I grew up at the Jersey Shore. From the time I was 6, part of my summer was dedicated to that stretch of beach that ran from Point Pleasant to Island Beach State Park. It might have been a week, a month or even a summer; I don’t think there’s a summer on record since that year I turned 6, that I DIDN”T spend time at the Jersey Shore. And since I’m older than I care to admit, I’ve seen a lot of changes.
When I was a kid (or as my son would say, “Back in the day”), whole days were spent at the ocean. You went up in the morning (lifeguards were on at 10) and maybe you went back to the house for lunch (food not allowed on the beach; a rule that was once respected) and then you went back to the beach again until the lifeguards went off duty (or later). Maybe you spent part of the day sailing on the bay (and you could even swim in the bay way back then; although you never wanted to put your feet down and touch the slimy bottom). Or maybe you spent the late afternoon on the deck or “back yard” area of the house soaking up the last of the day’s rays. The days ended with fireworks, trips to the boardwalk or mini-golf. There was no TV (you couldn’t get reception any way…and though cable TV existed it didn’t come to the island until practically the end of the 20th century). Maybe you read (there were plenty of little book stores and variety stores that dotted the island). Or maybe you just talked. (Yes, families talked and told stories way back then.)
But life and time moved on. Things changed and change is inevitable. Change is not necessarily bad, but in this case and for the most part, change was not all that good. The small little houses where families crammed for the summer season were sold, torn down and replaced with the NJ Shore’s version of the “McMansion.” The land lots were not getting smaller, it just seemed that way because every inch of land was built on and built up. Plots of land that were just plots of land were sold and developed and then redeveloped.
Overdevelopment (which continues to this day) didn’t kill the NJ shore. It hurt it a lot, in my opinion. The character and the flavor started to change. The bay became dirty. The traffic got worse. The little businesses which were charming and tacky were shuttered and often replaced by more condos.
Sandy came. The ocean and the bay met. Cars, houses and lives were washed away. Families that had come to the shore for decades could not return. The price was too steep; the cost too high. Sandy didn’t kill the NJ shore. It mangled it. It ruined most of it. But it didn’t kill it. For those who loved it returned and fought hard. (And in many cases continue to fight.) Slowly, slowy, the shore crawled its way back to life. The NJ Shore survived (barely) Sandy. Sandy didn’t kill the NJ Shore. (Although she certainly came close.)
The NJ Shore is still alive, but it will struggle to survive and will mostly likely someday (though hopefully not in my lifetime or in the lifetime of my children and grandchildren) die. What’s really killing the shore? People who don’t care. People who don’t respect this little strip of land (and probably not much of anything else either). It’s the people who climb the newly made dunes despite the signs that say keep off. (I know you want to get to the beach, but there’s a legitimate “entrance” just a block away. And how much fun is it really to fling yourself down these sand mountains and destroy what has taken years to be built?) It’s the people who bring food and drink to the beach and then leave left overs behind. (If there’s no garbage can, take it with you. If you brought it up, you can take it back. I can understand you wanting to take a few beers to the beach, but I don’t need to trip over a dozen empty cans as I walk up to check out the surf at 7 in the morning.) It’s the developers and contractors who leave their left over bits and pieces behind instead of packing them up and/or cleaning up. The garbage you leave at the property you are working on doesn’t stay there; it gets blown all over the neighborhood.
If you don’t care about the Jersey Shore, then don’t go. And PLEASE don’t ruin it for the rest of us. Respect it. Care for it. Pretend for a moment that it you think it’s as precious as your iPhone. If you do, this little strip of land just might survive for a little while longer.
Post reprinted with permission from Bfth’s Boring Blog.