Monday, June 13, 2016

N.j. Boat Show Makes New Start


Posted: January 12, 1986

In one corner, Mike Mercadante of the Ultima Cove Marina in Tuckerton, N.J., was busy showing off a 31-foot Eleganza, a boat that carries two 330- horsepower engines and cruises at a top speed of about 75 m.p.h. List price: $63,549.

In another corner, Bill Parsons Sr. of the Dredge Harbor Yacht Basin in Delran was pushing the opposite extreme: a 14-foot Bayliner ski boat with a 50-horsepower engine that was going for the paltry sum of $4,388.

Both men expected to attract their fare share of buyers.

Their forum was the 1st annual New Jersey Boat Show, held this weekend at Garden State Park in Cherry Hill. Actually, the "1st annual" part of the name is slightly misleading. The show existed for seven consecutive years at Garden State before the 1977 fire that destroyed the race track.

"But we're looking at this as a new beginning," said Jerry Flaxman, president of Sports Shows Inc. of Cherry Hill, which organized the affair.

The show, which began Friday afternoon and was to last through today, was expected to attract more than 20,000 prospective buyers and browsers from New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware. More than 200 boats and 50 exhibits set up by local dealerships, manufacturers and manufacturers' representatives crowded Garden State's enclosed grandstand. Flaxman said individual exhibitors rented space for about $2 per square foot.

Flaxman, who paid a flat fee to rent Garden State, said officials of the race track, which finished its first racing season in the red, were extremely receptive to the show.

"Obviously, they were very happy to have us come in," said Flaxman. ''It's another way of bringing revenue into the track."

Bringing the boats in, however, was no easy matter. Flaxman's people worked round the clock last week to set up the boats, which were brought into the grandstand area on trailers, then delicately removed to dollies and wheeled into position.

"They had to take some of the windshields of the boats off just to get them in," said George Hunter, a spokesman for the show.

Others, such as the 40-by-25-foot Silverton yacht (list price: $126,000), had to be kept outside, where it barely was able to fit under the awning at the track's grandiose entrance.

Once the boats were in place, all the representatives had to do was concentrate on selling the merchandise. And that, Mercadante said, would not be difficult.

"Boat shows are the best way to move your inventory," Mercadante said ''I'll talk to about 300 prospective buyers this weekend and make about 30 deals.

"Usually, people here are in a pretty good mood because it's a social event. And if you catch people in the right mood and use the right rap, you can sell them a boat.

"Also, the prices are considerably lower," he said. "Wintertime is the best time to buy. For instance, we're selling that Eleganza for $15,000 less than list price. The manufacturers would rather sell the boat for less money and keep everyone working rather than lay off workers in the off-season. If they can sell 10 to 15 boats at a show, it's all been worth it."

"We'll do more volume here than in the showroom," said Parsons. "We cater to the person who's buying a boat for the first time, and we lower our prices accordingly. We can set that person up with a total package for less than $5,000."

Dickering for the best price is a common characteristic of a boat show, according to customer Fred Marshall of Newark, Del.

"Cash talks here," said Marshall, who said he was a regular at boat shows. "You can get some pretty good deals by negotiating with the (manufacturers') reps. I just gave a guy a price on a cruiser, and I'm waiting to hear from him. If he wants the sale, he'll find me."

On The Delaware - And At Home

Source: Posted: February 23, 1986

They are the neighbors in every nightmare.

They make noise at all hours of the morning, devour whatever is put in front of them and have a noticeably difficult time lifting their rotund bodies when asked to move.

But as long as he lives on his boat, Chris Delaney will get unsolicited visits and wake-up calls from those neighbors - the ducks that frequent the ice in front of his bedroom window.

"Come here," Delaney said in a sing-song voice as he slid open the glass window at the back of his houseboat, the Freebird, one recent afternoon. Just as the most spry of the ducks lumbered over to him, expecting a bite to eat, Delaney slammed the window shut.

"I can't stand them," he confided, almost cattishly, as the unruffled ducks turned back. "But I put up with them."

Such is life on the river.

Delaney, 30, is one of 20 people who live in about 10 boats docked at Delran's Riverside Marina, and one of about 50 people who live in the six local marinas along the edge of the Delaware River.

Known to themselves and marina employees as "live-aboards," those who have docks as sidewalks, salons instead of living rooms and galleys instead of kitchens are a dying breed.

During the last few years, marina owners have tried to discourage those seeking an alternative lifestyle from buying boats to live on all year round. As the economy improves, so does the sale of boats and the rental rate for boat slips. Marina owners know they can get more money in the spring and summer for the rental of slips, and say live-aboards take up too many of them.

The Riverside Marina has been taking live-aboards for about 15 years. But Billie Sejda, who manages storage and dockage at the marina, said the live- aboards now there would be the last.

"It's nice to keep different people coming in and out," Sejda said while seated in her office at the marina. "It seems every year it's getting a bit tighter to rent a slip." The marina now has a waiting list of about 10 people who are hoping to get slips.

"Once you let a live-aboard on, they'll stay," she said.

Sejda said that the marina did a brisk business storing boats for the winter and that it also did repairs, so it needed the extra slips for the extra work. She said that the marina could do more repairs if the year-round residents were not there, but that the live-aboards were not stopping progress.

What the live-aboards may be stopping, however, is crime. Sejda said that because the docks were almost deserted in the cold months, there was a greater chance for a ship to sink, drift or be burglarized without a witness. But because the live-aboards walk the docks daily, the marina has its own live-in security system.

"The live-aboards are really a nice group of people," Sejda said. "It's nice to know that they are around."

Indeed, Chris Delaney said he and a neighbor had more than once noticed a low-floating boat or a loose line along a dock. They also know that they should only climb aboard a stranger's boat together, for safety reasons - neither wants to be accused of attempted theft.

"I was never as aware of my neighbors as I am now," said Delaney, a former private-airplane pilot who is seeking to enter medical school.

He purchased his boat about six years ago. "Live-aboards have an interest in watching out for each other. They know what's normal and they know what's not."

Delaney said fire is the live-aboard's worst fear, because it spreads in less time than it takes for a boat to sink. He has installed four fire extinguishers and a sprinkler system in his 40-foot-long boat.

He stressed that living aboard a boat was by no means cheaper than renting an apartment or buying a house.

On the average, a boat large enough to house a person and his or her belongings costs $30,000 and up. Way up.

In addition, there are the costs for insurance, utilities, fuel, debt service, maintenance and dock fees.

"They are not less expensive than a house," Delaney said. "Not if you want to live like a civilized human being."

Live-aboards at the Riverside Marina pay between $600 and $800, depending on the size of the boat, for the six-month period from October to March. The rates are slightly higher for the period from April to September.

Down the river at the Castle Harbor Marina in Riverside, the rates are slightly less - renters pay $600 for six months for a slip and an additional $15 for every foot over 25 feet, said May Watson, a bookkeeper at the marina.

"It isn't that expensive to live on a boat," Watson said. "But in seven years or so, you are going to have a boat to show for all your money. If you rent an apartment, you're not going to have anything but rent receipts. That makes a big difference."

A person could live aboard and pay less than $2,000 a year in rent. However, that figure does not include the costs of electricity and maintenance, where most boat owners say they feel the tightest pinch.

Lou Caceres, 48, a facilities manager for the Council for Labor and Industry in Philadelphia, a private nonprofit real estate management company, said those who were thinking of moving onto a boat should think carefully.

"Boats are very expensive and very hard to maintain," he said, surrounded by friends on his 47-foot houseboat one gray afternoon.

Caceres, who lived at the Dredge Harbor Marina in Delran until it turned out most of its live-aboards last year to rebuild its dock, has lived at Castle Harbor for eight months.

"Yeah, sure, you don't pay taxes, you live your own way," Caceres said. ''The greatest thing about it is, if I don't like my neighbor, I pick up my damned line and I move. You can't do that if you have a corner lot."

Don Opperman, 43, a Mount Laurel police officer, has lived aboard his boat for five years. He lived at the Rancocas Marina and the Riverside Marina until last year, when he came to Castle Harbor.

"Everything for a boat is big money," Opperman said, taking a long draw from his cigarette. "You take something for a house and times it by three, and you've got the picture. That's no lie."

"The rent is cheap," Opperman said. "That's it. The rent is cheap."

Said Caceres, "If you are going into this lifestyle and people tell you it's cheap, then you are going into it mistakenly, because these things are powered by gasoline or by diesel, and that's expensive. Insurance is also very expensive. The little toys that you want to have in them are expensive. Materials are expensive. So it isn't all, 'Hooray, I don't have to pay taxes.' That's a lot of bull."

Caceres said he had spent thousands of dollars upgrading his boat, which had been custom-built for a former Baltimore Colts professional football player, Gino Marchetti, of the Gino's restaurant chain.

Caceres installed his own bubbler system - a pressurized, underwater hose that prevents the water around the boat from freezing - and knocked out a wall to lengthen the main room of the boat.

In the back of the boat, he installed a full-size washer and dryer and has two refrigerators. Perched on top of one of them is a black-and-white photograph of Caceres, taken in 1956 and showing him as a young, clean-shaven sailor.

He said that he had served in the Navy, and that when he got older, he sold a lot of his belongings and put the money into a boat. The houseboat he owns is his second boat.

"I grew up around the water," Caceres said, as his friend Kathleen Langan watched him intently. "I feel better here. I work in a pressure cooker. When you get here, you are turned loose. As soon as I park the car and I come down the gangplank, I'm done. It's different.

"If I had my way, I wouldn't even have a phone. But you have to say, 'I need this.' "

The pressures of daily life have left many to seek solace by the sea, despite the drastic change in lifestyle. However, they have to get used to the colder temperatures in the winter, despite kerosene heaters. In addition, because very little can be stored on a boat, many live-aboards have learned not to keep anything that does not have multiple uses.

Chris Delaney said that he had always been fascinated by the water, and that he was "touched" by the opportunity to live on a boat.

"Live-aboards are not transient people," he said, referring to the fact that most stay docked at one slip. "This is not a businessman who took off during a midlife crisis and took a boat to Tahiti."

Delaney, a lieutenant in the Delran Emergency Squad, decided to make a career change after working as a pilot for 11 years. He decided that in addition to changing his career, he would also change his surroundings.

He searched for a boat for a long time before choosing the Freebird. The boat's generator maintains 7.5 kilowatts of power and has two tanks, which hold 110 gallons of water.

"I didn't want a half-sunken Winnebago," Delaney joked. He added that he has two 30-ampere electrical lines hooked up to the marina's lines, as well as a phone line.

The roomy, carpeted main room serves as a dining room and kitchen. Delaney has installed a small, wooden table at a windowed corner of the boat, and a microwave oven fills a shelf above the pullout couch. There is a narrow and thin kitchen counter with a small sink at the end. The bathroom has a high ceiling, cabinet space and a full-size shower. The bedroom, in the back of the boat - where the ducks congregate - houses a scaled-down bureau, desk and bed.

Delaney does not seem to need anything. He has an extensive stereo system hooked up on a shelf above his bed, and a microcomputer, including a printer, on his desk.

"This is the quintessential live-aboard boat," said Delaney as he sipped a cold beer. He said that because he is single and has no family, he is very close to the members of the emergency squad, who often come for summer gatherings and rides out to sea.

"Some friends appear only in the summer, but I welcome that," he said. ''I enjoy that very much. The uniqueness of calling a boat my home appeals to me.

"What I don't want to do is get old and look back and say, 'You should have tried living on a boat.' I thought I would be here a year or 18 months, but I'm still here."

Across the way from Delaney's boat, a couple struggled in and out of a sailboat repeatedly in the course of an hour. Delaney said they had only lived in the boat for a few months, and he was casually watching their progress.

"I don't know what they do all day," said Delaney, adding that the day's freezing temperatures had kept even the local ducks from patrolling the docks and gangplank.

"I've been making an effort not to take this all for granted," he said, looking out his back window at the serene and frozen Delaware. "Not many people know what it's like to be on a boat during a quiet snowstorm at night. This is a postcard for most people."

Lou Caceres said that when he decided to live on a boat, it was almost an adventure for him, a challenge.

"We all have it, we all have the Walter Mitty in us," Caceres said. "We want to go and do these things, and then you find yourself one day with a beer too many, in the middle of the river, going the wrong way - and you don't know what the hell you are going to do."

He said the services on the water were almost nonexistent, because there were no marine police officers and the nearest Coast Guard station was about 16 miles downriver, at Gloucester City. However, the Delran Fire Department is considering the purchase of a boat specifically for patrolling the marinas.

"If you are not well-prepared, you can get into a lot of trouble - you can lose a lot," Caceres said. "When I take my home somewhere with me and I hit a rock, where am I going to go?

"It would be nice if I had a corner where I could set my Christmas tree up. That's one of the things I miss."

Caceres said he also missed the space of a house and the freedom to walk from one room to another for privacy.

Live-aboard children do not have much freedom, either, Caceres said, because there is little room for them to scamper about or make noise.

In addition, some live-aboards speculate that they would also have problems putting children in school. Some school boards, they said, might not easily accept a child whose parents do not pay direct taxes and live in the ultimate mobile home.

"But I don't care how well you educate them," Caceres said of children. ''They are isolated. Just the fact that they go to their peers one day and say, 'I live on a boat.' The kids think they are weird, that there is something wrong with them.

"I get that from work. People think that because I live on a boat, it's a yacht and I'm a millionaire. Your bosses find that out and they think you are independently wealthy. I say, if I was, I wouldn't be working for them," Caceres said, causing the boat to sway as a result of the laughter.

"But as far as I'm concerned, I'm on my retirement home," he added. ''This is it. When I retire, whatever boat I am living on, I will be taking it to Florida and I will be following the sun. That's the whole idea."

Riverfront Housing Plan Raises Broader Questions

Source: Posted: June 04, 1986

A proposal to build a riverfront community of more than 250 townhouses in Cinnaminson's industrial park has prompted the township's leaders to rethink the entire master plan for Cinnaminson's development.

Longtime Cinnaminson real estate broker Justin Spain has proposed the development, Del Harbour Marina, for nearly 60 acres of undeveloped land that sits north of the Taylor farm and straddles the Delran Township line in Cinnaminson's northwestern corner.

