1. Overview of Atlantic Highlands and Its Waterfront

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1 Atlantic Highlands 1. Overview of Atlantic Highlands and Its Waterfront Atlantic Highlands: Satellite Photo by USGS 1.1. Geographical Overview The Borough of Atlantic Highlands is on Sandy Hook Bay. It is one of the nine municipalities that comprise the Bayshore Region of Monmouth County, New Jersey. Located between Middletown Township and Borough of Highlands, Atlantic Highlands was originally a part of Middletown Township but in 1887 it was incorporated as a Borough. Its land area is only 1.2 square miles but its bayshore is approximately 2.5 miles long. The major ways to access to Atlantic Highlands by car is to take the Garden State Parkway South Exit 117 then State Highways 35 and 36 or take State Highway 36. Atlantic Highlands is 45 miles from New York City by a car, bus or train and 18 nautical 1

2 miles by a passenger ferry to downtown Manhattan from the ferry terminal locating at Harbor Park in Atlantic Highlands Demographics The 2000 Census tallied Atlantic Highlands population as 4,705. The racial composition is 92.1 % White (non-hispanic), 3.5 % Hispanic, and 2.3 % Black or African American. Approximately 6.3 % of the total population was born in foreign countries. In 2000 over 46 % of the employed population were in management and professional occupations, 27% in sales and office occupations; 15% service occupations, and 6.5% in construction, extraction, and maintenance. No one was reported as working in farming, fishing, or forestry. The median house value in Atlantic Highlands is significantly above the state average, and it has long been known as a wealthier town than its neighbor, Highlands. 1.3 Historical Overview Atlantic Highlands developed as a port for steamboats. The town is close to urban areas as well as the confluence of mountains (the highlands promontory) and shore, which is unusual for the Mid-Atlantic region.. The town developed as a popular summer community in the late 1800s and early 1900s. In 1881, members of Methodist Church created the Atlantic Highlands Association. They bought property and set up a camp meeting ground in a natural auditorium in the bluffs along the bay. In the tourist boom that followed, over two dozen hotels and boarding houses opened. Bathing beaches and pavilions were also established. In 1892, 2

3 the Central Railroad came to town and built a 2,400 feet pier into Sandy Hook Bay for trains and boats. In 1905, the steamboat Mandalay began running three round trips a day to New York City. The steamboat service continued through the 1940s. In the twentieth century, this old pier was replaced by the municipal harbor of Atlantic Highlands. 2. Waterfront Use 2.1 Summary of waterfront use Atlantic Highlands stretches out along Sandy Hook Bay: 2.5 miles of the 1.2 square miles land is shoreline. The waterfront is very important for Atlantic Highlands both as a characteristic of the municipality and as an economic asset. The major waterfront usage of Atlantic Highlands is the Harbor Park area, where steamboats and trains used to stop. The Harbor Park area is the center of the town. The shoreline of the park is protected with bulkheads. People coming to the Harbor Park enjoy various waterfront related recreational activities such as fishing, walking, viewing, boating, sailing, and picnicking, but no swimming is allowed. The ferry terminal is used by residents of Atlantic Highlands as well as those of neighboring municipalities to commute to New York City. There are private boat parks around the park. The Environment Commission of Atlantic Highlands is very active in trying to maintain the environment of the waterfront and public access to the waterfront. The commission has been planning to build a bikeway and to preserve a creek, called Many Mind Creek, and surrounding areas in the Harbor Park area. The shore areas next to the Harbor Park area, both west and east to the park, are private residential areas; then, the east end and west end areas to the municipal borders are 3

4 publicly used waterfront areas. Both of the areas consist of sandy beaches and they are a part of municipal parks. People may swim, fish, view, and walk. There is a private yacht club next to the beach in the east end; the municipality has leased the public beach to the yacht club members to park their yachts during summer. Atlantic Highlands Shoreline, June

5 2.2. Waterfront Access Common Name Address GPS Fishing Private Marina Public Marina Trailered Launch Hand Launch Birdwatching Swimming Parking Handicapped Accessible Picnic Facilities Food Concessions Restroom Facilities Fee Harbor Park Simon Lake Dr. Municipal Marina - 9 Docks of Publicly recognized sites Party/charter boats in the municipal marina Municipal Fishing Pier - West of West Many Mind Creek Avenue Center Ave. Park (with public beach) Popomora Point (with public beach) Center Ave. Bayside Dr. -Avenue A -Pathway Informally used Informal Access Points to the shore (east of the Harbor Park) from Harbor Drive -Avenue D Hess Pier (privately End of First owned) Ave. Public A Private House on the beach West of the end of Ave. A 5

