Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Beacon of Light and Hope Among the Thousands of Sandy Stories. Melanie and Sonny at the Spot Pizza Grille in Point Pleasant Beach.

One of the artists Inlets and Outlets plans to follow through the post-Sandy reconstruction phase on the Jersey Shore is the acoustic duo Melanie and Sonny. The word legend gets thrown around without much thought nowadays, but one half of this terrific duo, Sonny Prewitt, is a bona fide New Jersey musical legend who has cast a large shadow over the local music scene since the club heyday of the 1970s. Sonny was a member of the Southern Cross Band, and pretty much anyone who was able to hit the clubs back when the Shore music scene was among the most vibrant in the nation has spent an evening with Sonny – whether you remember it or not.

His partner, Melanie Wagner is a relative new-comer to the area’s music scene, but her sultry and expressive voice is an equal match to the skill and feel Prewitt brings to each song the duo performs.
I spent the night at the Spot Pizza Grille in Point Pleasant (1506 Richmond Ave., (Rt. 35 NB)) on February 22 eating some excellent thin crust pizza and enjoying a beer or two while catching Melanie and Sonny’s show. As a personal note, the 22nd is also my brother’s birthday, and not only did my older brother Dave introduce me to the likes of the Allman Brothers Band and the James Gang, he also turned me on to the Southern Cross Band way back in the day.

The Spot is also a relative new-comer to the area, having opened in November, 2010. During Hurricane Sandy however, the Spot became a vital place for locals to grab something warm to eat and catch up on news from neighbors in the area.
Sonny Prewitt and Melanie Wagner at the Spot in Point Pleasant.
Melanie and Sonny opened the evening with an eclectic mix of new and old (Green Day, Train, Mamas and Papas, the Beatles, Phillip Philips and Doby Gray )made up the first six songs of the evening. The house sound system left the vocals a little hard to hear and understand, but Fleetwood Mac’s You Make Loving Fun,and the duo’s own takes on the classics Fire and Rain and I Shot the Sheriff were highlights that would have made the trip from the hinterlands of Jackson out to Point Pleasant well worth it on their own.

The absolute highlight of the evening for me was Melanie’s original tune Cupid which they played toward the end of their early set. I hadn’t heard the song before, but the mere fact that the hook stayed with me in spite of the noise level from the crowded bar spoke volumes about what I was hearing. When you hear a good song, you know it. Having acquired my own copy of Melanie’s debut CD Cross My Heart I can vouch for the fact that Cupid is in good, solid company among the rest of the tracks.
I had a chance to sit and talk between sets with the duo about the state of the music and entertainment business in the area post-storm, and overall their take was encouraging. There are still some challenges but the amount of work a band or duo is getting is a good indicator of the overall health of the area, and Melanie and Sonny are busy.

Melanie Wagner lays claim to the Leon Russell song and Carpenter's hit
"Superstar" on February 22nd, at the Spot in Point Pleasant
The duo played approximately 90 shows last summer, and even though in the direct aftermath of the storm their bookings dropped by half, establishments in the area are beginning to recover and come back on-line. As a sign that things are indeed improving, Melanie and Sonny are playing at Farrell’s Pub on Broadway on March 15. Located a few dozen yards from the Manasquan River, the first floor of Farrell’s was inundated during Sandy. Their re-opening is a great sign for all of us as it shows that the Shore is making strides toward its comeback every day.
Melanie is currently working on her sophomore effort which is being produced by Sonny. The duo promises a late summer drop. But until then, stop out at a Melanie and Sonny show, kick back and enjoy and pick up a copy of Cross My Heart on the way out.

I also had a chance to speak with the Spot’s manager, Toni, who filled me in on the role the restaurant played in the days immediately following Sandy. Most of the area was without power for several days if not multiple weeks, but the Spot was one of only a few places in Point Pleasant to get their power back on in the first 72 hours after the storm. The staff immediately began serving dinners to locals who were without food, water and power, and although the township and state did not allow them to serve alcohol for about a week, the Spot provided a lifeline of warm food (and cell phone charging) to the residents of the Beach.
The restaurant also provided pizzas to the National Guardsmen stationed in Bay Head and Mantoloking, as well as meals to the relief workers working out of the Bay Head firehouse. The Elks lodge in Point Pleasant hosted a Thanksgiving dinner for affected residents and the Spot donated to that effort as well.

