3/14/13 – RFA-NJ Members Fight For Drag Island

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Rallies Support For Land-Based Angler Access At Beesley’s Point

The Drag Island Access Preservation Association (DIAPA) has recently been founded by several interested New Jersey residents and anglers, including longtime Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) member Bill Shillingford of Cape May County.  In a recent release by Shillingford and fellow DIAPA members George Bucci, Nick Verducci, and Pat Martin, DIAPA is described as a group formed and determined to fight for continued foot access to Drag Island, a historic surfcasting location at the base of the Garden State Parkway and Beesley’s Point bridges in Somers Point.

The State of New Jersey is building a new southbound Parkway bridge and plans to demolish the Beesley’s Point Bridge in its entirety, leaving no access to Drag Island for fishermen, crabbers, folks who like to jog or walk, and nature lovers.  Access has been in existence to Drag Island for 85 years since the Beesley’s Point Bridge first opened in 1928, but plans for the new project would forbid foot access.  DIAPA volunteers say that once the Beesley’s Point Bridge is demolished, all angler access to Drag Island will be forever taken away, thus violating the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) rules regarding public access.

DIAPA seeks to maintain foot access by keeping open the flat bridge that services Drag Island from Somers Point. Based on NJDEP rules and the Public Trust Doctrine, DIAPA believes that the State has the legal responsibility to maintain access to Drag Island; and by keeping this part of the bridge opened, the Parkway project would be unaffected.  DIAPA is also pushing for creation of a fishing pier out of the old Beesley’s Point Bridge, specifically the portion of the bridge facing South from Drag Island.

“RFA and RFA-NJ have been committed to protecting access for saltwater anglers, and this Drag Island issue is one we’re concerned about,” said RFA-NJ member Greg O’Connell.  “From a foot traffic standpoint, the first bridge from Somers Point to Drag Island could easily be converted to an angler access mechanism to Drag Island, and that’s what we’re hoping to get the state to recognize.”

O’Connell said that RFA and RFA-NJ have been in frequent meetings with NJDEP officials over the past few years regarding angler access in the state.  “We’ve always been told that there would be no loss of current access points, and we believe that should include small, discreet, historic access points like Drag Island,” O’Connell said.

If you are interested in helping save access, DIAPA has started an online petition at www.ipetitions.com/petition/save-drag-island-access.  You can also join the New Jersey discussion and debate at www.BassBarn.com.  DIAPA founders have met with politicians concerning this subject which has also received media attention by Channel 40 news and local newspapers.  However, more support is necessary to make an impact. If access to this area is taken away, the public will suffer yet another example of progress taking priority over the rights of citizens.

Make your voice heard and contact the DEP, the Turnpike Authority and your local politicians and ask that access be provided to Drag Island like it has been for the past 85 years. For more information, contact DIAPA at bucktail8@aol.com.

The Recreational Fishing Alliance is a national, grassroots political action organization representing recreational fishermen and the recreational fishing industry on marine fisheries issues. RFA’s Mission is to safeguard the rights of saltwater anglers, protect marine, boat and tackle industry jobs, and ensure the long-term sustainability of our Nation’s saltwater fisheries. For more information, call 888-JOIN-RFA or visit www.rfa.tvsdev.com