6 Between Avenue A and D (Except for the informal access points Private Houses stated above) SeaStreak ferry terminal in Harbor Park 2 First Ave. East of the Blackfoot Mobile Marine end of Ave. D Harbor Park: Harbor Park includes the municipal marina, a ferry terminal, a municipal fishing pier, tennis courts, play grounds, large municipal parking lots, gazebo, and restaurants. Nine party/charter boats dock in the Municipal Marina. Music concerts are held in the park at the gazebo during summer. All of the people who use various recreational facilities, both public and private, and the ferries in the Harbor Park may use the municipal parking lots for free. Municipal Marina The Atlantic Highlands Municipal Marina is the second-largest publicly owned marina in New Jersey, with 480 slips and 168 moorings. The municipal marina is very popular 6

7 and has a long waiting list for the slips or moorings; the applicants usually have to wait for at least two or three years (Riley 2001). Party/Charter Boats in the Municipal Marina Atlantic Highlands is an important site for charter and party boat recreational fishing. As of February 2004 there were four open party boats (Sea Horse, Sea Hunter, Sea Tiger, and Teal), and five charter boats (Little Hawk, Lucky Charm, Mi-Jo, North Star, and Tiderunner) which use slips of the Municipal Marina for their business (Atlantic Highlands official website, accessed in February, 2004). Municipal Fishing Pier The Municipal Fishing Pier was built in the Harbor Park next to the easternmost slip of the Municipal Marina in The fishing pier is wooden and is designed for public recreational fishing, including fish cleaning stations. Ferry Terminal High-speed ferry service was introduced into the Borough in As of 2004; eleven runs a day leave Atlantic Highlands for the New York City (Atlantic Highlands Historical Society, accessed on May 8, 2004). The ferry service in Atlantic Highlands is offered by SeaStreak America, Inc. The ferry service has been a boon not only to Atlantic Highlands but also to the entire Bayshore region. Many people have bought homes in Atlantic Highlands because of the convenience of the ferry and the ease that it affords to commute to New York City. 7

8 Many Mind Creek Many Mind Creek is a natural waterway draining into Sandy Hook Bay. The mouth of the creek is located at the west side of West Avenue. Public attention is considerable; the Borough of Atlantic Highlands has planned to plant trees and flowers along the creek (Archibald (b) 2003). A developer has planned to build private housing units around the creek. Members of the Environmental Commission are concerned that public access will be very limited if the plan is carried out. The Environmental Commission has counter-planned to preserve the public access to the creek and maintain the natural environment of the creek with additional 125 ferry parking spaces between the west side of the creek and West Avenue. Central Avenue Park Central Avenue Park is located to the west of Avenue D behind a privately owned boat/yacht yard, Blackfoot Mobile Marine. The public may park at the side of the park. The park includes a T-ball field. There is a path at the west side of Blackfoot Mobile Marine leading to a public sandy beach. The beach is leased by the 8

9 Borough to the members of the marina for parking their yachts during the summer time. No fee is required for the beach and there is no lifeguard. Popomora Point Popomora Point is at the east end of the Borough on Bayside Drive. It is a part of Popomora County Park under the Mt. Mitchell Overlook. The beach is public and requires no fee. There is no lifeguard. The county park includes public parking spaces. Hess Pier Hess Pier is the common name for an old pier that used to be used used for the train line into Sandy Hook Bay. It is at the end of First Avenue. It is still privately owned and supposedly closed to the public, but the fence is broken and it has been informally used by the public for fishing for a long time. According to the Environmental Commission, the Commission has planned to take over this pier and open it for the public. They also have planned to build a bikeway through the pier. There were as many as ten people at the pier including an adult male fishing, a gang of local children fishing and playing, and some more people taking a walk when we observed the site in the spring of According to the children, they go to the pier often to play around or fishing by themselves. 9