On the Friday night we visited, the bar and restaurant was filled with a wide variety of folks – always a good sign that a place is catering to the desires of its clientele. In the days after the storm, the crew at the Spot stepped up to cater to their neighbor’s needs as well.
Between the beer, the excellent thin-crust Jersey-style pizza, an easy-going but attentive staff and the pleasures of Melanie and Sonny, a cold, rainy night in February gave an optimistic peek into the future. As Toni, the Spot’s manager said, the Spot became a “beacon of light and hope” last October and now we can all look forward to the time when it becomes just a simple destination of choice for pizza and beer on a Friday night.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Roar To Restore The Shore Motorcycle Rally - May 18, 2013

A benefit organization I am directly involved in, the Roar To Restore the Shore Motorcyle Run and Rally will be held May 18, 2013. The run starts at American Legion Drive in Keyport and will then take a 55-mile route through the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy, ending at VFW Post 8667 on Adamston Road in Brick. All proceeds will go to help families rebuild their lives and recover from the storm.

Entrance to the charity run is $20.00 for riders and $15.00 for passengers. There will be vendors, food, beer and soda, and entertainment at the finish. Non-riders are also welcome to join us at the rally with a seperate admission fee.

Riders will receive a patch of the logo.

As a sidenote, the VFW post was used as a logistics clearing point for contractors and relief workers, as well as a kitchen and shelter in the weeks following the storm because of its proximity to the Mantoloking Road bridge and the devestated Shore communities on the barrier island. This Run and Rally is a great way to show that we here at the Jersey Shore are making tremendous strides every day toward our recovery.

Help us spread the word, and make sure (whether you're a rider or not) to clear May 18 on your calendar so you can help Road to Restore the Shore!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Jakeabob's Off the Bay Ready for Grand Opening

Princess Cottage
Two of the most iconic images from the wrath of Hurricane Sandy come from Union Beach. The 150 year-old Princess Cottage on Front Street, which has since been torn down, and Jakeabob's Bay restaurant, which still sits a few blocks east, waiting for the powers that be to decide its fate.

Jakeabob's Bay

On Saturday, February 16, I had a chance to visit the new Jakeabob's Bay which will be located at 910 Union Avenue, about 10 blocks from the original location. The new restaurant will be called Jakeabob's Off the Bay, and is scheduled to open on February 28. According to owner Gigi Dorr, the status of the original location is still in limbo, waiting for the insurance companies involved to sort out who is responsible for what.

The new location is being decorated with doors that have been donated from homes throughout the borough of Union Beach that were destroyed during the hurricane. While the doors stand as a stark reminder of what the residents of Union Beach have been subjected to since October 29, they also represent the power and spirit of those same people who are bouncing back and rebuilding their lives in the face of great odds.

Dorr has been featured in several articles and television segments about her efforts to rebuild her business while at the same time she becoming a leading advocate and symbol for all of the residents of Union Beach.

Recently, a group on the social media site Facebook has given all of us a chance to support the borough of Union Beach and give a little something back to the person who has inspired all of us who have been involved in the post-Sandy restoration efforts.

Please take a look at the letter from the group, Paper doors for Gigi. Pass it along, send a door and a donation, and most importantly, put Jakeabob's Off the Bay on your must-do list of restaurants to visit this spring and summer. 

Doors for Gigi

Gigi Dorr, owner of “Jakeabob’s Bay” in Union Beach, NJ, has given a tremendous amount of time, support, and love to our community since we were decimated by Hurricane Sandy on October 29, 2012.

For those who don’t know, she is planning to open a new restaurant at 910 Union Avenue in Union Beach which she will call “Jakeabob’s Off The Bay." She is using a theme of doors throughout the new Jake’s!

Gigi has lost so much, but she has given so much more! Many of us want to do something special for her, and we need everyone to help! First, make a paper door for Gigi! All doors need to be no bigger than 4 ¼ inches by 5 ½ inches (half a sheet of 8 ½ inch by 11 inch paper). You can find pictures of doors on the internet, or make your own! Take a picture of an actual door, or have a child color a picture of a door! Write messages of love and encouragement to Gigi on your door! If you are able, include a monetary donation to Gigi to help offset the costs of opening a new place! No donation is too small. All donations together can help make a difference! If you cannot afford a donation at this time, but would like to be a part of this, please just send a door for Gigi!

