May 19, 2023
Before Memorial Day, North Wildwood will restore several of the shore town's damaged beach entrances and reshape sand dunes that have eroded in recent storms with funding from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.
The beaches between Third and Seventh avenues and 12th to 16th avenues have been the most susceptible to erosion and have lost much of their sand this winter. City officials have posted signs at these beaches instructing residents and visitors to enter elsewhere, but people are still getting onto the beaches at these points, North Wildwood's Mayor Patrick Rosenello told NJ.com, creating a dangerous situation that would only get worse with the influx of people that will begin on the holiday weekend.
According to NJDEP's letter of emergency approval, obtained by the Cape May County Herald, the department is providing a one-time grant to reshape existing sand dunes between 12th to 16th avenues and restore pubic beach entrances that have been nearly washed away. City officials must install fencing to designate the new entry points while the work is being done.
The work must be completed within 60 days, according to the letter. Additional repairs must be approved separately by NJDEP, no other dunes should be disturbed during the repair process and all existing wetlands, vegetation and wildlife must be left undisturbed.
"Getting the public access back was paramount," Rosenello told the Herald. "No matter what you try to do with the signage, and even barricades, people are going to go to the beach, they're going to climb over the barricades, they're going to go around the barricades, they're going to cut through the dunes."
Trucks will begin moving as early as next week, with work expected to be completed before Memorial Day Weekend, Rosenello told the Associated Press.
In December, in the weeks after the remnants of Hurricane Ian eroded North Wildwood's beaches, New Jersey sued North Wildwood to stop the city from building supports for its sand dune system The city countersued in January, seeking $21 million to reimburse it for its long-term beach repair expenses along with permission to build the dune supports.
Then in February, NJDEP fined North Wildwood $12.8 million for unauthorized work on its beaches.
In a Facebook post in March, Rosenello said that in previous years North Wildwood used Wildwood's beach for "sand back-passing" projects each year to replenish its beach for the busy summer season. By harvesting sand and using off-road dump trucks to spread the sand along North Wildwood's beaches, city officials could spread sand right along the shoreline.
But high tides interrupted this plan, making the beaches impassable to the vehicles. The city also attempted to build a sand berm, a man-made hill of sand intended to to protect beaches from erosion, but that project used too much of the city's resources and was later scrapped.
The city installed a steel bulkhead, a structure used to protect the land from erosion from tidal waves, despite a state order barring beach construction. According to Rosenello, the bulkhead has kept the damage from becoming "catastrophic," though the Department of Environmental Protection said in its approval letter that it believes the areas excessive erosion is being "exacerbated by end effect wave reflection from the currently existing, unauthorized bulkhead."