"It's the best piece of land left in Cinnaminson," Spain said.

It is also zoned "exclusively industrial," which means that any sort of safe industry can go there - but not the townhouses that Spain has proposed. He has negotiated the purchase of the land from the Shell Oil Co., contingent upon the zoning change he is seeking from the township committee. Spain declined to disclose purchase price.

What Cinnaminson committee members must decide is whether they want to change the plans for Cinnaminson by permitting more residential development. Richard A. Alaimo Association of Engineers, Cinnaminson's engineering consultant, said the township committee would have to rethink its municipal master plan, the guide for land use in Cinnaminson, according to the engineer's report, completed last week.

The townhouses could be inconsistent with the surrounding development in northwestern Cinnaminson, the report said. South of the proposed site is Taylor Lane; to the east, past the Conrail railroad tracks and River Road, is the developed industrial area.

Included in the area are Hoeganaes Corp., a manufacturer of iron and steel powders; AFG Industries, a glassmaker, and Airco Inc., a manufacturer of specialized gases.

Of all the land available for development in Cinnaminson, more than 60 percent is zoned industrial. Committee members will be weighing the benefits of the jobs that much industry would create against concerns about providing housing for Cinnaminson's increasingly elderly population, protecting property values and safeguarding the environment.

Spain argued that the townhouses would constitute a better use of the land, since the Taylor farm had been turned into a state wildlife refuge and the property abuts Dredge Harbor marina in Delran.

"The existing zoning is in conflict with what they've got on either side," Spain said.

He said the railroad tracks and River Road made for more than enough buffer between the proposed development and the nearby industry, especially when trees and landscaping that will front the road are planted.

About five acres of the project are in Delran. Spain said current plans called for a restaurant and health club to be constructed there. Present zoning for the Delran portion would allow that, according to the Alaimo report.

Owners of the townhouses would have access to Dredge Harbor, one of the largest recreational boating facilities on the Delaware River, Spain said.

The township planning board will discuss the master plan and Del Harbour when it meets in executive session on June 12. Cinnaminson committee members said that if they endorsed the changes, new ordinances could be ready for approval by the end of the summer.

Delran Township Sets Stage For Riverfront Development

Source: Posted: August 17, 1986

Delran Township officials have announced that they are setting the stage for the development of one of the township's most valuable assets - the riverfront district.

The township received a $10,000 grant from the state in April to prepare a ''waterfront district" plan for the Dredge Harbor area, which is about three miles off Route 130 along St. Mihiel Boulevard.

A professional planning contract for the township-sponsored development will be awarded through an open bidding process and the plan completed by Dec. 19, according to Matthew Watkins, township administrator. He said a master plan for the "maximum development" of Delran's harbor district would be designed.

The project is aimed at taking full advantage of the economic and aesthetic potential of the area by developing it in a manner similar to Philadelphia's Penn's Landing, also on the Delaware, Watkins said.

The harbor's boating industry would be expanded to include more recreational boating facilities, Watkins said. The harbor now accommodates about 625 boats.

"Theoretically, we would be telling the state and the marina owners what potentially could go on this property," Watkins said. He added that the township might attempt to acquire some land, but only for construction of a public park or boat-launching area.

Township officials were hesitant to publicize the fact that they had received the grant before meeting with the marina and land owners who would be involved. But over the past few weeks, Watkins said, officials have received a positive reaction.

"We've heard about the development, and we think it's very good," said Tammy Parsons who, with her brother, Bill, owns and operates the Dredge Harbor Yacht Basin. "It can't do anything but help the marina area."

The Parsonses last month began breaking ground for a dry-stack boat-storage building that would nearly double the number of boats housed at their marina. The building is expected to be completed next month.

Any further development by the marina owners - such as the expansion of the marina or the construction of a shopping or eating area - has not been discussed, Parsons said.

"We talk about a lot of things," Parsons said. "But the storage expansion has been our major plan for the past five years."

A study of the harbor area was started by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Philadelphia District in June 1979, when it sought to develop a dredging project for the harbor.

According to a report prepared for state officials by Delran Township, the harbor would be more accessible to the Philadelphia boating industry if it were dredged. The Army Corps of Engineers then continued to study the feasibility of improving the harbor.

The Army Corps project was halted in 1982 when the township was unable to help pay for the study. Later, the new administration, recognizing the harbor potential, decided to revive and expand the project on its own. That decision led to the grant application.

Township officials plan to form a Mayor's Commission on the Development of the Dredge Harbor District, which will include owners of the marinas, members of the Delran Township Planning Board and the Township Council. The commission, according to Watkins, will direct the planner selected through the bid process in the specifics of development.

The Dredge Harbor area - an irregular rectangle about 2,000 feet by 3,000 feet - was created during sand- and gravel-mining operations in the late 1920s. The properties in the area are a mix of residential, commercial, industrial and agricultural uses, as well as vacant land.

There are five marinas on the harbor: Riverside Marina Inc., Cherubini Boat Co., Dredge Harbor Yacht Basin, Winter's Sailing Center and Castle Harbor Marina.

The major property owner is Amico Sand and Gravel Co., which is between the Riverside Marina and Winter's Sailing Center.

Land Eyed For Townhouses Likely To Remain Industrial

Source: Posted: August 24, 1986

The large chunk of land in northwestern Cinnaminson that had been eyed as a site for a townhouse development is likely to remain zoned for industry for a long time.

The township committee decided at its meeting earlier this month to keep the land zoned industrial, and rejected plans by longtime Cinnaminson real estate broker Justin Spain to build almost 300 townhouses there.

Spain's proposal - which contains a development to be called Del Harbour Marina - had led the committee to re-evaluate Cinnaminson's master plan for development.

The property has been zoned for industry for many years, and changing it would have meant changing the face of the community.

At its Aug. 11 meeting, the committee decided no face lift was needed.

"I think they did a disservice to the community," Spain said in an interview last week. The development "could have been a benefit to the community."

But the committee listened to property owners in the area who objected to the plan.

Among them was Hoeganaes Corp., a manufacturer of iron and steel powders and Cinnaminson's largest taxpayer.

"It's naive to think that industry and residential can live side by side," said Hoeganaes vice president William A. Kauffmann.

The company, as well as other industry surrounding the proposed development, were concerned that the future residents of the townhouses would complain about their businesses.

And, since the industry was there first, the companies contended that would be unfair.

Eventually, they said, they would grow tired of the complaints and leave Cinnaminson.

"It's something the committee could not ignore," said Mayor John Chang. Hoeganaes alone pays nearly $250,000 a year in municipal taxes, he said.

But Spain said his development would have generated more taxes - though a township study disputed that - and would have given the township government more control over the development of the land. New industry would not be as concerned about the environment, he said.

When Spain first made his proposal to the township in December, the committee instructed the township planning board to review it and make a recommendation to the committee, which has control over zoning.

The board voted 6-1 to keep the property zoned industrial.

The 60-acre site is north of the Taylor farm and straddles the Delran Township line.

Del Harbour Marina would have included almost 300 townhouses, a marina at Dredge Harbor, a restaurant and a health club.

A report by Cinnaminson's engineering consultants, Richard A. Alaimo Association, concluded that the proposed change from industrial to residential zoning was inconsistent with the nature of surrounding development.

To make the change, the report said, the township committee would have to rethink its entire municipal master plan, the township's guide for land use.

Shell Oil Co. owns the land, and Spain's purchase of the property was contingent on his being able to obtain the zoning change.

Now, Spain said, he will be the broker for Shell as the company attempts to sell the property. He said there were several prospective industrial buyers.

Buried Ships Lost And Caught In Time And The River

Source: Posted: August 27, 1986

The Sturdy Beggar once again skims over the surface of Burlington County's Crosswicks Creek.

The original Sturdy Beggar was an eight-sail privateer burned by British forces in the Battle of Bordentown in 1778, but today's is busy defending remnants of the past, not defending the Delaware River.

In March, archaeologists for the Philadelphia Maritime Museum and local volunteers found the remains of two vessels. The ships could be part of a fleet of 22 vessels sunk during the Revolutionary War battle for Bordentown.

The springtime survey was conducted by the museum to prepare for the construction of a bridge across Crosswicks Creek as part of a new portion of Interstate 295.

The New Jersey Department of Transportation is reviewing the report, said Deborah Lawler, a department aide, and expects to decide next month whether it should also examine the creek. Bridge construction is to begin in 1988 or 1989.

For the moment, the two wrecks remain secure under about 15 feet of mud and silt, and that pleases Lee Cox, a maritime archaeologist working for the museum, to no end.

"What makes it kind of neat is that this mud has preserved these vessels," he said as he waded through the water to one of the wrecks. "It's created almost a time capsule for us."

A wreck found in Barges Creek, which the Maritime Museum investigated even though the new bridge construction will not endanger its floor, is about 60 percent intact. The ship, apparently designed for speed, had a horsehair and tar finish, an indication that it was used for ocean travel, Cox said. Most of the hull seems to be preserved, and the archeologists hope the ship's nameplate will be intact.

The second wreck, in the Crosswicks, is a much larger ship but is not as well preserved, said Cox, who hopes to find more ships in the creek.

The seemingly inconspicuous nature of the finds is a boon for the archaeologist. No souvenir seeker is likely to believe that the first wreck is historically important enough to venture into the water and remove part of it. The wrecks hold no treasure.

To historians, the remains will provide valuable insight to everyday shipboard life, Cox said.

For Don Stokes, a volunteer archaeologist who owns the modern Sturdy Beggar and lives in the river community of Delran, the wreck is a clue to what actually happened May 8, 1778, when the British sailed up the Delaware on a seek-and-destroy mission, then burned and sank ships harbored in Bordentown.

After Philadelphia fell to the British in 1777, ships from the Colonial and the Pennsylvania navies sought safety in the creeks and rivers of New Jersey. Many ships, both merchant and naval, found shelter in Crosswicks near Bordentown, Stokes said.

Under Washington's orders, the guns were to be removed from the ships harbored at Bordentown and the vessels scuttled or burned, to keep them out of British hands.

In those days, holes were bored in a ship to sink it, Stokes said, and because the crew knew where the holes were, there was usually hope that the vessel could be salvaged by the crew, Stokes said.

Although some ships at Bordentown were successfully scuttled, many were taken by surprise when the British arrived ready for battle. The remaining ships were either sunk in small waterways along the Crosswicks or burned by the British, Stokes said. Only one of the burned ships is known by name: the original Sturdy Beggar.

"I just thought it would be fitting that the one known name of a ship that we know is here is what I named it," Stokes said. The new one is a small outboard motor boat he purchased in the spring.

Stokes spends his weekends probing the muddy banks and bottoms of the creeks with two fellow New Jersey Bell workers, Gary Bykowski and Tim Murphy. They work under the direction of Cox, Stokes said.

Cox's goal is to raise the remains of the two ships eventually and shed light on the battle for Philadelphia. "It's an understated battle," he said. ''Very little is known about it. We haven't found any American records - not that they were likely to keep them while they were hightailing it out of here."

The Maritime Museum has funded the survey because the remains may be those of Pennsylvania ships. "Nobody from New Jersey has given us any money," Cox said. "New Jersey has a lot of submerged cultural resources."

Outdoor Classroom The Many Faces Of The Winding Rancocas Creek

Source: Posted: November 12, 1986

Below Pemberton, it is a channel of smoked-glass waters, with sloping banks and carpets of lacy ferns, Lilliputian lichens, and brown, dry grasses.

In Mount Holly, it is a narrow, muddy ditch, shallow waters clogged by dead trees, sometimes littered and often overlooked by the men and women making their way to the county courthouse.

But by Delanco and Riverside, with three branches having converged into one, it is a wide tidal waterway, much more river than creek, clouded the color of coffee with cream and accelerating so very slowly to its meeting with the Delaware.

These are the many faces of the Rancocas Creek.

As the Rancocas winds its way through Burlington County, from headwaters deep within South Jersey's Pine Barrens, it carries with it a history rich in culture, economics and nature.

Once a major player in the life of the communities along its course, today the creek is relegated to a subordinate role. No longer does it carry excursion boats to Philadelphia from Mount Holly, or logs to sawmills near its mouth. No boat builders ply their trade in these waters, although less than 50 years ago, tugs for the U. S. and Dutch governments were constructed there.

For the most part the Rancocas Creek is unobtrusive. Save for the Pirates Inn Restaurant in Mount Laurel, there is little commercial development along the shores that takes advantage of its subtle beauty. The several, somewhat dowdy, marinas along its downstream banks seem to detract from that beauty, not enhance it.

Much of the time, in fact, the creek almost seems hidden. Drivers on Route 616 rumble over the creek, unknowingly, as they traverse the low, green bridge that is Hanover Street in Pemberton Borough. No markers identify it for truckers on Interstate 295 or the turnpike in Westampton, or for others crossing the slight swell that is the new Route 130 bridge connecting Delran and Edgewater Park.

Yet the creek has been harnessed by man and, in many cases, it has been changed and contaminated as well.

"The human hand has been there to alter the stream," said Gary Patterson of the West Jersey Sierra Club.

Numerous industrial and municipal sewer plants sit along its course, discharging millions of gallons of treated and sometimes not-so-treated effluent. Just this week, a section of the stream near Mount Holly was polluted by a leak of more than 500 gallons of home heating oil that spilled from a storage tank.

One of the few federal flood-control projects in New Jersey also is on the Rancocas. Built in the early 1940s in response to three years of record flooding in Mount Holly, it enlarged and relocated portions of the creek, created a bypass channel to divert water through the center of town, and included construction of two bridges.

The flooding in Mount Holly has been greatly abated. Still, the Rancocas can exert its force. "It's such a huge watershed," said Rick Walnut, who in the 1970s organized the Rancocas Creek Watershed Association.

The creek's north branch reaches as far as Ocean County; the south and southwest branches, which join in Lumberton, encompass a sweeping area from Evesham to Southampton. Into these flow dozens of tributaries, with names such as Cedar Run, Budds Run, Barton Run, Friendship Creek. They help the Rancocas drain hundreds of miles of land.

