By RAY SCHWEIBERT December 2007
It seems as though municipalities sometimes have little control over the start-finish dates of major construction projects when grant money is involved. The upside to programs like the state’s Green Acres Grant Program and County/Municipal Open Space Partnership is that the city is spared much of the personal expense. The downside is that business can interfere with pleasure, such as when beach replenishment projects begin while summer is still in full swing, or when the municipal boat ramp closes for reconstruction while fishermen are still trying to catch stripers.
Ultimately, it is always worth the inconvenience. In the latter example, the city will soon have a boat ramp that is 20 feet longer than it was previously, meaning easier access to open water at low tide and no more trailer wheels falling off “the ledge.”
Additionally, the two floating docks positioned parallel to the expanded ramp will soon be replaced by those that are about as high-tech as floating platforms can get. City Manager Jim Barber and Public Works Superintendent Ernie Purdy attended the N.J. League of Municipalities Convention in November, and Purdy saw a presentation that tied in well with the timing of the boat-ramp reconstruction.
The presentation was for E-Z Dock floating platforms, which are made in Missouri but are becoming the benchmark for floating docks in all marine environments. The same company manufactures the personal watercraft platforms that have become widespread throughout coastal New Jersey, and are now creating the floating docks that should eventually replace all the old barrel-like floats topped by wooden walkways.
“The fact that the city was intending to remove the existing floaters around the same time that we saw the presentation was kind of like fate,” said Purdy. “The new floaters are made of stainless steel and a hard plastic that is structurally better in every respect. If you saw the old wooden floaters after they were pulled out, there were barnacles all over them, some were leaking; the wood was all rotted. The new EZ Dock system will be maintenance free for about 15-20 years. And the price came in so much cheaper than the wooden floaters.”
The E-Z floaters are easier to assemble than the traditional floating docks, and Purdy described the parts fitting together “like an erector set.” Their stability is better, they do not require bumper reinforcement (like the old tire or fire-hose pieces commonly seen on wooden docks), they are easier to clean, and their compression force is superior. Wooden floaters must have pilings spaced at least 10 feet apart to be structurally sound, whereas E-Z floaters can have as much as 20 feet between pilings.
“Public Works typically has to retrieve about 20 wooden floaters a year that break free from pilings,” said Purdy. “These things can withstand much more punishment. In Somers Point they’re everywhere, and some of them are out in the main channel and stay put even in gale-force winds.”
The new municipal boat ramp/floating dock project should be completed, weather permitting, by Jan. 18 according to City Engineer Ed Stinson.