A view of the aftermath from last month’s northeaster at Donovan’s Reef. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)
By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
The website of Donovan’s Reef urges visitors to check out the bar’s trove of pictures of its tiki bar, outdoor deck and volleyball court to see what they look like before the crowd gets there. It also features a brief video panning across the deck and, beyond the volleyball court and tiki bar, the Atlantic Ocean.
The ocean is about the only thing left of it these days.
A series of winter storms, devastatingly punctuated by a March northeaster, has left many Sea Bright beaches in disarray, and the uprooted palm trees, blown-away chairs and knocked over lifeguard stands at Donovan’s Reef are among the most glaring examples of that.
In other places, like the Tradewinds and Fountains beach club areas, access stairs are up to six feet above the sand, says Borough Administrator Maryann Smeltzer.
About half of the borough’s dunes, dune grass and fencing were destroyed or washed away in the most recent storm, she said.
But here’s no money to replenish the beaches, Mayor Maria Fernandes said at last week’s council meeting, after sitting down with Congressman Frank Pallone to discuss the borough’s options.
Sea Bright’s neighbors to the south, Monmouth Beach and North Long Branch, did receive federal funding, she said. If the summer wind is kind, then Sea Bright will recoup some sand that will add to the small mounds that used to be protective dunes, she said at the meeting.
“For us, sand is important because it’s our economy,” she said.
That couldn’t be more true than it is at Donovan’s, which is open seasonally and relies heavily upon its beachfront ambiance to bring in business, said owner Christopher Bowler.
With the tiki bar and volleyball court swept away and destroyed, this summer will probably mean beers served from kegs at a makeshift tent rather than margaritas at a nice wooden bar at sunset.
“It’s going to be devastating,” Bowler said.
Councilwoman Dina Long is spearheading a volunteer effort later this month to plant new dune grass and install new fencing along the borough’s beaches. Smeltzer said the beaches south of Donovan’s were hit the worst, while the Chapel Beach section and north of it are in good shape.
Long’s effort will help a little, but the big problem is the lack of sand, Smeltzer says. That leaves the borough susceptible to flooding and threatens native habitats. She says that unless some sort of funding comes through, the borough will have to put a lot of stock in hope.
Long’s effort will take place from dawn until dusk on Sunday April 25. She’s looking for volunteers who can contribute as much time as they’re willing.
If you’re interested in volunteering, call borough hall at 732-842-0099 or email.