Doors and donations can be mailed or dropped off to:

Union Beach Police Department
650 Poole Avenue
Union Beach, NJ 07735
Attention: Mary

Checks should be made out directly to Gigi Dorr.

We have already given Gigi some paper doors we have recieved but would like to send her many many more!

Tracking the Progress: Seaside Heights, February 17, 2013

Looking south, the iconic Midway stands stranded, awaiting the rebuilt boardwalk.
Looking north, the Kohr's ice cream stand at the entrance to Casino Pier.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Tracking the Progress: Point Pleasant to Mantoloking, February 17, 2013.

As spring approaches the evergreens along the barrier island that were washed by the salt water storm surge from Hurricane Sandy are starting to turn brown as they die from the salt in their roots. It's striking to see how many trees are dying as you drive from Point Pleasant to Seaside.

PPB boardwalk, looking south from Arnold Ave.

PPB boardwalk looking north from Jenkinson's South

Mini-golf and bath house at Risdens Beach, (looking south)
Mantoloking looking east from Route 35. The pilings were not exposed but are now because of erosion during the storm.
Mantoloking. West side of Route 35. The Atlantic Ocean is approximately 200 yards east. 
Route 35 from Bay Head south to Route 528 (the Mantoloking Bridge) opened for traffic on February 2, but non-residents are not allowed to stop or travel on side-streets in the borough because of looting fears.

Ground zero for the storm in Ocean County was the three mile strip from Bay Head south to the Mantoloking bridge, and nearly four months after the storm, things have not improved significantly.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Inlets and Outlets Restaurant Reviews

Check out the new I&O feature:

Looking for a place to eat over the weekend and you want to help support the rebuilding of the Jersey Shore at the same time? Check out our restaurant reviews that will publish on Thursdays. Some will be for restaurants you've never heard of, some will be for old favorites, and most importantly some will put a spotlight on a business that got knocked around during Hurricane Sandy and has come back.

Click the page link on the right side bar or click here.

Thanks for helping support the Jersey Shore!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund: An Unregistered NJ Charity Raises In Excess of $1,000,000 for Hurricane Sandy Relief

On February 10, 2013, the Asbury Park Press published a report written by Staff Writer Shannon Mullen about a charity calling itself Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund. This is the same name as New Jersey First Lady Mary Pat Christie's hurricane relief fund, but is in no way connected to it.

According to the report, founder John Sandberg began registering domain names related to Hurricane Sandy and anticipated relief efforts in the week before the storm actually hit and filed paperwork to register his non-profit organization on October 30 – the day after the storm left the area. According to the report, Sandberg explained that he anticipated that existing relief groups and government agencies would be overwhelmed if the destruction turned out to be as dire as forecasters had warned. The reality is the destruction was far worse than any forecaster predicted, but there were very few people in our area who were prescient enough to know that in advance.

“Nobody’s been out there since day one like we were – nobody,” Sandberg, 30, is quoted as saying. Sandberg, a real estate salesman shares a home in Sussex County with his girlfriend and charity co-founder Christina Terracino, 27, who is an accountant.

“We were out there before the Red Cross. I was delivering pallets of Vitamin Water all across South Jersey since week one, before anybody had anything,” Sandberg asserted. 

As a person who was directly involved in relief effort in the first 36 hours after the storm made landfall, I'll disagree with Sandberg’s claim. Although the Red Cross and FEMA were slow in responding, tens of thousands of private volunteers and private-sector relief groups were in the affected areas almost immediately. On the Tuesday evening after the storm, a relief supply drop-off point set-up at Toms River North High School had five school buses filled top to bottom and stem to stern with clothing and blankets. I speak for the tens of thousands of people who were out there immediately when I say I take exception to Sandberg's claim that he was "out there before anybody."

When asked about similarities between Christie’s relief organization and his own, Sandberg commented that “technically [Christie] copied me." His reference was to the domain registration, even though legally Sandberg never actually registered his charity. Internet domain registrations do not take precedence over legal filings.

In fairness to Sandberg’s charity, HSRF has donated supplies and gift cards totaling almost $650,000 from received donations. 
However, as of the report’s publication, the Hurricane Sandy Relief Foundation as yet to distribute over $800,000 in cash donations received through its website. “I wouldn’t say we’re in over our heads, but I think we definitely put the brakes on at the right time to re-evaluate, you know, before making a mistake,” Sandberg said.

The HSRF is not registered as a charity or a tax-exempt organization in the State of New Jersey or with the IRS, in spite of claims to the contrary on its website.

