Middle planning eco-tourism improvements at Reeds Beach

Middle Township is planning some public improvements at Reeds Beach, a popular spring bird-watching destination.

MIDDLE TOWNSHIP – The township is applying for grant money to add a kayak launch, bird-watching platform and other public improvements at Reeds Beach.

The township will appear before the Cape May County Open Space Committee on Feb.24 to apply for open-space money, Administrator Connie Mahon said.

“It’s an untapped natural resource. We’re trying to provide local people and visitors a better view of Cape May County. We have so much to offer,” she said.

Reeds Beach is a unique, almost exclusively residential neighborhood with a mix of seasonal rental homes, new two-story homes on elevated piles, mobile homes and abandoned cottages with boarded-up windows surrounded by tall dunes and marsh.

Several waterfront houses here were destroyed or damaged during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Some of them have been rebuilt on higher piles. Other lots remain empty after the damaged homes were demolished.

Until recently, Beach Avenue was a sand road. Even now the sand incrementally reclaims the new asphalt.

At the north end of Beach Avenue is a colorful hand-lettered sign on a chunk of concrete reading, “Welcome to Reeds Beach.” Last summer, someone spray-painted beneath the greeting, “Now go home.”

The neighborhood was quiet on Thursday except for the distant squawk of snow geese in the marsh. A lonely loon dove for crabs near the jetty.

The neighborhood is especially popular with visitors and bird-watchers in the spring during the annual spawning of horseshoe crabs when thousands of shorebirds feast on eggs half-buried in the sand.

Each summer, hundreds of baby diamondback terrapins hatch in their beach nests and cross the road to get to the marsh. Sympathetic residents put up hand-lettered turtle-crossing signs.

Mahon said the township wants to make low-impact improvements so residents and visitors alike can enjoy this eco-tourism attraction.

“We’ll be making some minimal improvements for parking and a gazebo on township property,” she said.

The township wants to resurface the Bidwells Creek jetty for surf-fishermen and make some improvements at the head of the jetty for a kayak launch into Bidwells Creek.

The Wetlands Institute will address the county board on behalf of the township, Mahon said.

Reeds Beach has a removable wooden platform at the edge of the dunes so birders can get a closer peek at the shorebirds when the beach is cordoned off each spring. But Mahon said the township would like to install an elevated birding platform that will give people an expansive view of the marsh and bay.

“We’ve been talking about this for quite a while with groups like the Conserve Wildlife Foundation and the Wetlands Institute,” Mahon said. “We’re excited to bring this project together.”

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