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March 16, 2010

RFA: Surfcasting access at risk in Cape May

Loran tower closing threatens two-mile beach access
By Rfa

March 16, 2010 - Many New Jersey surfcasters gasped when the headline "As Coast Guard shuts down Loran, site of Cape facility eyed for piping plover nesting" ran in the January 20, 2010 of the Atlantic City Press.  Land-based fishermen's ability to access Two Mile Beach and Cold Spring Inlet has been challenged before, and according to the Recreational Fishing Alliance's New Jersey chapter (RFA-NJ) another battle could be looming on the horizon.
 
The closing of the Loran tower has muddled the future of Two Mile Beach, as the Coast Guard is considering vacating the property.  Given the opportunity, the federal Fish and Wildlife Service has stated interest in obtaining the land for beach nesting birds.  Howard Schlegal, manager of the Cape May National Wildlife Refuge, states "If the Wildlife Service gets the property, the beach would be closed from April 1 to September 30 for the piping plovers."
 
Rather than delay and wait for the Coast Guard to make a decision, RFA-NJ has taken action to maintain surf fishermen's right to access Two Mile Beach.  In a letter to U.S. Rep. LoBiondo, the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, RFA-NJ states "As one of the leading groups representing land-based anglers in NJ, we wanted to bring this issue to your attention and voice our opinion/concerns early in the process and continue a dialogue with you as this process moves forward.  Any pending property transfer should not impose additional access restrictions for land-based fishermen, regardless of which entity assumes responsibility of the property.  Currently, land-based fishermen are only allowed access to the beachfront and jetty on foot.  This low-impact use suits anglers, offering an experience unlike other beaches, and should be permitted to continue going forward."
 
The RFA-NJ official letter to Rep. LoBiondo recognized that various beach-nesting birds, including the endangered piping plover, utilize Two Mile Beach and many other beaches throughout the State.  "However, we believe it is premature for the FWS to be taking a position regarding access prior to actually obtaining the property and considering public comment.  The stated closure period would be excessive and inconsistent with management practices used for other beaches within the state."
 
RFA-NJ is confident that Two-Mile Beach and the Cold Spring Inlet Jetty can be managed to be both protective of threatened and endangered species while also providing access to land-based anglers, and the chapter Board noted in their letter to Rep. LoBiondo that they "would like to be engaged with you and your staff on this issue and we request that you include us in any upcoming meetings on the subject."
 
Rep. LoBiondo responded by writing "Over the past decade, I have been pleased to work with the New Jersey RFA, the Coast Guard and the Fish and Wildlife Service to maintain access to the Cold Spring Inlet Jetty for fishermen. It is no secret that the jetty is one of the best land-based fishing spots in South Jersey. As the Coast Guard determines the future of its Two-Mile Beach property, rest assured I remain committed to preserving access to the jetty for fishermen."
 
RFA-NJ looks forward to working with Congressman LoBiondo going forward and fighting for continued access for New Jersey's land-based fishermen.