From party destination to cultivated charm: the new Beesley’s Point Park
FOR quite some time in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, it wouldn’t be unusual, on any given Friday or Saturday night, for cars driving south over the Beesley’s Point Bridge to see a gaggle of teenagers having a party at the Harbor Road Boat Ramp, affectionately known as ‘Lightside’.
A lot has changed in 30 years.
Gone is the Beesley’s Point Bridge, and with it, the vantage point that the state police had to observe, and subsequently break up, the parties. Gone too are parties – teenagers today seem to be a lot more sophisticated with their free time than those of previous generations. And while parts of it are still physically there, the B.L. England power plant itself shut down, significantly reducing the amount of people coming and going. For a little while, it seemed like everything that had contributed to the bustling little throughway from Beesley’s Point to Somers Point was gone, and that the area itself might be little more than an afterthought.
And then, Lightside itself was utterly transformed.
“It’s a win-win for the township,” says Upper Township Realtor Erica Rudolph of RE/Max at the Shore, of the updates to the area. “Not only does it elevate the appearance of our community but it provides a great place for families to bike ride, take a walk, or just hit the beach.”
The updates are substantial. In addition to a new and paved parking lot with striking and plentiful parking light fixtures, the upgrades include a modern boardwalk area at the top of the beach that includes benches, picnic tables, and a shaded area, a rooftop observation area, new restrooms, a multi-use path over the Great Egg Harbor Bay for walkers and bikers, and new paving for the pre-existing boat ramps.
Those who live and work closest to Beesley’s Point Park seem to appreciate the updates.
“It’s so much nicer to go through there,” says Mary Garrett, who lives on Harbor Road.
Mary, like other residents of Harbor Road, has to pass directly through Beesley’s Point Park to get to Route 9. The new views are appreciated.
“On nice days, there are people down there with lunches and they’ll sit on the benches just watching the water,” said Mary. “And the trash is so much more well taken care of. I think if something looks nice, people seem to respect it more.”
Mary’s daughter Maggie, of Washington D.C., notices the same thing every time she visits her mom.
“It’s a lot more attractive and inviting,” said Maggie. “I think the worry was the parking because we were worried it might bring too many people. Before the upgrades, people would park in the road and make it difficult to pull out.”
However, with clearly delineated parking spots, delineated crosswalks, and directional guidelines – the boardwalk area has only two entrances, leading visitors in a certain direction rather than walking across the road at random – the parking lot seems to be an improvement on the former lot, which was a little bit like the Wild West.
“People would park wherever they wanted,” said Mary.
The upgrades have been good for Tyson Merryman as well. Tyson, owner of The Tuckahoe Inn, has seen an increase in pedestrians, many of whom translate into customers.
“I’m very happy with it. We’re finding that it’s attracting a lot of people from Ocean City, bicycle riders and walkers coming over the bridge,” says Merryman. “So many more people are out there seeing it from the bridge, coming over going like, ‘Oh that looks nice. Let’s go over.”
While the beach at Beesley’s Point was always a bit of a hidden gem, the renovations seem to have breathed new life into the area, making it more of a crown jewel in Upper Township’s landscape.
“That beach is its own little niche,” said Tyson. “I look down there some days and it’s packed. I see people here every day no matter what the weather.”
The changes seem to have inspired additional upgrades to the area. Tyson himself is in the process of building a new outdoor bar for The Tuckahoe Inn.
“We’re building a brand new bar out there. The gazebo and boat bars are gone,” said Tyson. “We’re putting in a bar where the gazebo was, basically in the same footprint, but a lot nicer. You can sit all the way around it and look out over the water. The whole bar opens up.”
Things won’t stop there.
Across the street, the site of the former B.L. England power plant, which sold to Beesley’s Point Development Group LLC earlier this year, is slated for demolition. While the new owners haven’t shared detailed plans for the future of the property, township officials previously shared that a new hotel and marina were among the potential plans.
Though we’re not completely sure what the new development will be, there’s plenty of speculation, and likewise, plenty of suggestions.
“I’m hoping that they take the old golf course and turn it into a nature preserve,” said Tyson. “I’m pushing everybody’s buttons on that one.”
Find this story and more in the July magazine