10 Blackfoot Mobile Marine Blackfoot Mobile Marine is a privately owned yacht/boat yard and located at the west side of the end of Avenue D next to the public beach connecting to Center Avenue Park; it offers services such as storage, hauling, and maintenance for boats and yachts. The Borough leases the public beach next to the Blackfoot Mobile Marine to their members to haul their yachts during the summer. Waterfront Private Residential Areas Most of the private houses along the waterfront in Atlantic Highlands are not built on the shoreline. However, one on the east side of the end of Avenue A is built on the beach. The owner of the house put rocks and fences in the area that used to be a part of the public beach. Because of this, the public cannot gain access from Many Mind Creek to the public beach west of the house along the shoreline. Between Avenue A and Avenue D A 1,250 feet long segment along the waterfront between the west side of Avenue A and D is used for private housing (and Blackfoot Mobile Marine in the east side of Avenue D). However, the shore adjacent to these houses is informally accessible through the dead ends of Avenue A, the pathway of Harbor Drive, and Avenue D. 10

11 East of Harbor Park to Popomora Point The public beach at Popomora Point continues to Harbor Park. However, public access is limited by the private housing built in front of the beach. 3. Waterfront Issues and Planning Initiatives 3.1 Waterfront issues The current issues of the waterfront areas in Atlantic Highlands are plans for the area around Many Mind Creek and shortage of parking space in Harbor Park. The municipal parking spaces in Harbor Park are used for all people who go to the park areas including various recreational opportunities; so, the parking space issue is very critical. Many ferry customers park there, the main cause of the parking issue Planning Initiatives The ferry service in Harbor Park in Atlantic Highlands has had a problem providing parking, and since the ferry terminal in nearby Belford was opened in 2003 with a large parking space for about 1,000 cars, many ferry customers whot used to use the terminal in Atlantic Highlands have started to use the one in Belford. In order to bring these customers back to Atlantic Highlands, the Borough has planned to invest in expanding the parking space as well as relocating the ferry terminal in Harbor Park (Archibald (a), 2003) Many Mind Creek is a natural waterway that has attracted public attention. The Borough has planned to preserve the creek by planting trees and flowers. The Environmental Commission of Atlantic Highlands has especially worked to stop a developer s plan to 11

12 build private housing units around the creek. The Environmental Commission has planned to preserve public access to the creek as well as the ecosystem of the creek and fought against the developer s plan. The Environmental Commission has also planned to take over the privately owned pier, the so-called Hess Pier, and a trail, Henry Hudson Trail, along the bayshore including Hess Pier. The Master Plan was last re-examined in August According to the last Master Plan, the Waterfront Design Element states that future development must respect the public interest in maintaining and enhancing the waterfront as a community resource. The Borough Plan needs to address the needs (a) to maintain and enhance public access to the waterfront; (b) to develop and maintain the waterfront s potential for recreation and open space; (c) to enhance the contribution made by the waterfront to the Borough by linking it to the First Avenue business district and encouraging appropriate water-oriented uses; and (c) to coordinate with State and County plans for coastal zone management and waterfront development. 4. Summary The Borough of Atlantic Highlands is clearly developed in relation to the waterfront, especially Harbor Park. Most of the businesses are around Harbor Park area and the ferry service brings people into the town. The Borough has encouraged businesses in the waterfront and also has tried to preserve public access to the waterfront. The Environmental Commission of Atlantic Highlands has very actively worked to preserve the waterfront environment as well as public access. 12

13 Atlantic Highlands has long been a commuter s town. The median income of the residents is relatively high in the Bayshore region. Public concerns about the waterfront areas are very high. It has been the main task for the Borough to balance the public use of the waterfront and the development of the waterfront businesses and housing. References Archibald, Jack (a) Council Supports $2 Million Grant for Ferry Terminal. Atlantic Highlands Herald, April 3, Electronic Document, accessed on May 8, (b), 2003, Many Mind Creek Greenway Plans Presented, Atlantic Highlands Herald, May 15, Electronic Document, accessed on May 8, Atlantic Highlands Historical Society, Electronic Document, accessed on May 10, Borough of Atlantic Highlands, NJ Atlantic Highlands Borough official HP, accessed in February, 2004 Census 2000 of Atlantic Highlands Borough 13

14 City-Data.com Atlantic Highlands: Satellite Photo by USGS in Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey Detailed Profile, accessed in May, The Master Plan of Atlantic Highlands Borough, August Riley, Michael Despite harbor s size, the waiting list to get in is long. Asbury Park Press, May 17, Electronic document, accessed in May,