"There are so many little streams that you don't think of being part of the watershed area," Walnut said.

Because of that, the upstream development in areas such as Eastampton and Pemberton and, more recently, in Medford and Evesham, has created havoc. Homeowners eager to be close to the water have crowded near the Rancocas' banks, destroying - and often, with their septic tanks, polluting - valuable low-lying ground. During sudden, heavy storms, rain has no place to run, and flooding, Patterson said, "is a commonly accepted and recognized fact."

But in upstream areas, on a fall day when reflections of high gray clouds glide across the creek's dark, reflective surface, the angry flooding that can follow a storm seems an imagined danger.

The Rancocas flows almost imperceptibly here, and that, plus its easy access, makes it a fascinating outdoor classroom for the study of flora and fauna.

"It has a foot in both the inner coastal plain and the outer coastal plain," naturalist Ted Gordon explained as he quietly navigated a canoe along the creek's north branch on a recent Saturday outing. "You get down right behind the (Burlington County) college, and you're right at the demarcation line for where the intercoastal plain begins. There are richer soils and different vegetation."

By day, Gordon is a teacher of German at Northern Burlington Regional High School. By night, weekend and summer, he is a naturalist, a frequent lecturer at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia and a man who melds knowledge with poetic description. And, he is a superb tour guide.

"The beech tree," said Gordon, motioning toward one. "That's a non-Pine Barrens tree. You get it next to the American holly fairly frequently here. That's also a typical non-Pine Barrens tree. When you get into beech wood, you generally get into a richer forest."

The same could be said of the sweet gum, he noted, calling attention to its five-point dark red leaf. As for the Virginia pine, which Gordon also identified, it rings the Pine Barrens along its western border.

"No matter where I go," he commented, "I always seem to wend my way back here."

Gordon is fascinated by the history of the region, much of which relates to the Rancocas. Along the north branch, for example, there once were two ironworks - the Mary Ann and Hanover furnaces. In the late 1800s, efforts were made to canalize the creek to Lumberton and create a port there; as it was, the Atsion iron furnace used part of the south branch to transport its product.

"That was always the problem, how to get the product out," he said.

Of course, mills also located along the Rancocas, as they did most streams in the Pine Barrens. There was marl mining, too, and Gordon pointed out the subtle green mixture of clay, sand and limestone that forms a stratum of the Rancocas' exposed banks.

"Now one of the great industries, if you want to call it that, was pleasure homes," he continued. "Take Browns Mills. It was quite a resort community at the turn of the century. I think most of our pollution problem early on the stream was from people trying to get around the water at Hanover Lake."

The Rancocas was an extremely popular waterway then. "This stream was heavily canoed in the early 1900s," Gordon said. "That's why Hacks (Canoe Rental in Mount Holly) did such a tremendous business. I bet you couldn't rent a canoe on a busy weekend."

Unfortunately, those heavy concentrations of homes and people damaged the Rancocas over time. The isles of grasses once dotting the creek were eroded by such heavy traffic.

"They were like little gardens," Gordon said. "We had a much more attractive stream then, and that's changing."

Although sections of the creek today appear to have been untraveled for years - "This doesn't look like it's been canoed for a while," Gordon offered, surveying a tree blocking the width of the stream south of Pemberton Borough - other parts are littered with bottles and trash.

The rusting body of a junked car shows itself, belly up, at one spot; discarded water heaters and gasoline tanks emerge frequently.

At least some residents, banded together as the Rancocas Creek Association, are trying to clean up the situation. In the last year, they have taken dozens of fallen trees out of the creek and had several abandoned houses along the bank condemned. Now they are seeking money to have the creek dredged.

"The trees in this area are simply magnificent. The sunsets here are just magnificent," said Bea Rosenthal, the association's president. Rosenthal first came here as a vacationer nearly 50 years ago, when summer residents paddled into Mount Holly for groceries and sponsored concerts along the creek. In 1983, she began living in her Eastampton cottage year-round.

"It's just a most unusual area," she said.

But downstream the creek shows a totally different face. It is low and wide, marshy, tidal. It is a river, with sometimes strong currents. No longer so navigable by canoe, it is ruled by motorboats, which often use its stretches by Route 130 for unofficial drag races. And that creates other problems.

About five weeks ago, for example, a man flipped his boat while speeding at about 35 m.p.h. on the creek - more than three times as fast as he should have been traveling, according to state marine police.

He was lucky, however. Doctors originally thought his neck was broken. It was not, and his other injuries were not serious. Still, until his boat was recovered two-and-a-half hours later, the craft remained sunk in the creek, a dangerous obstacle to other boaters.

Besides the hazard of speeding and reckless boating, there is also the damage that large wakes do to other boats and piers along the banks.

"We get calls and we try to send a boat there as fast as we can," said Sgt. Al Dempster of the state Marine Police, "but no one is stationed there."

On certain late spring and summer weekends when staffing allows it, Dempster places a patrol there full time. It pays. From May 31 to June 1, for example, his officers issued 23 summonses for speeding, skiing and other boating violations.

If a bill sponsored by state Sen. Catherine Costa (D., Burlington) passes the New Jersey legislature, the Marine Police will establish, for the first time since 1981, a permanent station in the county. A likely location would be near the mouth of the Rancocas.

"I've had many complaints," Costa said.

The Rancocas' opening onto the Delaware is framed by high sandy cliffs and protected by an expansive sand bar that has grounded many a boater.

"You see people pushing their boats off of it," said Ted Fink of Beverly, who with his wife, Sandy, patrols the area as a member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary.

Here, a heron flies, solitary against the sky. Tall grasses and weeds blow near the banks, creating a study in browns.

Sighed Sandy Fink, "You can almost picture the Indians coming up it in their canoes."

Burlco Township Has Big Plans For Tiny Amico Island

Source: Posted: January 27, 1987

From overhead, Amico Island looks like a cartoonist's version of a moose head in profile, gazing westward across the Delaware River from its location just off the Delran shoreline and north of the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge.

It is a humble place, without water or sewage service. Parts of the island, composed of leftovers from 50 years of sand and gravel dredging that created the Dredge Harbor Yacht Basin to the island's south, are soggy wetlands.

A map notes two wrecked vessels in the shallows offshore, and a northeast section of the 50-acre island has the unappealing label: "the wet borrow pit," referring to the results of dredging.

Access to the remainder of Burlington County is provided by a muddy track that carries gravel trucks to Riverside Drive and Norman Avenue in Delran. Technically, Amico Island is not really an island, because the narrow track is a tiny isthmus that links it to the mainland.

It's obvious that nobody lives here.

Yet Amico Island is the subject of increasing interest to Delran, which is just across the river from the Torresdale section of Philadelphia. As in many communities on the Jersey side of the Delaware - places within an easy commute of Philadelphia - Delran's visionaries see Amico Island and the nearby mainland waterfront as a key to the township's prosperity.

They imagine public parks, luxury housing and a boardwalk-like area with high-quality restaurants and new public access to waterfront areas that are now hard to get to and not too interesting.

The major enterprises now in the harbor area are marinas that accommodate about 625 boats. There is virtually no other recreational use along the shoreline.

Using a $10,000 state grant, the township council last fall hired Trednnick/Waetzman Associates, planning consultants from Havertown, to design a blueprint for the harbor area's development.

The plan is to be presented at a public hearing tomorrow night, when township officials expect to hear complaints from some residents near the Dredge Harbor area, the residential neighborhoods nearest Amico Island.

But council members, who have approached the planning process with collegiality and speed, feel confident they can allay residents' fears. Although council members acknowledge that traffic will increase if Amico Island and nearby areas are developed, they also expect current residents' property values to soar.

And, to counter what is potentially the most potent opposition issue in the community of 14,000, council members propose to promote the redevelopment through a township master plan and rezoning, requiring private developers to bear most of the cost.

"I view this as 95 percent private development," Delran Mayor Richard J. Knight said at a recent meeting on the plan.

Some other riverfront communities, such as Gloucester City in Camden County, moved to formulate development plans after they were approached by developers.

But Delran officials hope to write their plan first, then find developers willing to conform to it.

The consultant was working to complete the plan yesterday so that council members could get an advance look at it today. The main points were presented to council members and other township officials two weeks ago.

"We're clearly not talking about low- and moderate-income housing on the island," consultant Larry Waetzman said. "People pay top dollar for riverfront location, and that's what you're going to see on that island."

Waetzman has been directed by the council to prepare a plan that would permit public access to the southern part of the island, where there would be parkland and, possibly, a private sports club.

At the center of the island would be expensive single-family homes. On the north side would be high-quality, low-rise multifamily housing. The number of units has yet to be determined.

On the mainland, the Riverside Park neighborhood east of Norman Avenue and south of Riverside Drive would be unchanged. And, to protect that neighborhood from increased traffic, the main access to the island would be via Chester Avenue and Riverside Drive. The north end of Norman Avenue would end at a cul- de-sac south of what is now the access road to Amico Island.

Although many details remain to be worked out, the biggest potential stumbling block is Amico Island's owner, Merle Ambler, whose family has long operated the sand-and-gravelmining operation that formed the island. Ambler's cooperation is essential because council members say they do not want to use public money to condemn major pieces of land.

Ambler could not be reached for comment yesterday afternoon. But, in a recent meeting with the consultants, the owner expressed interest in using the island for residential development, Waetzman said.

Delran Waterfront Plan Criticized By Residents

Source: Posted: January 29, 1987

A proposed master plan for guiding redevelopment of the Delran Township waterfront received a chilly response last night from residents concerned about potential increases in traffic and local taxes.

Other residents said they doubted that people living near the harbor would realize the increases in property values that a consultant said would follow redevelopment in the area.

"There's no way you can convince me that someone's going to buy a house when there's all these cars going up and down," said Fred Grenier, a resident of Norman Avenue, which fronts on the Dredge Harbor Yacht Basin.

"In my honest opinion, this is not helping the residents . . . no way, shape or form."

About 40 people attended a meeting of the Township Council to hear a consultant report on the results of a study of the development options for the riverfront.

Of the nine residents who addressed the council concerning the report, seven were critical or skeptical about the consultant's recommendations. Two were neutral.

"That's good," Mayor Richard Knight said after the meeting. "That's exactly what we want as a governing body. We want to hear from our residents."

Using a $10,000 state grant, the council hired Trednnick-Waetzman Associates, planning consultants from Havertown, Pa., last fall to prepare recommendations to spur development along the Delaware riverfront, which currently is virtually inaccessible to the public because businesses occupy most of the area.

Most of the recommendations involve proposals for rezoning, and council members have said that private developers would be expected to pay most of the cost of any redevelopment on the riverfront.

Much of the study focuses on Amico Island, a 50-acre site formed by leftovers from the sand and gravel mining operations that created the Dredge Harbor Yacht Basin to the island's south.

Under the consultant's proposal, there would be public parks on the island's south side, about 40 expensive single-family homes at the island's center and 160 units of high-quality, low-rise, multifamily housing on the north. Consultant Larry Waetzman said 200 units on the island would add about 1,300 vehicle trips per day on Delran's streets.

On the mainland, according to the proposal, the Riverside Park neighborhood, on the riverfront in Delran's northeast corner, would be unchanged. The north end of Norman Avenue, which now links with Riverside Drive, would instead end in a cul-de-sac. Access to Amico Island would be via a road connected to the west end of Riverside Drive.

Knight said after the meeting that council members would meet with landowners in the harbor area before deciding whether any elements of the consultant's proposal should be adopted.

Council member Andrew Ritzie cautioned residents about the hazards of not adopting any master plan for harbor redevelopment.

"It's better to plan our future than to just let it happen," he said.

Obstacles May Block Island's Development

Source: Posted: February 15, 1987

On a warm day earlier this month, the ice along Norman Avenue in Delran was giving way to mud, and after the heavy January snows, the street fronting on the harbor was again easily passable. But in these depths of the off- season, the pace of life among the marinas remained slow.

A dog, one ear erect and the other drooping, sat squarely in the center of Norman Avenue and watched with bored, unyielding defiance as an occasional car approached, honked and swerved around.

Out in the harbor, ice covered the few hundred yards of water separating the mainland from Amico Island, a low-lying, uninhabited parcel covered with brush and small trees. A few yachts sat at anchor. Hundreds more had been hauled ashore and covered with tarps.

The only sign of humans was a boat-yard worker lounging near a gate. Behind him was a sign painted with the face of a clown covered with a red circle and slash. The lettering stated: "No Bozos."

"Yeah, the Bozos are gone," the man said.

Maybe the yacht owners think the sign refers to non-boating types they don't want hanging around the docks. But from the man's tone and gestures, it was clear that he was referring to the yachtsmen.

The "No Bozos" sign is the kind of inside joke, tinged with resentment, that townsfolk reserve for the demanding outsiders who may bring needed money, but only at the price of a kind of jostling and congestion that can be difficult to live with.

That kind of resentment may greet other proposals that would upset a familiar lifestyle in this Burlington County township.

Town Council members want Delran residents to start thinking about the future of the harbor area and the undeveloped 50 acres of scrub and gravel that make up Amico Island. Redevelopment is inevitable, several council members have warned, and the township had better plan for it.

Three weeks ago a consultant hired by the council, using a $10,000 state grant, reported on several months of studying of the harbor area's potential. The consultant proposed that about 200 units of expensive housing be built on Amico Island, along with 10 acres of commercial development, probably on the southern end of the island near an area set aside for public access to the shoreline.

Rezoning on the mainland waterfront, now occupied almost exclusively by marinas with space for about 640 boats but virtually inaccessible to the public, would bring development that would broaden the area's public appeal with restaurants, shops and promenades, the consultant said.

The harbor area development would enhance the tax base and beautify the township. Nearby residents who might have to endure heavier traffic on local roads would be compensated by the increase in their property values, said the consultant, Larry Waetzman of Tredinnick/Waetzman Associates of Havertown, Pa.

The proposal got a cool reception at a Township Council meeting Jan. 28. Residents were especially concerned about the estimated 1,300 vehicle trips a day to and from the island that would be generated by 200 homes.

Redevelopment of the Delran waterfront, if it happens at all, is a long way off.