Hundreds of grassroots organizations sprang up in the aftermath of the storm, and while there are bound to be organizations being set up by people with ill-intent, it is also just as possible that in cases like Sandberg’s HSRF, the founders are simply ill-equipped to handle the crush of donations.

Speaking from experience, I raised almost $8,000 worth of gift cards and hard goods in the three weeks immediately following the storm simply through appeals on social media outlets. I discouraged monetary donations and made the point to know that once the $10,000 limit had been reached I was liable to the IRS to report the donations. My point is, I expected maybe a thousand dollars after begging and cajoling and I was not prepared for the avalanche of love and support from people from around the country. I suppose the benefit of the doubt is the proper course to take here, but after reading the entire report I can’t help but feel uncomfortable about HSRF.

The Red Cross, through my own personal experience, is not an organization I would donate to, but as reported here earlier in the week, the Robin Hood Foundation seems to be doing fabulous work providing relief. There are hundreds of others. The needs are still great, especially in the hardest hit areas on the barrier island in Ocean County and the Bayshore area in Monmouth County, and charities who muddy up the waters of goodwill with either irresponsible or nefarious actions only hurt the people who are still trying to rebuild their lives.

To check a charity’s tax-exempt status, refer to the IRS online database or call 977-829-5500. 

Donations are still needed, and will be for sometime. It's far too soon in the journey for the rest of us to forget about the affected.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Saturday In Union Beach, NJ: Hope and a Red Cross Team Not Really Sure Where the Disaster Is

I will occasionally re-run pieces from my other blog that were published in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Sandy to give the new audience of Inlets and Outlets a sample of the experiences we all ran into here in the days and weeks after the hurricane. The following piece originally ran on December 4, 2012. 

 * * *

The following is a relay of my experience working in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy to help residents who were affected rebuild from the storm. I am only one of thousands of individual people who are doing recovery work on their own, without recognition and without a support infrastructure. I write this to get information out to those outside the storm area that New Jersey is still straining under the weight of the storm and its aftermath.

Over the Thanksgiving weekend my wife and I put out a social media appeal for gift cards in $25 amounts to Home Depot and Lowe's to distribute to the people who are rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy. We had given out $500 worth of cards the week before and were overwhelmed by the fact that $500 was just a tiny drop in a very large ocean of despair.
The storm surge in Raritan Bay shifted a home off its foundation.
 © 2012 Jack Sharkey

We were able to collect $1450 in gift cards in 5 days. When added to the $500 in cards (that incidentally came from just two donors), our total in two weeks is $1950 and I will be collecting and distributing another $300 to $400 more to distribute this weekend. In total, between monetary donations, and clothing, food, and toiletry donations, my wife and daughter and I have distributed approximately $8,000 in items since the Wednesday after Sandy hit. Bear in mind that we are merely one family in a community of thousands who are doing this work, and you get the idea of how New Jersey works.

We have concentrated on Union Beach, Keansburg, and Port Monmouth in Monmouth County. The areas that were hard hit in Ocean County (about 40 miles south) have the sexiness and romance of the boardwalks to help them keep their plights in the public eye; the communities I mention here have been pretty much forgotten by the local and national news machines.

© 2012 Jack Sharkey
The progress from Saturday to Saturday was heartening to see. The local municipal governments are doing yeoman's work cleaning the streets and trying to get the municipal infrastructures back to normal. Here are a couple of things we took away from our work on December 1:
  • Church group volunteers are out in force. We saw at least 150-200 volunteers in Union Beach alone doing everything from raking lawns to ripping up sub-flooring
  • Its less the act of donating $25 than it is the fact that people care enough to try to help. When we are asked where we're from and who we are, we simply reply we're just people and that the card is from other people around the country who care. The emotion these people carry as they try to rebuild their homes is kept walled up until some kindness crosses their paths
  • When we first started doing this, we were distributing almost a card every 5 minutes, but as people try to fight off the spiritual and physical fatigue of what they're faced with, we are finding that what people really want to do is talk, so in some cases we are only able to distribute one card every thirty minutes. The interaction is actually of greater help
  • High school kids who are volunteering make up a large percentage of the volunteers doing the absolutely horrific job of emptying homes of their water-logged and now moldy contents
  • Occupy Wall Streeters lived in tents for about a month and worked from a beat-up U-Haul truck delivering hot meals to residents
  • Corporate donations of mattresses, sheet rock and other basic housing items are helping speed the recovery efforts while also keeping rebuilding affordable for people
Anyone who reads this blog knows its main viewpoint is that government exists because of people and that people do not exist because of government. While first responders and local government agencies are doing great work, anything above the state level is too mired in red tape and bureaucracy to do much good for people.

