Hurricane Sandy blew through our quiet seaside town seven years ago. But we still experience her aftermath today. So much money has gone into things like the Margate Dunes project and the subsequent issues that arose from its delays and ponding problems. Just last month, I talked about the bulkhead rebuild on Amherst and how it should finally begin by the end of this year. Now, we hear that an extension to the private Margate Fishing Pier will be subsidized by taxpayers. Should public money help fund this?
Margate Fishing Pier
Earlier this year, the Anglers Club of Absecon Island talked about how the public would be allowed to utilize part of the pier after they extend it using the Department of Environmental Protection funds. In fact, a majority of the $850,000 extension cost will be funded with DEP (aka, taxpayer) money. This would bring the pier back out over the ocean. Currently, most of the pier exists over primarily dry land.
Part of the stipulations for public funding included allowing “appropriate public access” to the pier owned by the private club. Unfortunately, what the Anglers Club deemed “appropriate public access” does not include an actual area to fish off the pier. Instead, it looks like the public access amounts to a seven-foot wide easement over the sand. Furthermore, it won’t be ADA compliant either due to the fact that it is considered an existing structure. Anyone wishing to access this public portion of the pier must walk along the sandy beach and then walk up the stairway to get to the public part of the pier. In other words, no easy access for non-members of the Anglers Club.
Public Fishing Off Margate Fishing Pier
Here’s the rub. Even though hundreds of thousands of dollars of the public’s money pays for most of the new extension, fishing remains unavailable to the public. Why? The public easement sits over the sand. Only Anglers Club members receive access to the clubhouse and the portion of the pier that provides the best fishing location. Public access to the pier remains open only during specific hours and solely from April to October. Any other time of the year, it closes to the public. No public restrooms, lighting or benches are included in the stipulations for public funding for this extension either.
On the other hand, our neighbors to the northeast, Ventnor, allow public access to their pier any time of the year. No one needs membership to fish there. They only need to pay for a fishing pass (daily or annually). Plus, they may use the restrooms there.
How do you feel about taxpayer money utilized for a private pier? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.