The sliver of beach along the marshes between Somers Point and Longport is a rarity at the Jersey Shore — a breathtaking waterfront location with little solid, developable land near it. That for decades has made it appealing to people and animals seeking a quiet, natural shore.
Fishing, birding, sunbathing, beachcombing, bay swimming and dog walking have long been popular, with any potential conflicts between users typically resolved amicably. Fitting, then, that the beach’s biggest problem in a while has been fixed by the benevolent action of a city that has no legal responsibility for the area.
People know the area as Malibu Beach or informally as dog beach for its dominant year-round use now. In the old days, the area was called the Longport Sod Banks by fishermen, clammers and birders.
Rare birds are still important users. Beach nesters that have been chased from nearly all their historic homes at the Jersey Shore find a toehold at what is now Malibu Beach Wildlife Management Area. Each year the state closes and protects an area for endangered species such as piping plover, black skimmer and least tern — although as with people, who shows up varies each year.
Maintaining enough beach for that increasingly rare habitat prompted the state to build up the area several years ago with materials from the rebuilding of the Ocean City causeway. Somers Point last year thought it, too, might be able to place material there when it dredged its marinas and waterways, but a test of the material found it unsuitable for Malibu Beach.
Situated on Great Egg Harbor not far from the ocean inlet, the beach gets plenty of drifted debris, natural and manmade. As one of the few that is never raked, the beach is a favorite of shell collectors and beachcombers, especially after a storm.
Access for dogs started drawing crowds after the rebuilding of the adjacent bridge into Ocean City added a parking lot for a fishing pier. A small lot then was added on the dog beach side so people and pooches could avoid crossing the busy road.
All was fine until the cash-strapped Cape May County Bridge Commission last summer quit picking up trash from cans at the dog beach lot. That prompted complaints, including several letters to the editor, asking someone — state, township, Atlantic County, anybody — to fix it.
Dog owners themselves placed trash cans at the lot, but no one emptied them. The state, finding piles of trash and dog-dropping bags growing like mountains over the cans, removed them. Long-standing state policy for natural areas is for people to carry out their own trash.
Malibu Beach is in a disconnected area of Egg Harbor Township, but neither the township nor Atlantic County stepped forward with a solution to the trash. Sensibly, the answer came from across the bridge.
Just last year, an Ocean City councilman floated the idea of allowing dogs on city beaches during the summer for the convenience of visitors, with dog beach tags to fund the required cleanup and installation of waste-bag dispensers. He was surprised by the breadth and strength of the opposition to that proposal.
Maybe that was a factor in preserving the nearby place for dogs and owners to enjoy the beach. Ocean City Council recently approved spending $23,800 to install a large trash bin and have its garbage collection contractor add pickups at Malibu Beach.
We join the dog owners in gratitude for this help from Ocean City officials. Their cleaning up of a mess not in their city, not even in their county, is like the municipal version of the good citizen who picks up someone else’s trash in the park for the good of everyone.