From New Jersey State League of Municipalities Magazine - October 2011
The City of Cape May is known as “The Nation’s Oldest Seashore Resort” and has been designated as a National Historic Landmark district by the U. S. Department of the Interior. With a permanent population of 3,800 residents, the City plays host to 45,000 vacationers during the summer weekends. This popularity is caused by an economic rejuvenation over the past 40 years, primarily due to the incorporation of the arts, history, culture, recreation, and sustainability into our community’s development.
Coupled with a model program of a public-private partnership, Cape May has seen the progressive growth of our annual economy into a 10.5 months season, as opposed to the standard 12- week season in most seashore resorts. In this arrangement, City-owned property is leased on a long-term basis for one dollar per year with eight non-profit organizations responsible for the renovations, operations, and maintenance.
CAPE MAY — Students and faculty from Temple University School of Environmental Design are returning to Cape May Dec. 10 for a special town meeting to present initial concept plans and models to improve Rotary Park and Harbor View Park, plans for Sewell Point Sanctuary and a pedestrian trail.
Mayor Edward J. Mahaney Jr. said students would bring three to five models for each site. The meeting will be held at Cape May Elementary School beginning at 3:30, so as not to interfere with Hospitality Night on the Washington Street Mall that night.
The mission of students and faculty of Temple’s Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture is to observe, document, evaluate, plan, and design these spaces and places in accordance with the City of Cape May’s Master Plan and the Historic Preservation Commission Design Guidelines. Temple students will also research and identify potential sources of grant funding for each of the four projects.
CAPE MAY — The city has two parks that could be improved, a new sanctuary planned for Sewell Point and a concept of pedestrian walking trail to link significant historic, cultural, architectural, commercial sites and recreational and open space together.
A group of 25 students from Temple University Department of Landscaping Architecture and Horticulture, who have been studying Cape May since late August, met with residents Wednesday Oct. 21 and presented results of an inventory of the city’s parks and resources.
Over the next nine months, Temple students will develop designs to upgrade Rotary Park, Harborview Park, the future Sewell Point Sanctuary and to create a pedestrian trail.
“The purpose of this meeting is to find out what the dreams, hopes and concerns are of all you as the citizens,” Mayor Edward J. Mahaney Jr.
He said designs for the project would come from meetings with the public.
Stuart D. Appeal, a planner, landscape architect, urban designer and Temple faculty member, who is heading the project, said students have been collecting information in Cape May and looking at case studies of other cities with downtown and riverside parks.
“We’re not here to present ideas, we’re not here to present solutions, we’re here to listen to you,” he said to the audience of about 100 residents.
The Temple students will return Dec. 10 with the results of talking with residents and some ideas for ideas for the parks and return in the spring with designs.
Student Jen Gilbert covered the city’s history, cultural activities and architecture and the concept of tying Cape May’s best features together on an easy-to-follow pedestrian trail.
Student Denise Wood covered the city’s ecology and natural resources including soil types.
She said the state Department of Environmental Protection has designated Cape May as a “natural heritage priority site.” The city is very sensitive to environmental changes and habitat is threatened by shoreline erosion, invasive plants and animals, and rapid development, said Wood.
She said more than half of Cape May, 90,000 acres, is wetlands, which act as sponges to help prevent flooding and filter sediment from the water.
Student Mike Ford examined Rotary Park. He noted sidewalks were in poor condition and was not handicapped accessible from all sides.
There are foundations from old buildings under the park and the soil is in poor condition, said Ford.
Student John Gleason covered Harborview Park, which he described as secluded with little vehicular traffic. He noted some dead trees on the site.
Gleason said trash collects at the tidal area where invasive plants are also growing.
The students noted the many positive points of the city’s parks and Sewell Point.
Student Rebecca Kagle profiled the future Sewell Point Sanctuary formerly known as the Brodesser Tract. She said it was the result of dredge spoils being piled up from the dredging of Cape May Harbor.
The wetlands are freshwater and covered in many portions by Phragmites reeds, she said.
Kagle said there are two entrances into Sewell Point, one next to Cape May Lutheran Church on Pittsburgh Avenue and another off Pennsylvania Avenue where a huge Red Maple Tree is located at the trail’s end.
A 1988 survey showed different species of birds were found at Sewell Point than those at Higbees Beach, she said.
At the conclusion of the students’ PowerPoint presentation, Appel asked the public to break down into small groups to allow residents to voice their ideas on the three parks and pedestrian trail.
Residents were asked what they treasured about the sites, their concerns, and their hopes and dreams.