Cape May County is a popular tourist destination, well-known for its beautiful beaches, sprawling boardwalks and numerous restaurants. But the Lower Township section of the county, which includes inland and bay areas, sometimes gets lost in that conversation.
Jim Ridgway and Mitch Plenn, superintendents of Recreation and Parks Department for the township, are looking to change that.
"The goal is to put Lower Township recreation on the map in a big way," Ridgway, 59, said.
One of the ways they want to do that is by adding a triathlon and using the Cape May-Lewes Ferry terminal as a hub. Preliminary discussions have been had with all the major parties to get the triathlon off the ground. All that's needed is final approval from Township Council.
But the Cape May-Lewes Triathlon is essentially ready to go, hopefully in June of 2013.
"I live in Wildwood Crest. This is my home. The southern Jersey Shore is my home. This is where I do all of my training," said Stephen DelMonte, the race promoter who also does the Atlantic City International Triathlon and the Tri/Run the Wildwoods. "I always thought it would a great idea to utilize the natural beauty."
Initial talks started two years ago between DelMonte and Plenn. At the time, they talked about doing a race at Cape May Point at the lighthouse. But there wasn't enough time to plan and effectively promote the event, so they called it off and waited.
DelMonte didn't forget. Last November, he was working on his computer configuring a layout for the race in Lower Township when he got a phone call.
It was Plenn.
"I said, 'It's hilarious you called because I'm working on a new proposal for a race in Lower Township right now,' " DelMonte, 35, said.
After talking to the council, Frank Simonsen suggested the ferry terminal. DelMonte was skeptical but promised he would check out the site. He was glad he did.
Once DelMonte was at the terminal, he realized what a perfect area it would be to act as the hub for the triathlon. They then got approval to move forward from ferry officials and the Delaware River & Bay Authority.
The plan is to hold two triathlons at the same time, a sprint and international distance, which should attract more people.
The sprint event is a quarter-mile swim, 10-mile bike ride and 5K run. The international distance is three-quarter mile swim, 20-mile bike ride and a 10K run.
The swim would be held in the Delaware Bay and end at the ferry terminal, which would be a transition area.
While the exact course is not official, DelMonte said athletes would race on parts of Ferry Road, Shore Road and Jonathan Hoffman Road and would cross over the West Cape May bridge.
"Athletes will pass vineyards, farms, playgrounds and have water views and run on freshly paved roads," DelMonte said.
Ridgway said he's excited for the event's possibilities.
"It really shocked me to see the number of people entering these triathlons," said Ridgway, who used to coach cross country at Lower Cape May Regional High School. "The swim, bike and run are such that it's a lot of fun for people. I thought it was the perfect setup too because we have stuff (beautiful scenery, interesting places to run) available that other people don't have in their races."
The inaugural race would likely be capped on the amount of participants, but that usually only adds to the build up for the next race.
Those involved don't think that 1,000 people is out of the question for the triathlon if they get the chance to pull it off.
DelMonte, who works in the hotel industry, has been putting on races for a decade. The Tri/Run the Wildwoods is entering its ninth year and is scheduled for Aug. 18. Last year, nearly 500 people registered for the event. The Atlantic City International Triathlon drew nearly 400 registered participants in its first year. It will return to the resort this year on Sept. 14.
DelMonte expects the number to go up as more people jump into triathlons.
"Endurance sports, in general, are now becoming a certainty for adults," he said. "Not everyone was a great athlete in high school, but it doesn't really matter. If you put in the time and effort and you have a love for it, you going to not just see results, but incredible results."
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