In addition to local resistance, there are sure to be problems arising from strict state environmental regulations. Some people who have studied the harbor doubt that a plan that is acceptable to residents and the state would be profitable enough to attract a developer.

About two weeks before the consultant's study was presented to the public, several council members, including Mayor Richard J. Knight, met with Waetzman. Knight, who had instigated the study, praised the consultant's work.

He was especially pleased about the prospect of rezoning to attract developers, who would then set aside land or money for the public aspects of the harbor redevelopment, minimizing the public expense.

"I view this as 95 percent private development," he said.

Two weeks later, advanced word of the proposal had drawn about 40 people to the council meeting, an event that usually has sparse attendance. Before an audience, Knight was more cautious.

"Let me emphasize that there is no commitment to do any of this," Knight told the audience while introducing the topic.

And his view of the public financial involvement had become even more conservative.

"There is no plan or no desire in this government to spend one dollar of public money," he said.

Of the nine residents who addressed the issue during the question-and- answer period - most of them from the neighborhood adjacent to the harbor - none took a favorable view of the proposal. Seven were clearly hostile to it, and two were neutral. Many who didn't speak nodded in agreement with the critics, although Knight said last week that he had since received "a great deal of positive comment."

As in many such meetings, as much is revealed from what is not said as from what is. And in this meeting, the deafening silence came from Merle Ambler, the man who holds the strongest hand.

Ambler, a Center City Philadelphia resident who describes himself as, first and foremost, a sportsman, owns Amico Island and much of the mainland area covered in the consultant's study.

Ambler did not attend the meeting, convinced that the consultant had failed to divine a route through the labyrinth of obstacles that has, for more than a decade, stymied Ambler's dream of developing Amico Island.

"I'm afraid this thing is getting studied to death," Ambler said in an interview last week. "I've only been working on this thing for 15 years, and I've seen, in my day, many pretty pictures."

Ambler's doubts are all the more striking because he is the person with the most to gain if the consultant's vision becomes bricks and mortar.

Ambler's family has been mining sand and gravel from the island since 1953. That business is petering out, Ambler said, and he is eager to develop the island.

But residents of the adjoining middle class and working class neighborhood will oppose any exclusive, luxury development that would turn the site into ''Snob Island," Ambler said. Because such development would require rezoning and support from the council, opposition from that sizable neighborhood would be significant.

"I think that concept would rub so many people the wrong way that it might not be the right thing," he said.

Even if such an idea could be sold to the public, he said, the state requires that waterfront development include provisions for public access, and the consultant has proposed that about 10 acres be used for shops and restaurants, while other areas be left as open space available to the public.

Ambler said he was skeptical about whether a developer facing these requirements would risk building a community that, because of its cost, would be marketed to people who can afford truly exclusive neighborhoods elsewhere.

Part of that concern is based on his belief that any development on the island would be extremely expensive because there are no utilities there and because state environmental regulations governing wetlands probably would impose hard-to-meet restrictions that developers don't face inland. To be profitable, a development would have to include far more than the 200 units proposed by the consultant, he said.

"I don't know where the break-even point is," Ambler said, "but it would be more than 200 units."

The consultant's report did not include any evaluation of the cost of developing the site. And the consultant's 200-unit figure was derived from its compatibility with the township's zoning ordinance, rather than on any financial basis.

Ambler said that during the last few years, he had talked to several large developers, and none had been interested in the island. That hasn't changed, despite the council's well-publicized interest in attracting developers, he said.

"I haven't received any calls," he said. "To me, that's the bottom line. Show me somebody who likes the pretty picture and would like to put up some bucks."

Of all the problems, the state regulations are most serious, Ambler said, and the more he talks to the Department of Environmental Protection and other state agencies, the less encouraged he becomes.

"They give you enough input to scare the life out of you," he said. "I can't underscore enough how important it is for the state to give an opinion on this."

Lynn Froehlich, the planner who did the lion's share of the work on the Waetzman study, agrees that environmental considerations are the main potential obstacle to developing the Delran harbor area, which is included on a state list of critical habitats for endangered plant species.

And no one knows for sure how much of the island falls within the flood plain - less than 11 feet above the waterline - where development is prohibited. Existing topographical studies predate much of Ambler's family's dredging, which has raised parts of the island. The consultants estimate that about 40 of the 50 acres are above the flood plain.

Last week the consultants presented their Delran study to officials of the state Division of Coastal Resources, a branch of the Department of Environmental Protection. The result was neither high praise nor condemnation, Froehlich said.

"They just reinforced the fact that there are these special regulations which apply to coastal areas," she said. "It's like 230 pages of rules and regulations."

Knight said last week that the council may consider carrying out some of the zoning changes the consultants proposed but that the issue had taken a back seat to the annual budget process.

There have been three or four "exploratory" inquiries from potential developers about the status of the township's plans for Amico Island, he said, and the developers have been referred to Ambler.

Merle Ambler said he had yet to hear from anyone.

Oft Humbled, The Delaware Regains Pride

Source: Posted: May 31, 1987

There is this thing about urban rivers in America: They provoke snickers.

They catch fire. They conceal men in cement overshoes. They stink. They are ugly.

A dip in one could give you a disease that folks in polite society just don't get anymore. Cholera, or something.

So it's no surprise that for decades the Delaware River has been the butt of jokes - like the one about the plane that came to land in Philly, swooped too low over the Delaware, and its wheels dissolved.

Even the most loyal Delaware Valley resident has to admit that there is little appealing about a river that has been, literally, an open sewer; that for decades has been a cesspool of industrial waste; that has been covered along its shores with an odiferous scum composed of Lord knows what.

Robert Everest, an official of the Delaware River Basin Commission for nearly 30 years, remembers how the river used to be.

However, when he stood along the familiar shore by Penn's Landing in Philadelphia several weeks ago, what he saw was a dramatic contrast to the usual river scenes of the last three decades: A water-skier was zipping happily along on what had been one of the most poisonous and repulsive stretches of the river.

"Compare that to the 1940s, when he probably would have burned his legs off," Everest said. "Recreational boating has just boomed."

According to Tom Giancristoforo, president of Riverside Yacht Club in Tinicum Township, Delaware County, about 10 years ago "you were constantly seeing dead fish floating in the water and clearing the oil off your boat about once a week. . . . It hasn't been this clear for a long time."

"It's really on a roll," said Billie Sejda, operator of Riverside Marina in Delran Township. "Things are really dynamite. We're turning down business left and right."

Three decades of cleanup efforts have had such success that even the cleanup engineers are surprised by the results.

Waters that were lifeless less than a decade ago are laden with fish. Portions of the river just north of the Philadelphia-Camden area may be opened for swimming.

At the same time, there has been a soaring demand for convenient recreation sites, and space-age materials and mass production have made boats more affordable and easier to maintain.

Besides the obvious attraction of a cleaner river, the expansion of fishing and pleasure boating on the Delaware also reflects the recent nationwide boom in recreational boating, marina and government officials said.

"The one thing that really helped boating was when the price of gas dropped" after a decline in interest in power boating during the years of skyrocketing gasoline prices, said James Barr, superintendent of Neshaminy State Park Marina at Croydon, Bucks County.

Improvements in the economy and lower interest rates have boosted boat sales, especially to young professional couples with two substantial incomes, Barr said. "You just have more people with the income to afford a boat."

Boating is "a good way to hold a family together," said Jack Lyons, owner of a Croydon marina. "People have teenagers that want to be out wandering the streets, and this keeps them with the family."

Between the shores of Philadelphia and three New Jersey counties - Burlington, Camden and Gloucester - the river is teeming with recreational boaters, and marinas are being built and expanded on both shores. The waters are so busy that some boaters are raising concerns about crowding and safety.

"It's crazy out there," said Sejda. "It's to the point where it's no fun on weekends. It can be dangerous."

Meanwhile, communities on both sides are turning with new interest to the river, seeing it as an asset rather than a liability and looking for ways to stimulate the development of trendy riverside promenades and luxury riverview housing.


Ever since Colonial days the Delaware has been a commercial river, used for ship traffic as far north as Trenton. The river became steadily dirtier, and in the first half of the 20th century, the growing cities and industries along the Pennsylvania and New Jersey shores dumped sewage and industrial waste into it.

The worst abuses of the river occurred during the heavy shipbuilding period of World War II, when the demands of the war effort overrode concern about keeping the river clean. By the 1950s, the lower Delaware was, for all practical purposes, dead.

In the 1960s a growing environmental movement brought new attention to the river. In 1961 the states of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Delaware joined with the federal government in the creation of the Delaware River Basin Commission.

Along with state environmental agencies, the commission adopted regulations that restricted waste dumping in the river. The rules focused first on industries then, more recently, on the cities. The total cost of public and private cleanup efforts, Everest said, can safely be estimated to be in the billions.

The opening of major sewage-treatment plants in Camden, Philadelphia and other municipalities during the last few years has been the key to the cleanup effort.

Critics have long charged that cleanup efforts have been sluggish, but research shows substantial progress.

After studies last summer, the basin commission concluded that the segment of the river from Trenton to the Philadelphia-Bucks County line was clean enough for swimming, although the commission must schedule and then conduct a series of hearings before that part of the river is officially upgraded.

Waters farther south have been improving as well, the commission says.

In the mid-1960s shad migration up the Delaware had virtually ended because chemical reactions to sewage had depleted oxygen in the water, said Michael Kaufmann, area fisheries manager for the Pennsylvania Fish Commission.

Today, shad have returned to the Delaware. Now they are able to reach their spawning grounds upriver, but for many years, their migration was blocked by pollution in the Philadelphia area. White perch and catfish - relatively hardy breeds - also are abundant, Kaufmann said. In addition, a study in the summers of 1985 and 1986 found more fragile fish such as striped bass, bay anchovies, menhaden and freshwater flounder just south of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, once the most polluted part of the river.

"We were very surprised, pleasantly surprised, to find that there were loads of fish," he said, cautioning that not enough study had been done to determine whether the fish were safe to eat.

While sport fishing is returning to the lower Delaware and swimming is a possibility within the next few years, by far the most common use of the river is pleasure boating, with both sailboats and powerboats.

From Croydon to Tinicum Township, from Delran to Delaware Bay, powerful motorboats and graceful sailing vessels are squeezed into marinas, yacht clubs and public launching ramps tighter than barnacles on a sunken schooner.

"We're seeing a lot more traffic than ever during the weekday evenings," said Barr, of Neshaminy State Park Marina at Croydon. "Saturdays and Sundays, it's a madhouse."

Between 1981 and 1986, boat registrations rose 11 percent in Philadelphia, 19 percent in Delaware County and 25 percent in Bucks County, according to John Simmons, acting director of the bureau of boating for the Pennsylvania Fish Commission.

New Jersey does not separate its boat registration figures by county, but anywhere there is a place to tie up a boat, it's filled.

"Building a marina on the waterfront seems to be like opening a six-lane highway in California," said Peter Vanadia, president of Philadelphia Marine Services near the Benjamin Franklin Bridge. "You cut the ribbon and have an instant traffic jam."

It was overcrowding at existing marinas that prompted the developers of the Philadelphia Marine Center to open 200 slips as part of the first phase of the center last year, said Vanadia, who runs the marina.

The new marina filled instantly. This year, even though the marina has expanded to 300 slips, there is a waiting list as long as 50 to 60 names for some boat sizes, Vanadia said.

In Tinicum, membership in the Riverside Yacht Club has jumped 70 percent - from 100 to 170 - in the last three years, said club president Giancristoforo.

Two counties north, at Jack's Neshaminy Marina on Neshaminy Creek in Croydon, business - including boat sales - has increased 40 percent in the last year, said owner Jack Lyons.

Meanwhile, the Neshaminy State Park Marina, a public facility in Bucks County, has to block off its parking lots before noon on some weekends because there is no room left, said Barr.

With 191 slips, Neshaminy has 1,300 people on a waiting list that has expanded by about 400 names just in the last two years, Barr said.

In the last 2 1/2 years, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has installed two boat-access ramps in Philadelphia at sites where shore fishing also is allowed, said Sally Corl, waterways conservation officer in Philadelphia for the Fish Commission. One ramp is at Milnor Street and Princeton Avenue and the other is on the northern edge of the old Frankford Arsenal.

On the Jersey side, the biggest boating area is in Delran, where marinas ring Dredge Harbor.

Bill Parsons founded the Dredge Harbor Yacht Basin in 1939, providing 17 boat slips. Today he has 325 slips, and last year he built 288 boat racks on shore.

Next door, the Riverside Marina offers 150 slips - twice as many as the marina had when it opened in 1960. Sejda said that the company was considering expanding and that its equipment was being used to assist neighboring G. Winter's Sailing Center expand, from 50 to 300 slips.

Camden County is building a 50-slip marina at Cooper's Point in the City of Camden and has applied for state permits to add 500 slips in an area just south of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge. Dry-rack space for about 250 boats is also part of the plan.

Farther south, Penn's Grove has hired a consultant to provide information on building a community marina.

Even broader development plans reflect the view that the river is more appealing than it used to be. The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, in fact, has recommended that riverfront towns replace industrial sites on the riverfront with recreational and residential ones.

Earlier this year, a consultant told Delran officials that they should rezone to provide for luxury housing and commercial development on the riverfront. The township, the consultant said, should build parks and promenades along the waterfront.

Although other municipalities have considered similiar proposals, many riverfront areas have industrial uses and planners say it may be difficult to combine those with the other uses.

In Camden, the waterfront project includes plans for a $42 million aquarium, a "festival market" where people can stroll along the riverfront and shop, and an office building and international headquarters for Campbell Soup Co.

"We've seen the success that they had in Baltimore Harbor and up in Boston, and it's a lot easier to copy than to come up with new ideas," joked Addison Bradley, director of the Camden County Park Commission, which is involved in the marina and related projects.

Indeed, waterfront fever is affecting municipalities up and down the river.

Philadelphia has Penn's Landing and the Philadelphia Marine Center, as well as apartment and condominium developments at Delaire Landing and Baker's Bay in Northeast Philadelphia.

Gloucester City is sifting through ideas for redeveloping its waterfront, now used almost exclusively by industry. One consultant recommended a vast redevelopment modeled on Penn's Landing and Baltimore's Inner Harbor.