I have also been reminded why large corporate "charities" like the Red Cross are impotent to do anything other than raise  money. When it comes to distributing aid they fail like large government entities always do.

People in these parts won't have much good to say about the Red Cross, and quite frankly, we all would have been just fine without them--keep that in mind the next time you want to donate money to aid people whose lives have been torn apart by disaster. The aid that comes from small, non-governmental agencies is the aid that gets in the hands of the people who need it most.

As the sun began Saturday, to set we found ourselves in a lightly damaged area of Keansburg. Some areas of the borough were devastated by dune breaches, while just blocks away it looked as if nothing happened on October 29. We still had a few cards left to distribute and on the empty street we were on we saw a Red Cross "Disaster Relief" truck with Oklahoma tags slowly coming our way. I flagged the truck down, explained what we were doing and asked if the driver knew where we should go with the cards we still had. My assumption was a simple one: that the Red Cross would be far more plugged in to what was needed and where it was needed than I would be.

The kindly older lady said, "I don't know, we've been driving around all day trying to hand things out and nobody needs anything."

They were handing out personal toiletry kits with toothbrushes and tooth paste, mouthwash and the like. Keep in mind, this was 33 days after the storm, and they were in an area that hadn't been hit hard.

"Do you know where people might need some things?" she asked.

"Have you been to Union Beach?"

"Where is that?"

I gave her directions and she thanked me and drove off. You'd think with all of the money Bruce Springsteen helped them raise they could buy an atlas and some newspapers. Maybe the Red Cross could even cut down on the CEO's salary  and pay for a dispatcher to help the Red Cross go where it is needed instead of having their volunteers just aimlessly drive around with beatific smiles on their inefficient faces.

From the Red Cross website:
“The best way to help a disaster victim is through a financial donation to the American Red Cross. Financial contributions allow the Red Cross to purchase exactly what is needed for the disaster relief operation. Monetary donations also enable the Red Cross to purchase relief supplies close to the disaster site which avoids delays and transportation costs in getting basic necessities to disaster victims.”
Red Cross CEO Marsha J. Evans' salary was almost $952,000 last year, plus expenses.

I disagree with the Red Cross about the best way to help a disaster victim.

Buildings can be rebuilt. The jury is out on how long before the lives are.
© 2012 Jack Sharkey

Monday, February 11, 2013

Robin Hood Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund to Distribute More Than $6 Million In Grants To Storm Affected Resident of New Jersey

On February 7, the Robin Hood foundation announced the details of $10.5 million in relief grants to people who were impacted by Hurricane Sandy. Robin Hood has received more than $67 million in donations for Sandy Relief from around the world and has so far granted $45 million.

"Robin Hood is working diligently to get Hurricane Sandy relief funds into the communities that are struggling to rebuild from the storm," said David Saltzman, executive director of Robin Hood. "We have already granted 100% of the funds we raised prior to 12-12-12 The Concert for Sandy Relief, and we are on track to grant all concert funds within 100 days of 12-12-12."

Robin Hood was founded in 1988 and is New York's largest poverty-fighting organization. The Robin Hood Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund has granted tens of millions of dollars to organizations throughout the region that are helping families and individuals recover from the affects of Hurricane Sandy. Robin Hood’s board of directors pay all administrative costs allowing the foundation to donate 100% of the monies received through private donations directly to those affected by the storm.

In this latest round of grants, New Jersey will receive $6,860,500. Here is a listing of agencies receiving monies:

Ocean County Long Term Recover Group:  $2,200,000
Monmouth County Long Term Recovery Group: $1,500,000

Long Term Recovery Groups were established to help people affected by Hurricane Sandy bridge the gap between available resources and their long-term needs. Help includes mental health support, donated goods and cash assistance for rebuilding efforts.

Borough of Belmar: $150,000 to help 50 families receive assistance in returning to their storm-damaged homes.

Little Egg Harbor Volunteer Storm Relief Committee: $300,000 to help the residents of the 150 storm damaged homes in the township purchase materials, tools, and safety equipment as well as providing rental assistance.

