Road at Absecon Creek, where the city would like to add a parking lot, repair the walkway and build a living shore line or a natural bulkhead in the area, said city Manager Arch Liston. This area would also be able to be accessed as a boat ramp, he said.
“We have no funding for this project yet and the city was counting on DEP Green Acres funding for the project,” Liston said.
DEP spokesman Larry Hajna said the agency has so far only had preliminary discussions with city officials about Absecon Creek and their plans for work at the site.
Armstrong said the city has not yet submitted anything to DEP but is working to identify grant funding sources for master planning.
Joe LoPane, owner of Up the Creek Marina, said he is disappointed that he hasn’t seen the city do much of anything in the area since 1991, when he opened his business.
He cited parking as a problem and said the creek could be dredged because boaters get stuck in the waterway.
“During low tide it’s only about a foot and a half out there, and right after Sandy just six inches. There have been boats stuck out there with kids on them that SeaTow can’t even get to,” he said.
Revitalizing the area would not only help the marinas, but would bring money into Absecon for other businesses, LoPane said.
“They’re anti-tourism for this marina district. They collect all this money for the permits we sell, and they’re supposed to put the money back into the area down here. They just put money in the wrong places I guess,” he said.
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