Marine operators and waterfront developers expect the boom to continue indefinitely. The teeming waterway is likely to become even more crowded, and growth has caused problems.

As use of the boat ramp at Linden Avenue in Philadelphia has increased, neighbors have been up in arms about traffic, parking along residential streets and drinking.

So far, Pennsylvania has successfully prosecuted only two violators in the Philadelphia area under the drunken boating law passed two years ago, said Corl, waterways conservation officer.

In Croydon, residents have fought successfully against some marina-expansion plans. And in Delran, residents say their streets would be choked by the traffic generated by waterfront redevelopment.

The increase in novice boaters and extremely high-powered vessels and the high number of people on the water also have stirred concern among veteran boaters and water-patrol officials.

"To tell you the truth, a lot of people don't know how to operate their boats," said Al Hofer, commodore of the Quaker City Yacht Club at Princeton and Delaware Avenues.

With the large number of novice boaters making "silly mistakes," the small number of reported accidents on the river so far may be just a matter of luck, Corl said. "We've seen some near misses, but they're getting away with it."

New Jersey Plans A Major Increase In Policing Of Boaters On Delaware

Source: Posted: March 05, 1988

Delaware River boaters, a multiplying breed said to be facing mounting hazards, are likely to encounter a new presence when they launch their vessels this summer: the beat cop.

For the first time, New Jersey State Police plan to patrol the river 24 hours a day, using a new base in Burlington County that would be financed with part of a $4 million appropriation unanimously approved Thursday by the state Senate.

Similar legislation has been introduced in the Assembly and is expected to win easy passage, perhaps as soon as Monday.

The money would increase the size of the state police Marine Law Enforcement Bureau by nearly 75 percent, raising the force from 143 people to 248, Capt. James Momm, chief of the bureau, said yesterday.

The appropriation also would pay for expansion of the marine police bureau's Trenton headquarters and construction of temporary stations on the river in Burlington County and on Newark Bay. Existing stations in Monmouth, Ocean and Cumberland Counties would be expanded and renovated.

The bill includes $962,000 for a temporary marine police station in Burlington County. A permanent facility is expected to be part of next year's state budget.

Momm said police were negotiating with owners of several possible riverfront sites in Burlington County. By late June, he said, he hopes to have 25 officers working out of the new facility, which would be the base for three 20-foot patrol boats, two 25-footers and one 32-foot vessel.

"Basically what we're shooting for is a 24-hour patrol," he said.

It would be the only such patrol on the river. A marine police station that operated only during the summer at Riverside, where Rancocas Creek meets the Delaware River, was closed in 1981 for lack of funds.

The Coast Guard has long operated a base in Gloucester City but does not do routine patrolling and does not have jurisdiction over what many boaters view as the key problems - hot-rodding, drunkenness and a general increase in poor seamanship that has accompanied the river's increasing recreational use.

The state marine police have jurisdiction over such matters and also would handle boating accidents, boat thefts and violations of environmental regulations, Momm said.

For decades, the Delaware was an unhealthful stew of sewage and industrial waste. But cleanups have been so successful in the last decade that many areas in the estuary south of Trenton are now safe for swimming.

State police, boaters and marine operators say there has been a rapid increase in recreational boating.

Dredge Harbor in Delran has doubled the number of boat slips during the last two years, raising the total to more than 700, and hundreds of slips have been installed in Camden and Philadelphia. Camden County is studying a proposal for a floating breakwater and as many as 500 boat slips south of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge.

There are no comprehensive figures on the number of accidents on the river because safety problems have traditionally been handled by whoever is available - the Coast Guard, local or state police.

But many people agree that the boating crowds are making the river more dangerous.

"There has been an increase in complaints coming to us over the years," Momm said. "That seems to be a common thread that runs through all the (policing) agencies."

State Sen. Catherine Costa (D., Burlington), co-sponsor of the Senate measure, said, "Recreational sports on the waterway are very popular now. You've got to have the marine (police) presence."

The river has attracted many first-time boat owners who are untrained in routine safety rules and right-of-way regulations, said Glenn Winter, owner of G. Winter's Sailing Center Inc. in Delran.

"There are rules and you have to follow them or you get hurt," he said. ''You can imagine the traffic pattern on the Schuylkill Expressway if there were not a median barrier. . . . You add some alcohol into the equation, you can get into some problems."

Boaters Fear For Safety As Water Gets Crowded

Source: Posted: May 11, 1988

Last weekend after nearly a fortnight of clouds and rain, the sky cleared, the sun shone, and more boaters than ever flocked to Burlington County marinas.

At the Dredge Harbor Yacht Basin - an irregular rectangle of about 2,000 by 3,000 feet created by sand and gravel mining in the 1920s - business was bustling.

As the economy improves, so do boat sales, and as the number of boats increases, so does traffic on the Delaware River and its tributaries. And so does concern about boating safety and a general lament that driving a boat is not like driving a car. In boating, there are no licensing requirements.

Though the Coast Guard Auxiliary offers voluntary safety education for power boats and sailboats, there is no mandatory boating test.

But with the addition of a dozen recruits to the New Jersey State Police Marine Law Enforcement Bureau, known as the marine police, this year for the first time in almost a decade the river will be a changed place.

Some marina owners are ambivalent about having a police presence; others welcome the change.

"It's fantastic. It's the best thing that will happen on the river," said Lee Cherubini, owner of the 50-year-old Cherubini Sailboat Co. that borders the basin.

"Last year I was unable to go out on the river on Saturdays and Sundays. I own a 21-foot sailboat and I'm on the water with a 7-year-old kid on board, and here comes this bozo in a power boat going 50 (57.5 knots) or 60 miles an hour (69 knots). He nearly cut me in half. Boats have no brakes.

"The marine police are going to have a field day," Cherubini said. ''Anybody with 10 or 15 grand can get into a boat and drive away. There is no regulation, and these guys have no regard for the rules at all.

"By 1 in the afternoon, most of these guys have had it. They'd have to be drunk to drive the way they do. In the evening I don't go to the river after 7 o'clock after these bozos have had their cocktails. The river sounds like Atco Raceway."

Cherubini is concerned that the increase in power-boat traffic will result in a major boating accident. He prefers to sail during the early morning, from 5 to 8 a.m., when only bass boats are out on the river.

"More and more people are getting into boating. You don't have to go to the seashore to have a hell of a good time. The seashore is getting expensive," said Chuck Dahmer, general manager of the Big D Valley Marina on the Rancocas Creek in Willingboro. "There are a lot of river rats. People may not regard themselves in that way, but that's what they are.

"But I think the state should require a little question-and-answer test," said Dahmer. "They should ask 10 or 15 questions. And they don't have to grade it, just raise awareness. There are crazy, stupid boaters just as there are crazy, stupid drivers."

But at least two marina owners are afraid the marine police will become more like "the Gestapo" than friends to the recreational boater.

"I'm ambivalent," said Constans Curtin, owner of Curtin's Marina in Burlington City. "We've had them before, and they were abusive, abrasive, and dictatorial. I've been told that it's going to be different this time. They are not going to carry guns on their person. If they follow the rule - enforcement with courtesy - that is fine. It's one of those necessary evils of civilization.

"Water is a different medium," he said. "You have to go past the docks very, very slowly or you'll cause a wake. People compare everything to driving a car. The state has got to come up with something that will teach boaters some common sense."

At the Ran-Del Marina in Delanco, owner Jack Thompson said his biggest headaches were not drunks, but people who sped through his marina on the Rancocas causing wakes that rock the boats against the docks. Without a police patrol, he keeps control by sounding a siren at offenders.

Thompson, who anticipates an increase in business again next year, has constructed eight new docks and added showers and a marine store. Next year, he will open a restaurant, the Sandbar, and try to obtain a club license so that he can sell cocktails, even though Delanco is a dry town.

"There are a lot of advantages to keeping a boat on the river rather than the ocean. They'll get more use of the boat. Many people are tired of the two hours, each way, to the shore. People here can come out to their boat in the evening after work and just relax," Thompson said.

But the crowded waterways of the Delaware are the reason Rich Sabo of Marlton goes out to the ocean:

"We go 100 miles offshore. You'd be surprised, even at 65 miles out around the canyons, where we fish for marlin - even there it's crowded."

Boating Boom Rides A Middle-class Wave

Source: Posted: July 03, 1988

George Krajci is leaning way over, his own stern waving like a flag off the back of the "Wet'N'Wild," as he works on the 16-foot speedboat's outboard motor.

It is hot under the June sun, perspiration is dripping onto the spark plugs and his hands are covered with engine gunk - this is Krajci's idea of a fun weekend.

"It's not hard to fall in love with boating," he says as he crawls up on the dock. And he has. Krajci, who during the week operates heavy machinery at a scrap yard, once bought three boats in a summer. Now he's on his seventh boat, each time buying a bigger one because of his insatiable love affair.

Each has been named "Satisfaction." Go figure.

The "Wet'N'Wild" is just his speedboat. It's Krajci's other boat that has finally lived up to its name: a 38-foot luxury cabin cruiser, complete with microwave, VCR, two TVs - and a bathtub.

Says his wife, Kathie: "We tell people to get the biggest boat they want and can afford because that's what they're going to end up with anyway. It's like a disease."

Call it seasickness then. And more and more people around the nation are catching it. Boat sales are up. Rivers, lakes, even the ocean are starting to look like the Schuylkill Expressway at 5 p.m.

Some new boat owners are on marina waiting lists so long - in some cases a decade - that maybe their kids will get dock space.

And every day, folks like the Krajcis are looking at a boat bigger than the one they've got - trying to find satisfaction.

"It's not called yachting anymore," says Michael Sciulla, vice-president of the Boat Owners Association of the U.S., known as BOAT/U.S. and based in Alexandria, Va. It says it is the nation's largest boating organization, with 270,000 members.

Navy blue blazers, white pants and white captain's caps are definitely out these days. Try cut-offs, T-shirts and sneakers.

A good economy, low gas prices and the fact that a small boat is cheaper than a lot of cars have combined to make boating a proletarian pastime, Sciulla says.

The typical boat buyer earns about $35,000 a year, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association. Sciulla says the average boat in the United States is only 16 feet long. A new boat about that size, with an outboard motor and a trailer, costs about $7,500.

"It's definitely middle America," Sciulla says.

In fact, only 2 percent of the 14.8 million boats on the nation's waters are yachts like those on which the Malcolm Forbeses of the world cruise on the high seas.

Beyond the pleasures of the water, there are some financial advantages to boat-owning for middle-Americans as well. For example, before tax reform the law was murky about tax write-offs for boats.

Now, however, it is clear: If a boat is big enough, with a galley, a head (that's a toilet, folks) and a place to sleep, it can qualify for the second-home mortgage deduction. So more people are getting their sea legs.

In 1983, 570,725 boats were sold in this country. Last year it was 724,700. Of those, almost half are small speedboats with outboard motors and costing about $8,000.

It is powerboats that are selling. Sailboat sales are about as flat as a sail on a windless day. Most boat sellers agree that the new boaters are scared away from sailboats by having to learn sailing. With a powerboat, first-time buyers just jump in and go.

A lot of them are jumping into Bayliners, one of the big success stories in the last five years.

Back in 1980, the company in Seattle, Wash., made fewer than 4,000 boats a year, with sales of about $50 million. The next year inflation was up and so were interest rates and gas prices. It looked like stormy seas for the boating industry.

"People have a certain amount of money they're willing to spend for fun. We thought boating was pricing itself out of the marketplace," says George Sullivan, a vice-president at Bayliner.

So Bayliner went out and bought an engine manufacturer, started its own boat-trailer company and began buying the extras in bulk - such as radar, radios and other gadgets - to keep the prices down for its customers.

This year, Bayliner will make 57,000 boats and expects sales of more than $600 million. The company, which now has 20 manufacturing plants, is the largest boat builder in the country. It makes 41 models, ranging from a 15- foot water-skiing boat for $5,000 to a 45-foot yacht for $250,000. Bayliner has caught the wave.

Sullivan points to two other factors in the boom in boat sales.

One is part of the overall rosy economy - a high employment rate. It's hard to make boat payments without a steady paycheck.

The other is a boom all its own - the baby boom. Many of those of the post- World War II generation are now in their late 30s and early 40s. Those are the prime boat-buying years.

"For the first time, you have all the factors in your favor," Sullivan says. "You have the money. You have the employment. You have the fuel. You have the general feeling of confidence about the economy. And you have a large group of potential buyers."


One of them is not Horace Eltonhead Jr., known as "Huck" to his friends. ("When your first name is Horace, you need a nickname.") He already has a boat. In fact, he got his first one when he was 11, 47 years ago.

Since then, Eltonhead, of Northeast Philadelphia, has sailed his boats as far north as Newport, R.I., and as far south as Palm Beach, Fla.

These days he cruises the Delaware River on his 17th boat, a 33-footer called "Tink." He sees a whole lot more traffic on the Delaware now and it has begun to make a difference.

On the weekends, the wakes from the passing boats make the water so choppy that it is nearly impossible to water-ski, some boaters complain. At Tullytown Cove near Bristol, so many boats anchor that you can almost walk, deck-to- deck, across the cove and not get wet.

All that traffic can make it dangerous with so many new boaters inexperienced about the ways of the water.

"It scares me," says Eltonhead. "The biggest mistake is doing things too fast. In the beginning, people come in to a pier too fast because they think it looks like they know what they're doing. It's just the opposite. I come in slow."

Speed is the biggest problem new powerboaters have, agrees U.S. Coast Guard Ensign Gary Croot, a public affairs officer at the Philadelphia station.

"There are no street signs and road signs out on the water," he says. ''People have to understand that operating a boat is 100 percent different than driving a car. When you get into problems you can't just slam on the brakes and stop."

Even at the shore it is congested.

"Nowadays there's no such thing as off by yourself fishing," laments Charles Johnson, who runs the charter fishing boat "The Salty Dog" from Avalon.

Croot says the number of Coast Guard rescue operations on the Delaware has remained about the same despite the increased traffic - but that's only because marine police in Pennsylvania and New Jersey have stepped up patrols to help out.