Union Beach Disaster Relief Fund: $960,000 for demolition costs and materials for enclosing 60 homes for the winter. $725,000 will go to purchase and furnish four new manufactured homes to replace homes lost in the storm. This part of the grant will serve as a demonstration project for rebuilding homes throughout the region.

Jewish Renaissance Foundation – Middlesex County: $175,000 to purchase gift cards for replacing furnishings, appliances and other household goods, plus the salaries for 2 case managers to help families who suffered losses from the storm in the Perth Amboy area.

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance of West Jersey: $175,000 for labor and building supplies in Atlantic, Cumberland, Salem, Gloucester, Burlington, Cape May and Camden counties.

Portlight Strategies – NYC and New Jersey: $125,000 to help repair wheelchair ramps and other support services for disabled person affected by the storm.

Jewish Family Service of Central NJ – Union County: $75,000 to enable the JFS to provide direct grants of up to $1,000 to affected individuals and families in need.

Love In the Name of Christ – Monmouth County: $55,000 to help 50 low-income Bayshore residents who were displaced by the storm.

Youth Consultation Services – Bergen County: $40,000 to help repair the damage the YCS George Washington School in Hackensack received in the storm. YCS provides in-home and residential services to children with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

Deborah Heart and Lung Center – Browns Mills: $375,000 for laboratory testing, physician screening, a portable X-Ray unit and outreach efforts to those at risk for mold exposure.

Legal Services of New Jersey: $510,000 to continue funding for legal services for low-income residents affected by Sandy.

AARP Foundation – Atlantic County: $8,000 to fund tax preparation for working seniors.

Community Health Law Project: $125,000 to fund direct legal representation for 100 Sandy-affected individuals. This representation will focus on housing issues, FEMA and insurance issues, and appeals for denied benefits.

Volunteer Lawyers for Justice: $100,000 to provide legal assistance, staffing for legal clinics, a legal hotline and full-time staff for the 1,500 clients seeking legal aid in the wake of Sandy.

Mary’s Place By the Sea – Monmouth County: $25,000. Mary’s Place by the Sea is a respite center for women with cancer. The grant will help them continue to deliver meals to former guests as well as food deliveries and gap funding to 60 storm-affected families.

Long Beach Island School District: $25,000 to cover payroll and supplies to enable the district to continue free Kids Care (a before and after school program) for an additional 6 months.

 A look at the grant recipients in New Jersey gives a feel for the enormity of the scope and need in our area, a need that is not going to go away any time soon.

Click here to donate to the Robin Hood's Hurricane SandyRelief Fund.

NJ Is Still Open For Business

As part of the ongoing story of the rebuilding of the Jersey Shore, Inlets and Outlets will publish restaurant and nightlife reviews on Thursdays. The Shore is alive and well and bouncing back strongly, and there is no better way to help the revitalization of the area than to let everyone know what we have going on.

If you know of a restaurant or club that suffered storm damage and has re-opened, please let us know.  

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Watermen and Baymen

“Every true clamdigger knows that it's pronounced Stri-PED bass, not Striped Bass, just like the river is pronounced For-KED, not forked.” - A relative of mine forty years ago.

"I've never seen that before." - That same relative after I knocked over the bucket containing our afternoon's perch catch allowing the fish to escape back into the Forked River.

* * * 

Up until a few years ago you could drop into Hulse’s general store almost any winter’s evening, ‘way up the sheltered river, and listen to deep-sea thrillers that would make you seasick – for the Metedeconker begins his tale where Captain Voss leaves off. - Yachting Magazine feature "Old Emma Comes to Barnegat" by F. Slade Dale, June 1933.

The landscape for those who work those same waters for their livelihoods has changed dramatically since the days Hulse’s General Store (located on what is now Mantoloking Road in the Adamston section of Brick Township) was the focal point of life along the northern Barnegat Bay. 

Recently, a marina owner in Brick Township allowed a local relief agency to store their excess donated dry goods in the new steel building at his marina. The building was completed except power had not been turned on yet – a task slowed by Hurricane Sandy – but the relief agency and the marina were simply storing relief supplies until they could be distributed. Township inspectors ruled this an illegal activity and the marina owner received a $2,000 fine for storing the donated goods without a certificate of occupancy. Things have indeed changed.

