Jersey Shore Residents

Another 4th of July has come and gone.  It was a beautiful summer weekend to be at the Jersey Shore.  Sunny days on the beach (ok, there was some cloud cover and the occasional passing shower) and fireworks at night.  It wasn't too hot and it wasn't too cold.  It was the kind of weekend at you see in advertisements for the Jersey Shore.

The shore was hopping this weekend.  There were plenty of people; tourists and locals.  The local shops were busy and hopefully making some serious money.  (Since most of the businesses are season and this is THE season.  Of course, as I learned, the local Wawa is NOT just a place to shop but a place to socialize with all your friends.  Who need the beach when you and all your friends can stand around in the middle of the store?)  The roads were crowded.  (The media will proclaim how all lanes on Rt. 35 are open and paved.  Of course what they won't say is the rest of the streets are still a torn up mess and you bump off of the main highway and down the road that will either take you to the ocean or the bay, depending on which way you turn.)

As always, I was out there in the mornings taking my daily walks.  You can "see" a lot when the world is quiet early in the morning.  Before the contractors pull in to do their work.  Before the "Bennys" (or Shobees, depending on where you are on the shore) are out on the sand.  There is quiet, except for the sounds of the birds, the water and my feet on the pavement.

During my walks, I came to realize that there are, in general, three types of "residents" these days at the Jersey Shore.  And when I say residents, I am purposely leaving out the tourists, and talking specifically about the homeowners/landowners.

1.     Those who Sandy destroyed:  These are the ones that break my heart and there are more of them than anyone might care of admit.  They are the people who live(d) year round at the shore.  Those who truly called the strip of land their home.  In blunt terms they are SoL.  They have been unable to return to their homes mostly due to financial reasons.  FEMA (which has become a dirty word in my book) has failed them.  They may have a little money, but certainly not enough to rebuild and return.   There are also some who had residences elsewhere and cannot afford to return.  Those who may have had a small home on this strip of land that has been passed down from generation to generation. (Just Google Images for Camp Osborne, NJ).  You can identify these residents by the small houses or overgrown patches of land on which once obviously stood something.  Some have for sale signs.  Others just look forlorn. No matter what anyone tells you, they will not be back.  A history that has been wiped away with a storm that still haunts.
2.     Those who managed to scrap by and recover. They are rare.  The houses are smallish.  Some have been raised; some not. They have used what little insurance money, their own savings and perhaps even a bit from the government to return. For many it meant wiping out lifelong savings. As my family falls into this category, I can say that it was an uphill battle all the way. 
3.       People with money:  lots and lots of money.  In the wake of Sandy there are some mighty big houses going up (or just finished).  Yes, there were some big houses prior to the storm, but now there are A LOT more.  And they are BIG.  They are tall (usually three stories, not including the "lower parking level" with lots of stairs (you have to have stairs if you're really raising a house) and often with lots of windows.  The people who have built/purchased these "estates" have to have money.  After Sandy it wasn't about the house, it was about the property.  The beach cottages of days gone by are GONE.  I'm on the fence when it comes to these houses.  I fully admit that I'm jealous so that may color my thoughts.  These large houses seem out of place.  But then as time goes by there are more of them than there are the summer cottages of my past.  So they may be the new norm. This makes me even sadder for those who are unable to come back.  It seems like the family friendly summer cottages of my youth are gone (as is my youth).

For good or bad, this is what "my" part of the Jersey shore looks like now.  It is what my son will grow up with and accept, just as I accepted what was there before.  Who knows what he will think when he looks back in 20 or so years.  What will the shore look like for him? 


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