In April, the New Jersey Legislature appropriated $4 million for a marine police station on the river. It is part of a $41 million program to beef up the force.

"They will keep drunk boaters and garbage on land where they belong," Gov. Kean says of the new marine police officers, who are beginning to patrol the river.

Beyond the safety concerns with all the traffic on the water there is another worry for boat owners - where to keep their boat when they're not on it.

As waterfront property becomes more valuable to homebuilders, more marinas are selling out. Those staying in business want to expand but face a long permit process with state regulators and the Army Corps of Engineers.

Once those hurdles are passed, however, marina owners have no trouble filling new boat slips, even when they typically rent for $1,000 a summer for a 20-foot speedboat.

From Snug Harbor at the foot of Lake Michigan to Cape Cod in Massachusetts to Havre de Grace on the Chesapeake Bay, waiting lists are sometimes as long as a decade and marinas can't keep up with the demand.

So when there isn't room in the water, boats are being stacked up on land.

At Dredge Harbor in Delran, Burlington County, the marina has built a warehouse where 288 boats can be stored on racks four high. When a boat owner wants to take a ride, the marina plucks the boat off the rack with a giant fork lift and sets it in the water.

Across the river, the three-year-old Philadelphia Marine Center at Pier 12 does have some seasonal spaces still available for 25- and 35-foot boats among its 330 slips. But dockmaster Vincent Datillo says that none are left for larger boats up to 60 feet long. "For the larger boats, for all practical purposes, we're filled," he said.

Upriver at the Neshaminy State Park Marina, the waiting list for one of the 191 slips is at least five years.

Manager Dorothy Kelly says that when she gives new boat owners the news, ''they say, 'I'll be dead by then.' "

On the "Satisfaction" in Dredge Harbor, George Krajci is showing off his twin-diesels. The engine room is spotless. Krajci loves to keep it clean and in addition to every weekend, he tries to spend at least a couple of nights during the week on the boat. Then in the morning, he showers on board and heads off to work.

He has come a long way in five years, from the first 16-foot speedboat he bought on a Saturday afternoon, and sold that same night because he decided it was too small.

Now, he and his wife have reduced maintenance needs on their house in Warminster so their time is free for the boat. Their two teenage children, Robert and Pam, help out by cutting the grass and get to use the ''Wet'N'Wild" on the weekends.

"It's fantastic for the family," George Krajci says. "It keeps us together."

And there is more.

Something about the water is calming, he says. When cruising the river at dusk, when the crowds are gone, worries of work and the stress of life seem to just drift away.

"I've tried the mountains," Krajci says. "I've tried the shore. I've tried camping. Boating is the only enjoyment I really have."

Cinnaminson Rezones Land

Source: Posted: May 21, 1989

The Cinnaminson Planning Board has approved an updated township master plan rezoning two parcels of land by the Delaware River to allow the construction of affordable housing in compliance with the state's Fair Share Housing Law. The parcels represent the last substantial parcels of undeveloped land in the township.

But because at least part of the land, on the 1.6-mile strip between the Riverton and Delran borders, lies in a flood plain consisting of undeveloped wetlands, it is questionable whether construction is even environmentally possible.

The 6-3 vote on Tuesday came after more than three hours of sometimes contentious discussion among board members, township lawyers, planners and the more than 30 people who attended the meeting, most of them residents opposed to the zone changes.

Board members voting in favor of the proposal cited Cinnaminson's need to comply with the Council on Affordable Housing's quota of 377 low- to moderate- income units and the requirement under the Municipal Land Use Law that townships update their master plan every six years.

The parcels, a 50-acre plot owned by Cinnaminson real-estate agent Justin Spain and a 100-acre plot owned by the Riverfront Development Corp. of Gloucester City, had both been zoned for industrial use.

Those voting against the plan cited the uncertainty over whether the land, particularly Spain's plot between the Delaware and River Road, can be built on. Environmental impact studies will have to be conducted with the state Department of Environmental Protection eventually deciding on the feasibility of construction.

The possibility that the land is unsuitable for construction raised the specter of future lawsuits against the township for non-compliance with the housing council and was cited by others as a reason for their negative vote.

Although he stressed that he had not yet seen Cinnaminson's plan, Preston Pinkett, a senior planner at the Coalition on Affordable Housing, said in a telephone interview Wednesday that "if it is all wetlands and is in flood plains, it would seem to me that that is not reasonable compliance with the spirit and intent of the law.

"Our regualtions specifically say that we want the land to be suitable and developable," he added. "We don't want sites zoned that cannot be developed. That does not provide for affordable housing."

However, Planning Board solicitor Ron Morgan and the Planning Board consultants who drew up the master plan, from Thomas J. Scangarello and Associates, said at the meeting that the zone changes show the township is complying with the "spirit and intent" of the affordable housing act.

"This master plan is to follow the spirit and intent of the Fair (Share) Housing Act which says that the opportunity has to exist for developers to build low-income housing," Morgan said.

Dust Settles, And Boaters Erupt Mysterious Grit Falls On Delran's Dredge Harbor

Posted: July 29, 1989

Edward Newell, 45, of Philadelphia, started his weekend at Delran's Dredge Harbor yesterday aboard his 29-foot power boat the way many boaters do - washing, waxing and polishing.

But he had done the same thing Tuesday.

He doesn't have a fetish. Like the owners of hundreds of other boats here, Newell this week had discovered a gritty, rust-colored film coating every surface on his craft. Many boat owners said the paint on their boats - some worth hundreds of thousands of dollars - was being destroyed.

By yesterday afternoon the state Department of Environmental Protection's regional air pollution office said it had received seven telephone complaints from Delran boaters. Boat owners said earlier, however, that a DEP official told them the agency had stopped counting the calls.

Greg Walker, the DEP assistant environmental engineer investigating the complaints, said he had not yet determined where the grit is originating. He said he would visit the area a second time Monday to look for the source. He confirmed that some of those complaining had named Hoeganaes Corp. of Cinnaminson as a suspect.

Hoeganaes, a sprawling facility with rust-colored steel sheds about a half mile from Dredge Harbor, is "the world's largest manufacturer of powdered metals," said company director William A. Kauffmann.

"I don't find anything that's unusual at all in any of our operations" that would cause the rash of complaints, Kauffmann said. "I'm going to look into it in depth. We are continuing to try to be good neighbors."

He said Hoeganaes, which employs 400 workers in Cinnaminson, had several bag houses used for catching airborne dust to keep it from polluting the air. The bag houses "are inspected routinely by (government) environmental people," he said.

"Some of the boat owners and neighbors ought to keep in mind, however, that Hoeganaes is one of several businesses and industries along the riverfront and a number of industries and construction sites" that could be the source of the grit, Kauffmann said. He said neighbors focus on Hoeganaes because it is easily seen from the road.

Boat owner Newell said he had gone through "five different kinds of cleaners" by 10 a.m. yesterday and still hadn't found one that would remove all the grit from his boat.

"This happens every year," Newell said of the grit deposits, which become embedded in fiberglass. But he added, "this is definitely the worst I've ever seen it."

"The stuff's so abrasive," said George Krajci, 42, of Warminster, "if you take a sponge . . . it actually works as a sandpaper."

Krajci, a mechanic at a Philadelphia scrap yard, said that he had had a boat at Dredge Harbor for 10 years and that the grit problem had existed that long. But he agreed that something happened Tuesday night to deposit more grit than he had ever seen.

"I've got $160,000 sitting there," Krajci said, referring to his 38-foot cabin cruiser. "I can't afford to just sit and wait," he said, so he has tried to find some method of cleaning his boat. He pointed to swirls on the white fiberglass where, he said, the surface was scratched by the grit during cleaning.

On Thursday, William G. Major Jr., who with his wife, Patricia, lives on a 57-foot wooden cabin cruiser called Beachcomber and charters a 60-foot wooden boat, Elegante, circulated a flyer at Dredge Harbor Yacht Basin, one of four major marinas in the harbor.

"If you are interested in joining a class action lawsuit in regards to recent air pollution damage to your boat & property please contact Bill Major Jr.," the flyer reads.

"We're in the process right now of taking samples, to be taken to a testing lab," Major said.

Major said he had cleaned the teak bow of one of his boats Sunday. "It looked great until I came home last night and saw this mess all over it. Now it has to be stripped down again. I hit the ceiling," he said. "I have a brand new Corvette sitting in the parking lot which is all mottled."

DEP engineer Walker said he would visit area companies to see whether any are discharging the type of grit he found during an earlier visit to Cinnaminson. If he cannot narrow the suspects in that way, he said, the alternative would be to search company records to see whether anyone had had an equipment failure.

The only other method to track the source of the grit, Walker said, would be to "stake out" a suspect company, but that is done "very rarely."

"A lot of times, we've been able to eliminate every (other) company within a reasonable distance of (the pollution.) Then," he said, "the company takes responsibility for it and says: 'Yeah, that's our stuff.' "

Dep Probe Focuses On Cinnaminson Firm

Source: Posted: August 16, 1989

Hoeganaes Corp. of Cinnaminson has until today to forward maintenance records to the Department of Environmental Protection as part of an investigation into the source of corrosive powder that has damaged boats in Delran's Dredge Harbor Yacht Basin.

A DEP spokeswoman, Jenine Mosley, said that although the department was not accusing Hoeganaes of the July 25 emission of corrosive powder, the state is focusing its investigation on the company, which manufactures powdered metals at River Road and Taylors Lane, about a half-mile from the yacht basin.

"All the other companies deal with other things that aren't relative to what was found on the boats," she said. "Hoeganaes is somewhat similar to it. We're not saying they are the responsible party."

The company was notified Aug. 2 that it would be required to forward maintenance records to DEP.

DEP investigators will examine the company's maintenance data for indications of equipment failure or changes in manufacturing processes that could have led to the emission, Mosley said. The DEP did not request information from any other companies in the area, she said.

But William Kauffmann, Hoeganaes company director, said last week that an in-house investigation determined there were no manufacturing accidents or equipment breakdowns on Tuesday, July 25, that would have led to emissions.

He said that Hoeganaes uses sweepers, containers and cleaners to control dust.

"On the other hand, we do continue to have a nuisance dust problem," he said. "We make powdered metal and there is dust, but it is around our facilities here."

"Our investigation is complete and nothing unusual happened on that Tuesday," Kauffmann said. "But our efforts at doing a better job are not complete, so we are continually doing what we can to make sure that we do not contribute to a pollution problem."

The powdered metals made by the company are used to manufacture parts for automobiles, tractors and farm equipment.

During the manufacturing process, Hoeganaes produces a black powder that turns brown or red when it hits the air, Mosley said. The DEP sent an investigator to the area on July 27 and July 31 after receiving at least seven complaints about a gritty, rust-colored film coating surfaces and corroding the paint of boats in the harbor.

Seventy-five boat owners who said they suffered damages as a result of the powder met last week with attorneys to discuss possible legal action to reclaim their losses and to stop emissions. They have complained that the caustic coating has occurred periodically during the last 10 years, although the July 25 incident was particularly severe.

Attorney Alan Milstein said he has already sent a letter on behalf of boat owner William Major Sr., and other boat owners to Hoeganaes, the Department of Environmental Protection, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Gov. Kean alleging that Hoaganaes violated the Clean Air Act. The letter is the first step in the process of filing any type of court action under the federal law.

Patrol Keeps Watch Along The Delaware

Source: Posted: June 27, 1990

It was dusk at the end of a perfect summer day in June. A man cruising with one hand on the wheel and the other wrapped around an icy wine cooler accelerated and passed a policeman who had pulled over another driver.

The man waved a carefree hello with the bottle. The cop returned the greeting with a smile.

Welcome to the Delaware River, where the law of the land is naught.

There's no speed limit here. You don't need a license to operate a boat. And it's OK to drink and drive, if you aren't drunk - all reasons why on some evenings many locals crowd the river, making the waterway look like rush hour on Route 130.

"For a lot of people the water is their outlet. They obey the rules and regulations all week long and this is their release," said Sgt. Charles Kratt, station commander of the New Jersey State Police Marine Law Enforcement Bureau on the outskirts of Burlington City.

"Our function here is safe boating," Kratt said, "so everyone has a good time."

Understatement has been key with Kratt and his charges since 1988, when concerns about the safety of recreational boaters on the Delaware River and its tributaries led the state legislature to create a marine police station in Burlington County. As one fresh-scrubbed state police recruit said on his inaugural shift that summer: "We are not out to ruin anybody's day."

Recruits first hauled that single Boston Whaler down to the dock at Delanco's Ran-Del Marina two years ago. Since then, state marine police have tried not to interfere with people's good times, although the river has become a changed place.

Until then the marine police, who are the only state authority on New Jersey's waters, did not routinely patrol the Delaware River. If there was a boating accident or incident in Burlington, Camden or Gloucester Counties, marine police from the coastal station in Point Pleasant, Ocean County, had to respond - often taking more than two hours to drive across the state, hauling a boat behind them.

Until July 1988, the river was a territory overrun with polluters and intoxicated and inconsiderate boaters who sped through marinas rocking boats against the docks. These were people who through their ignorance of basic safety pulled water skiers dangerously close to their crafts and crashed into wakes, sometimes bouncing passengers out of their boats.

In becoming a strong presence, the marine police have issued many safety citations, and according to Kratt's statistics, cut the accident rate in half in 1989.

This month, the Burlington City bureau celebrates its second anniversary as a force in the otherwise unregulated waters stretching from above Trenton down to Salem County.

In 1988, the initial marine police were often landlocked with only one boat to share among a dozen men. They worked in shifts from 9 a.m. until midnight, and shared office space in the regular state police barracks in Edgewater Park while awaiting a permanent home.

Today, officers patrol in shifts 24 hours a day in seven boats: a 32-foot Monarch, two 25-foot Sea Arks, a 23-foot Sea Ark, and three of the smaller Boston Whalers. But because of money shortages, their permanent home, at least for now, will remain mobile. An unobtrusive maroon and gray trailer, parked beneath a canopy of trees between McNeal Mansion and the U.S. Pipe & Foundry Co. off East Pearl Street, is home. It is headquarters for 19 officers, the station commander and two civilians.