From the time the Delaware Indians lived here, Barnegat Bay has offered sustenance to the people who inhabit its shores. Like the indigenous peoples before them, European settlers survived on the fish, clams, waterfowl and vegetation the bay provided. As the population of  New York and New Jersey grew in the middle to latter part of the 19th Century, these “baymen” began to supplement their subsistence by harvesting the natural bounty of the bay commercially. 

Through the 19th and for the first three quarters of the 20th Centuries, the culture of the bayman ruled the waters of the Barnegat. After the Garden State Parkway was completed in 1957 the region began to change as middle-class flight from the cities of northern New Jersey and New York took hold of the areas surrounding the bay, especially in the north near the Metedeconk and Toms River estuaries. The same can be said for the Manasquan and Shark Rivers, in southern Monmouth County.

While sportsmen were fixtures in the summer, the baymen owned the waters for the entire year. Those of us who grew up in the area knew locals whose livelihoods depended on the bay, and the culture of the bayman was an ever-present part of our childhoods. Poles holding fyke nets and floats marking clam beds were common sights to the would-be Tom Sawyers (author included) growing up around the bay. Sportsmen who fished and sailed the waters were respectful of the nets and floats knowing that a man was feeding his family from the catch they provided. In 1979, there were 110 clammers working the bay out of Parkertown and just a handful of sportsmen. In 2012, there were 6 baymen actively working the Barnegat and surrounding waters.

Photo Courtesy Washington University

Today, it is not uncommon for sportsmen to cut the poles holding commercial fyke nets in retaliation for the perceived competition for dwindling resources the commercial fisherman represents. Fyke nets are generally set for eels, which sportsmen generally don't fish for, and commercial fishermen are not allowed to fish for Striped Bass - the fish most sought after by sportsmen, so the perceived threat by sportsmen is completely without merit. The financial loss of having to replace lost or damaged gear is compounded by the loss of income from the unharvested catch.

As if the change in the region hasn't been enough to eradicate a way of life, Hurricane Sandy may have dealt the final blow to commercial fishing in the region.

A few weeks ago, I spoke with the only commercial net fisherman still working the waters of the Shark River about the obstacles Hurricane Sandy threw in front of the already difficult lives of commercial baymen along the Jersey Shore. Jimmy Jenks is based in Brick and has been working the waters of the northern Barnegat Bay and Shark River all of his life. His family moved to the Brick area in the early 1950s, and like his father before him, Jimmy has carried on the traditions of the baymen and watermen who have worked this area for 150 years.

Jenks lost $25,000 worth of gear in Hurricane Sandy, and although he is eligible to apply for a 6% loan to help him recover his business, FEMA requires receipts for every piece of equipment he lost. Since commercial fisherman work their gear for years and years, this is all but an impossibility. The lack of receipts is not the only issue as FEMA has given Jenks the wrong paperwork twice  in his efforts to make a claim for his losses.

A commercial fisherman's boat waits in the ice of the
Manasquan River for warmer weather and a chance
to find out what the future holds for its owner.
© 2013 Jack Sharkey

Jenks’ two main crops are crabs and eels. Supplying fresh caught eels to the wholesale fish markets in New York and surrounding areas for the Christmas season is the core of Jenks’ income and this year he was unable to work the river because of the amount of debris in the water in the aftermath of Sandy. He has attempted to dredge for crabs, another winter income provider, but this year there are no crabs to be found.

The State of New Jersey has decided it is not willing to protect the incomes of these men who provide so much in the way of harvest and culture, opting instead to cater to the needs of sportsmen. While it is true that there are only a few men working the waters of a dying bay, we should mourn the loss just the same.

One possible source of income for these men who know our waters like we know our own backyards is to exploit their expertise in the search and salvage of the over 1,000 vessels that are known to be unaccounted for since the storm. Recovery and salvage efforts are currently underway using out-of-state contractors and as of this writing, our baymen have been completely shut out by the those contractors.

While the jetskiers and sport fishermen who use the same waters as Jenks might find his presence – as well as the other commercial fishermen in the area – a nuisance, these men are farmers who are carrying on a tradition and a way of life that existed long before the waters of this area of New Jersey became a leisure haven for the newly relocated. With only six men still working the waters full-time it won’t be long before a treasured way of life in our area is lost to the history books forever. 

Hurricane Sandy has only sped up the inevitable.

A commercial fisherman stands watch over recovery efforts at Loughran Point on the Manasquan Inlet.
© 2013 Jack Sharkey