2007-09-26 / Front Page

Turning the tide at Cliffwood Beach

Aberdeen hopes to upgrade and beautify beachfront, seawall
BY KAREN E. BOWES Staff Writer

Fifty years after it was destroyed in a hurricane, the boardwalk at Cliffwood Beach is poised for a rebound.

Plans call for the rough terrain of Cliffwood Beach's seawall to be smoothed over. Plans call for the rough terrain of Cliffwood Beach's seawall to be smoothed over. On Sept. 18, Aberdeen unveiled design plans for Cliffwood Beach, including a semipermanent roll-up boardwalk, upgrades to the current seawall and more convenient parking along the waterfront.

At a cost of $372,276, the project will largely be paid for by a combination of county and federal grants, according to Township Manager Stuart Brown.

"It's a start," Brown said on Monday. "It's enough to get a walkway with a railing and an access point. This is just a way to start off the project."

On Monday, Aberdeen was awarded up to $170,000 in grant money from a federal Community Block Grant program. Brown estimates Aberdeen will receive about $94,000 in funding from this grant.

On Sept. 18, engineers Timothy Gillen and James R. Dahl of Consulting and Municipal Engineers, Sayreville, narrated a slide show during a public hearing on the matter. The pair highlighted the proposed improvements and showcased the history of Cliffwood Beach as it was during its heyday in the 1920s.

Aberdeen officials assured fishermen they would still have access to the seawall when improvements to it are completed. Aberdeen officials assured fishermen they would still have access to the seawall when improvements to it are completed. "It was a hopping place in the 1900s," Dahl noted while showing slides of the old beachfront swimming pool, a structure that still exists but is buried under the sand, according to Brown.

The seawall seems to need the most work, according to the engineers. Although it is currently in "good structural standing," the surface of the wall could use some improvement.

"You can't jog on this - you'd hurt yourself," Dahl said.

In addition to creating an even pathway along the seawall, guardrails may need to be placed in some areas. A parking area that is closer to the seawall will also be constructed to accommodate motorists and those with disabilities. Presently, the only public access point to the seawall is on Beach Drive.

"However, there are slopes between the parking area and the seawall that currently exceed ADA [American with Disabilities Act] compliance," according to the engineers' report on the subject.

This area could be reconfigured to become ADA compliant, the men reported, possibly by utilizing paper streets or nearby unused public land.

There is one other access point to the seawall but it is currently gated for safety reasons. Located at Lakeshore Drive and Greenwood Avenue, this entrance also needs to become ADA compliant. The proposals include a new-gated parking area with some asphalt surfacing to accommodate those with disabilities.

Frank Huza, vice-chairman of the Aberdeen Environmental Board, spoke in favor of the overall idea, asking that a minimum amount of lighting, fencing and handrails be used along the seawall.

"In my 20 years [here,] I've never seen someone fall off the wall," Huza explained.

He added, "Let's not spook the fish. Let's just keep everything in the dark."

Huza also suggested the public restrooms of some kind be installed.

Chris Salus, owner of Crabby's Bait & Tackle, Keyport, was also concerned about fishing. He requested that fishermen still be allowed access to the seawall after improvements are completed. Brown responded to the request, saying the town has no plans to restrict fishing.

"Fishing is the primary activity there now," Brown said. "We don't want to take away from that. We want to add to that."

Salus also asked that if railings are installed, that they not be too high for children to use.

"In Keyport, one of the mistakes they made is the railing system they put in there," Salus said. Salus noted that children cannot reach the top of the railing and often wind up standing or hanging on it, causing it to bend.

Overall, plans call for upgrades to 5/8 of a mile of seawall, from just west of Treasure Lake to the beginning of Beach Drive.

If the grant is won, Mayor David Sobel said he wants to have a "wish list" ready to pit into action. In response, residents requested items such as benches, a gazebo, tables with chessboards etches into the surface and other amenities. The mayor said the township has been lately trying to promote usage of the waterfront area through activities such as the fishing derby.

"Some people don't even realize there is a beachfront here," Sobel said.

Return to top