Kratt, a compact man with a lightly tanned complexion, wears a perpetually serene smile that belies his years as a state police road warrior.

While waiting for lunch to be delivered by the local deli, he reflected upon the difficulties inherent in policing the river from the Pennsylvania to the New Jersey shorelines.

Things have improved since last year, Kratt said, when a law requiring youths 17 and younger to take a boating safety course went into effect. Still, there is no mandatory maritime instruction or test for new boaters 18 or older.

Ironically, Kratt said, it takes more training to operate a boat than a car.

"Our biggest problem is lack of knowledge," Kratt said. "I am sure there are a number of boaters out there who do not know what a buoy means."

Although most boating accidents are minor - the aquatic equivalent of fender-benders - some are serious, especially for something most consider to be recreational.

In 1988, in the most recent statistics offered by the Coast Guard Auxiliary, 14 people were killed and 145 people were injured in boating accidents, giving New Jersey the third highest fatality and injury rate in the United States. Only Florida - with 94 deaths and 462 injuries - and California - with 51 boating fatalities and 333 injuries - were higher.

Marine police may not arrest speeders - there is no speed limit for recreational boats - but they do fine drivers for throwing a large wake if it endangers other people or crafts.

Alcoholic beverages also are legal on the water, but a boat's operator can be fined for driving while intoxicated. If an officer suspects the boat's driver has had too much to drink, he will bring the boat into dock and give the driver 15 or so minutes to get his land legs before administering sobriety tests.

No license is necessary to operate a boat, but owners with crafts more than 12 feet long must register with the Division of Motor Vehicles, Kratt said.

Police also can issue a ticket if a boat does not have the proper equipment - a personal flotation device for everyone on board, a fire extinguisher, a horn or a whistle and lights at night.

Another ticket regularly issued is for the "100-foot rule," which states that water skiers must stay 100 feet away from all objects, and that one other person besides the operator must be on the boat to watch the skier. This citation has not endeared the marine police to marina owners, who have to endure their customers' complaints.

Constans Curtin, owner of the 40-year-old Curtin Marina adjacent to the marine police docks in Burlington, said his customers had complained that police were "abrupt." Curtin will not sell gas to the police. Officers must take their boats to Dredge Harbor Yacht Basin in Delran to refuel.

Curtin admits to being biased. "I don't like police," he said. "They are necessary - like morticians.

"It has been a mixed bag. In a way it has helped. It is good because there is less wake and less moving problems. The dealers are making money selling these boats and they are not telling people how to operate them. But that is not a function of government. That should be a function of the boating industry because they are the ones making the profit."

In winter, when the sun grows cold and the boating crowd wanes, Kratt's men - most marine police are male, reflecting the small number of female police academy graduates - investigate alleged polluters.

Officer Mark Yandach is a 1988 academy graduate and has been stationed in Burlington from the beginning. In the past two winters, he has discovered the source of pipes draining untreated waste water into the river and removed refrigerators, washing machines, oil drums and tires from its brown depths. It has made the 26-year-old officer a naturalist.

"There is not much habitat left," he said peering into the lush vegetation of Burlington Island while his partner, Sgt. Richard Milaschewski, tied the Sea Ark to the dock. The police dock is set below the trailer office on a quiet bank across from the island.

It is a cool day and Yandach and Milaschewski appear comfortable in long pants, long-sleeved shirts and heavy leather oxfords that have foam soles made especially so they won't scuff boat decks. Bulletproof vests are optional.

The men have been varying their shifts, working 8 a.m. to 4 p.m, 4 p.m. until midnight and midnight to 8 a.m. - something neither one has gotten used to. They are coming in after just an hour on the water to eat lunch and complete paperwork.

It seems, Kratt said, that state marine police are not so different from their brethren on the highway.

"You go out in the boat for an hour," Kratt said. "Then you have seven hours of paperwork."

Business As Usual As Silt Builds

Source: Posted: July 08, 1990

Where Delran Township fronts the Delaware River, miners and mariners have built the state's largest freshwater boating center. And it's growing: On a given summer morning, 700 hulls ranging from 14-foot Capri sailboats to 45- foot Bayliner yachts and beyond rest peacefully as pile drivers extend docks to include dozens more.

No one adds up how much the four privately held marinas' owners and a dozen related businesses rake in yearly from boat sales, repairs, slip rentals and other goods and services produced on Dredge Harbor, so-called from its origin in a Depression-era sand mine. Dock rentals alone are estimated at more than $1 million annually - none of which is tapped for township coffers, despite recent Delran property tax hikes.

Delran Councilman Andrew Ritzie said the harbor more than pays for itself through "a lot of invisible business," including local fuel, food, repair and liquor purchases.

Despite all the prosperity, Dredge Harbor is silting up. But marina owners, jealous of their independence, have failed to cooperate in search of a remedy. Township officials, limited by the harbor's private ownership and unwilling to antagonize the owners, tread lightly.

"I won't support any new fees or taxes on the harbor," said Ritzie, himself a boat owner. "If we put a new tax on, people will go elsewhere."

"It's a frustration to me," said Merrill Ambler Jr., owner of the Amico Sand and Gravel Co., which includes two-thirds of the harbor. "There's less and less water. There's more and more siltation. There's bigger and bigger boats.

"Nobody wants to do anything. You stand here and see all these new boats, all these new slips. You can ignore there's a problem. They're waiting for (someone else) to deal with it."

Ambler is bitter over his inability to develop the 80-acre island shielding the harbor despite a series of condo, commercial and recreational plans in recent years. If a developer lets a $10,000 annual development option lapse in August, Ambler said he may have to resume mining.

Marina owners admit, as 1978 and 1986 studies confirm, that Dredge Harbor is silting up. From a depth of 40 feet during World War II, parts of the harbor are now less than a yard deep - barely enough for power boats, insufficient for deeper-drawing sailboats.

Right now, the marinas are more worried about making money.

"This is a boom-and-bust industry," said Billie Sejda dockmistress at her family's 180-slip Riverside Marina on Norman Avenue. "My uncle got out when there was a gas shortage in 1978-79. That was hard times. He thought that was the end of it.

"Now he's down in Florida. He sees what's going on here, and he wants to kill himself."

Despite concerns about declining boat sales and channel conditions, Riverside Marina is adding 20 slips on property recently bought from Ambler. Slips rent from $900 a year for a 17-foot boat to $2,300 for a 50-footer.

Next door, at Glenn Winter's Sailing marina on Reserve Avenue, Brian Winter took time out from a lucrative sales operation to talk about sediment. ''Everyone says the channel was deeper 10 years ago," he said, noting sailboats need at least five or six feet of water. "At low tide, we get a little mud." Winter hopes the new traffic from slips his marina is adding will help preserve the channel.

Sixty years ago sediment wasn't a problem: The harbor was dry farmland. Ambler's father bought and obliterated most of the 300 acres between Taylor Lane and Chester Avenue on the Riverside line.

Around 1940, Bill Parsons Sr. bought a piece of the new harbor's south rim and began docking boats there. From this and later deals, he created the Dredge Harbor Marina, whose acres of docks and "One of the Largest Indoor Boat Showrooms in the World" dominate the harbor.

Twenty years later, the Army Corps of Engineers replenished the Amblers' gravel supply and built Amico Island with material blasted from the river bottom as part of a channel for U.S. Steel's Fairless Works.

The island protected the infant harbor marinas. Studies showed it also trapped light, muddy tidal silt and creek runoff. By 1975, when Ambler laid off the last of his 55 employees and began taking bids on the island, the Corps was being asked to dredge the harbor channel.

Township correspondence shows a series of meetings in the early 1980s almost produced an agreement among the marinas to contribute money and right- of-way to the project. Then-Mayor Lorraine Schmierer lent township support, asking the owners to grant rights to the channel draining Swedes Run and Lonnie Lake Parks in return.

After four years of meetings, "we were ready to go," said Ambler. "Then Parsons reversed his position at the last moment." Dredge Harbor Marina refused to give up its right of way. Disgusted, Schmierer withdrew her support and the project foundered.

Parsons did not respond to requests to be interviewed.

The current mayor, Richard S. Knight, said he still hoped to secure Corps dredging and was willing to separate the question of the lakes. Despite the township's continuing lack of public access and low harbor-tax receipts, Knight believes its importance in generating business and "giving us an identity" warrants municipal support for marina dredging.

Dredge Harbor is not the only place to launch a boat in Burlington County. Unlike the tightly controlled Dredge Harbor slips, four small marinas in Delanco and Riverside allow the public to use Rancocas Creek boat ramps. Delran owns a small site on the Rancocas above Bridgeboro that Knight hopes to clear as a public boat ramp.

Better known is the Riverton Yacht Club, whose Victorian gingerbread boathouse stands off Bank Street in a neighborhood of fine old mansions.

At Riverton, eight-foot Optimist prams bobbed like bathtub toys on the open river as an early July thunderstorm rose out of Philadelphia. Three miles away, the all-weather Dredge Harbor navy sat passively at anchor, protected by Amico Island.

"We have to take most of our boats out in the winter," said Riverton sailing instructor Patrick Frisch. But Riverton members aren't concerned about the future of their club: The boathouse has ridden out all kinds of weather since 1881.

The fate of Delran's more recent, artificial harbor is less certain. "No doubt about it," said Sejda. "It's closing in."

A Clash Of Industry, Housing And Farm

Source: Posted: July 29, 1990

Cinnaminson area residents say their summer has been strangely quiet. They can't hear the sound of men making glass.

That could change soon, and residents have mixed feelings. Dave Gallagher of Riverton said he is glad AFG Industries will reopen its shuttered St. Mihiel Drive plant in November. As vice president of Local 514 of the Aluminum, Brick and Glass Workers, Gallagher and 180 of his fellow unionists will return to tough, "decently paid" industrial jobs at a time when other area factories have announced big layoffs.

But Arthur Veneziale and his neighbors in the Rolling Greens section of Cinnaminson see the plant mostly as a major source of noise pollution. Many of them wouldn't mind if industries such as AFG went away for good.

"I'd rather see housing," said Veneziale. When the old furnace was working three shifts, "they had a wicked, wicked problem with noise. It was like riding down the highway all night - a train in your neighborhood that doesn't go away. Twenty-four hours a day. Seven days a week."

Cinnaminson officials are scrambling to balance the competing demands of homeowners and East Riverton manufacturers while plotting development of the waterfront.

Planning Board Chairman William Kollar counsels patience. "People forget the industrial (plants were) there first," he said. "They develop there irrespective of what we tell them. People move in and suddenly get dust or whatever and they come screaming to the township."

For decades, Cinnaminson's East Riverton section has vibrated with heavy industry: Hoeganaes Corp.'s powdered-metals factory, AFG's architectural glass furnace and Airco's industrial gas plant line the south side of River Road, while machine shops, presses, warehouses and truck terminals have been built along Taylor's Lane, Union Landing Road and Industrial Highway toward Route 130. Industrial construction continues despite the proximity of a leaky Taylor's Lane landfill that federal Environmental Protection Agency officials estimate may take 30 years and more than $20 million to clean up.

Most of the land between River Road and the Delaware remains farm fields, marshes, dumps and private piers, little affected by industry or the suburban development along Route 130.

But since Cinnaminson developer Justin Spain proposed high-rise riverside condominiums along the township's portion of the Delaware in 1986, officials have been filing the edges of East Riverton's manufacturing core in hopes of attracting selective residential development.

The high-rise plan provoked widespread opposition. "The tallest building in town, besides some of the factories, is a three-story farmhouse," said Mayor Lawrence Eleuteri.

But the Township Committee is drafting an ordinance that would allow Spain to erect low-rise, multiunit low- and moderate-income housing on 50 acres he owns north of River Road between Plum Point and the Delran border. Another 100 acres, owned by the Riverfront Development Corp. of Gloucester City, also would be zoned for multiunit housing.

"No one challenged the industrial zoning for years," said Spain, whose low-rise plan dates from last year. "Cinnaminson has over two miles of what should be beautiful waterfront. . . . They should be the envy of every town around."

Some manufacturers don't want new neighbors so close. "We're basically opposed to any more individual or group housing in the industrial quadrant," said Hoeganaes vice president William A. Kaufmann, whose company provides more than 400 jobs. "They cause too many conflicts with what the industries in this area are trying to do." Hoeganaes also owns land north of River Road, a landfill Kaufmann said is currently inactive.

Kaufmann also questioned the township's decision to zone state-mandated low- and moderate-income housing on the Spain tract, far from the sprawling middle- and upper-middle income developments south of Route 130.

Kaufmann's position receives curious support: Organic farmer Joseph Taylor, whose 30 acres have been cultivated by his Quaker forebears for two centuries, said he also opposes Spain's plan - for ecological reasons.

"You can't build back there," said Taylor. "That's wetlands." Taylor said strict state and federal laws and unstable soil make Spain's plan impractical.

Kollar said there is enough vacant ground in East Riverton to support a variety of uses. "There are ways to make industry and residents reside harmoniously," he said. "We're planning proper buffering."

The new township zoning map, set to be adopted later this year, separates residential and marina districts along the river from heavy industry with a light-manufacturing zone north of River Road. To the south, industry gives way to a business district protecting housing developments across Route 130.

Veneziale said his neighbors have become skeptical of the distinction between light and heavy industry. Even warehouses use diesel trucks, he said. Neighborhood residents believe refrigeration trucks left idling for hours are the largest source of local air pollution, he said.

Kollar said the Planning Board wanted to limit idling time to 20 minutes.

"Most of these (industries) are good neighbors," said Eleuteri. "We don't have a quarrel with the industry. . . . We do have a noise and odor problem coming out of the industrial parks. But it's hard to pinpoint one location."

Deputy Mayor Raymond Osowski, who is also economic-development director and a Planning Board member, has arranged a series of luncheons he hopes will unite manufacturing and residents behind joint solutions.

Despite the new truck terminals and business parks, the long-term trend is away from heavy industry. "Today, not just in Cinnaminson, people are more sophisticated," said Eleuteri. Most of the large factories were built when the township was predominantly rural, he noted.

"Everybody has a right to be there doing what they're already doing," said the mayor.

But the local economy has changed: Basic manufacturing has declined and South Jersey now imports and distributes goods from around the world.

Eleuteri said the switch has allowed Cinnaminson officials to be choosy about development. "In the future, we'll try to control it more," he said. ''That's why we're encouraging light industry and warehouses.

"But you can only mandate so much."

The Memories Run Deep As The U-boats One Of The Last Wwii Liberty Supply Ships Is Now At Camden. With It Came Vets Bearing War Stories.

Source: Posted: May 26, 1992

Oh, the memories. Of rolling North Atlantic seas, of Nazi U-boats on the prowl, of guns blazing at German fighters and ships loaded with troops, POWs, tanks and planes.

Just walking the decks of the SS John W. Brown on Memorial Day brought them all back for graying seamen who once sailed the so-called Liberty ships supplying the Allies during World War II.

The veterans came to the floating museum, docked at Camden, to take a long, fond look at one of the last two Liberty ships afloat - two of a mighty fleet of 2,700 seagoing workhorses.

They toured the Brown's enormous engine room, inhaled the smell of oil, touched the big guns on deck and walked narrow corridors, conjuring up wartime images a half-century old. Some of the men told stories of those days and recalled dead comrades, many of them only teenagers when they died for their country.

"Being here brings back memories when you were young," said visitor Thomas DeMeis, 65, a Delran, Burlington County, man who served as a ship radio operator in 1945. "I think Americans can be proud that this ship and others were built so fast and held together. They did more than they were supposed to do."

Another visitor, Frank Santagata, 66, of Buena, Atlantic County, who served on a Liberty ship as a fireman and water tender in 1944, said he came back for "the nostalgia. The Liberty ships helped win the war," he said. ''Without these ships, we never would have gotten the tanks and troops there. They did the job."

The vessels were mass-produced during the early years of the war. The challenge was to build ships faster than the enemy could sink them; enemy mine fields and aerial and U-boat attacks were taking a terrific toll on shipping when the Liberty program began in 1941.

Over the next four years, 2,700 ships were constructed. The John W. Brown, named for a well-known labor leader, was launched in Baltimore on Sept. 7, 1942.

"My mother, Annie Green, christened the ship," said John Green, 49, a Collingswood man who yesterday toured the vessel, docked at the South Jersey Port Corp.'s Beckett Street pier.

"It's hard to put my feelings into words. Every time, a little tear starts to fall. I get choked up. It's very heavy on the emotions."

Green said his father, a labor leader in a shipbuilding union, spoke at the event. His mother was pregnant with John at the time. "I guess I was there in spirit," he said.

The Brown steamed from Baltimore to New York to load tanks, trucks, jeeps, ammunition and steel, destined for the Soviet Union through the Persian Gulf. It returned to the United States in 1943 and was modified to carry 350 troops or prisoners of war along with 8,000 tons of cargo.

Over the next 21 months, the ship made five voyages between the United States and the Mediterranean Theater, taking troops and supplies to North Africa and Italy and returning with POWs. It was one of 150 American merchant ships involved in the successful invasion of southern France in August 1944. And when the war ended, the Brown brought troops home.

Today, after once serving as a vocational school for budding seamen in New York, the Brown is based in Baltimore and has begun making cruises to raise money for its rehabilitation.

"When people see her now, she's like a ghost ship coming out of the fog," said Derek Brierley, 66, a former British citizen and naturalized American who sailed on the Liberty ship SS Sam Dart during World War II. "We're reliving the past."

Brierley, of Baltimore, is one of scores of volunteers from several states who have helped restore the ship and manned it on cruises, such as the one Saturday on the Delaware River. "These ships were notorious for rolling in the sea, especially when there was no cargo," he said as he sat in the crew's mess.

Another volunteer, Charles Haug, 64, of Norrisville, Md., said he remembered the rolling during a rough Mediterrean crossing. "We were almost over to Africa and the storm blew us back toward France," he said. "We lost two days.

"To keep from rolling around so bad in the bunk, I took life jackets and placed it under both sides of the mattress so I could stay in one position and sleep a little."

For many crewmen, combat experiences remain vivid. Theodore Seward, 66, of Baltimore, was a 17-year-old Navy gunner's mate on a Liberty ship that was carrying troops to Normandy for the D-Day invasion of France.

"We were firing at (German) aircraft," he said. "Needless to say, I was afraid like everybody was. But there were close to 5,000 ships there, and we could put up a barrage that a hummingbird couldn't fly through."

A volunteer engineer, Joseph Cvar, 67, of Dover, Del., remembered his first trip in 1943 - with 9,000 tons of bombs and detonators and PT boats lashed to the deck. Yesterday, he was repacking generators in the engine room while visitors walked by on catwalks overhead.

"Right after we crossed the Equator on our way to Brisbane, Australia, the lookout man saw torpedoes - one in front of us and one in back," said Cvar. ''Evidently, they didn't have any more torpedoes to shoot at us and that was it. That was my first trip and my scariest."

These days, Cvar and other veterans are working hard to preserve the past. ''We're trying to get younger people interested," said Cvar. "One of these days, we won't be able to hack it."

Another volunteer, Frank Valenti, 68, a Philadelphia veteran who served on four Liberty ships, said "there is a constant need to rehabilitate all of the equipment on the ship. We do whatever is required."

But yesterday, at sunset, the crew took a break from their chores to look back, to remember the sacrifice of veterans everywhere in a memorial service. About 2,500 of the 2,700 Liberty ships survived the war. All that remains now is the Jeremiah O'Brien in San Francisco - and the Brown, the only Liberty ship on the East Coast.


* The Brown will be open for tours today from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the South Jersey Port Corp., Beckett Street Terminal. Tomorrow, it will be moved to Penn's Landing, where it will be open for tours from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It will leave for Wilmington, Del., Friday and return to Baltimore on Sunday.

They Rode Out Storm On Board Their Boats During The Storm, One Couple Overcame Cabin Fever By Cooking, Eating, Watching Tv.

Source: Posted: March 16, 1993

Like most people, you probably spent the weekend in the walled security of your home, a little stir-crazy but content to wait out the blizzard.

Then there was Dale LeClare and his girlfriend, Nancy Fallon. They rode out the storm in a boat.

And guess what? It wasn't that bad.

"I was just being bored, putzing around, doing nothing," LeClare said yesterday as the midafternoon sun filtered in to the lounge of his roomy, 47- foot motor yacht, tethered at the Riverside Marina, Delran. "We knew the storm was coming, so we went out to West Coast Video."

Fingering a cigarette, LeClare leaned over the stairwell leading to the other rooms - the living room, the kitchen, the two bedrooms with adjoining bathrooms - and checked the temperature inside the Pendragon.

The thermometer read a cozy 70.

"I really didn't think it was windy," he said. "We never got the winds they were talking about."

During the storm, he and Fallon overcame cabin fever by cooking, eating, watching television, pumping videos into the videocassette recorder and, most of all, staying warm.

They even drove to dinner Saturday night during a lull. All the diners on Route 130 were closed, so they settled on a pizza place in Palmyra, LeClare said.

"We had more trouble getting in and out of the (marina) parking lot than the boat," LeClare said.

LeClare and Fallon are "live-aboards" - those who live on their boats year-round. LeClare has been docked at the Riverside Marina for 14 years.

Along with about seven other large boats nearby, the Pendragon was more than ready to brace the storm.

The yacht, which normally receives its power from electricity lines running along the docks, was backed up by a generator and a 200-gallon water tank. The yacht was tied to the dock on both sides by heavy rope.

"You get used to it," according to William Given, a longtime live-aboard upon the 40-foot trawler Losuki, which was docked a short distance from Riverside Marina at Clarks Landing Marina. The facilities are both in Delran Harbor, a man-made cove in Delran that has "by far the largest concentration of boats on the Delaware River," said Dave Wrigley, owner of Riverside Marina.

Live-aboards are a fiercely independent bunch and know how to get by, said Bill Hero, an employee of Clarks Landing Marina.

"As far as the live-aboards go, they know it gets cold on the water," Hero said. Some shield their windows with plastic to keep the warmth in.

People, even friends, are often surprised by the secure, even comfortable, existence of a live-aboard.

"Living in a boat is more or less like living in an efficiency," LeClare said. "It's kind of like camping out with the luxuries."

Like all live-aboards, LeClare and Fallon love the water, and the freedom to traverse it, when the mood hits them. Yesterday, the two already had put the storm behind them and were talking about boating the Chesapeake Bay and the Trenton area during the summer.

But boats, water and bad weather inevitably spawn dark thoughts.

Krystine Lee, whose husband, a trucker, was stranded in Ohio, rode out the storm with her dog in the 35-foot General Lee.

"It wasn't too bad," she said. "I was up when (the boat) was rocking, but it was nice and warm inside."

Her friends, who were concerned about her and placed a lot of calls to her boat, were less confident, Lee said.

The main worry?

"If we sank," she said with a smile.

Despite The Temperature, It Was A Good Day For Catching Catfish

Source: Posted: July 18, 1993

DELRAN — The heat was intense, the air a wall of humidity. A bad day for fishing, right?

Not bad enough for the 300 to 400 fishers who cast their luck last weekend into the Delaware River and its tributaries during Clarks Landing Marina's third annual Catfish Classic.

To a person, they complained about the heat.

"It's hot," said Larry Applegate of Browns Mills. He didn't have one catch on a day when fish seemed to be taking a breather.

Gary Mitchell of Philadelphia said he had cooled off with towels he had dunked in the water. But, "It was fun."

At 7 a.m., the official start time on July 10, the wooden docks groaned under hustling footsteps as contestants confirmed their $50 per boat registrations, and tournament officials from the Delaware River Fishermen's Association inspected each boat's fish well for fish illegally caught before the tournament started.

No section of the Delaware River or its tributaries was off limits so long as participants were in by 3 p.m.

In the end, victory went to two first-time entrants who reeled in the day's biggest catch, a 9.65-pound mustachioed, bottom-feeding catfish hooked at the mouth of the Rancocas Creek. With that star in their clutches, Delran's Joseph Starbin and his son-in-law Barry Griffies of Florence won the grand prize for the largest combined catch of two fish. They went away with a 1993 16-foot bass-fishing boat with a trailer and a 9.9-horsepower engine.

Their combined catch was 13.35 pounds. They also raked in a trophy and $1,300 for taking the lunker pool for the day's biggest fish. Competitors had entered by paying $10 apiece.

Starbin, a retired employee with The Inquirer, said he was thinking, "Oh boy!" when the fish bit his bait, a nightcrawler.

Starbin and Griffies spent much less time on the water than the other contestants. Without a live well to preserve their catches, they had returned to the marina about 9 a.m. because dead fish were disqualified.

Then they "sweat it out" while the remaining contestants played cat and mouse with the catfish.

Tracy Toth of Hamilton Township fished in the Rancocas with her husband and brother-in-law. Buddy Wright, sporting a red hat with a catfish adornment sticking through it front and back, tried the waters by the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard with his brother Glenn.

At 2:45 p.m., the Wright brothers were feeling good but a little anxious. Thinking that the two catfish they had caught weighed 9 pounds, 10 ounces, they hoped for third place, though based on the decimal system being used their take was recorded as 9.1 pounds.

Buddy Wright said it would go with his other top three finishes in recent tournaments. "It's because of the hat," he said.

But he added, "There are still some good fishermen out there."

He was right. Just before the deadline, the combined catch of Moorestown's Gary Gee and Duane Henderson, one of Buddy Wright's former bowling buddies, weighed in at 9.85 pounds.

Weigh-in master J.D. Kaspar of the DRFA announced that Gee and Henderson were in third place, with the Wrights dropping to fourth.

Buddy Wright was downcast. "(You) burst my bubble," he yelled over to Gee and Henderson, who were elated. They won a marine radio and a cassette player.

Steven Ordog won the 12-and-younger category with a catch of 2.2 pounds.

For the day, 55 boats pulled in 110 catfish weighing a total 295.35 pounds.

After the weigh-ins, the catfish were released into the Delaware, which several of the competitors said seemed a lot cleaner than in years past.

"It's really cleaned up," Bob Lippincott said. "The fish (are) bigger."

To the marina's general manager, Jeff Truesdale, who said he had started the tournament to foster appreciation of fishing and boating on the Delaware, the fun factor counted most.

"It's good for the marina," he said. "The only problem was the weather, which we can't control. It'll be bigger next year, more prizes, more entries."

Freed Of Luxury Tax, Makers Of Yachts See Smooth Selling The Tax, Combined With The Recession, Hit The Boat Industry Hard. Finally, Some Optimism.

Source: Posted: August 27, 1993

Robert Healey has reason to be overjoyed by the passage of the Clinton deficit-reduction package early this month.

Its passage finally laid to rest the 10 percent luxury tax on boats costing more than $100,000 - the kind that Healey's company, Viking Yachts Inc., makes in New Gretna, Burlington County.

The tax and the recession together devastated the company, forcing shutdown of its plant in St. Petersburg, Fla., and a cutback in the number of employees from 1,451 in the late 1980s to 60 now.

The effect of the tax, which was enacted in 1990 as part of President Bush's deficit-reduction package and took effect in January 1991, went beyond Viking Yachts, of course.

Industry employment and sales plummeted nationwide, said Jeffrey Napier, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association, a trade group. Between 10,000 and 15,000 jobs were lost as a direct result of the tax, he said.

The industry downturn began in 1989, after a record 750,000 boats of all sizes were sold in 1988. Sales dropped nearly 50 percent between 1988 and 1992. Sales of the bigger boats - yachts worth $100,000 or more and subject to the luxury tax - fell 73 percent.

The tax on boats generated $16 million in revenue for the government, Napier said. But it also cost the government between $40 million and $70 million in corporate and personal income taxes as a result of the slump in the industry, he said.

About 100 companies, builders and suppliers have either shut down, sought bankruptcy protection or discontinued marine divisions in the last three years.

Even the once-lucrative foreign market dried up as European and Japanese economies soured and U.S. companies lost their competitive edge during the domestic downturn.

New Jersey, the state with the nation's largest concentration of builders of expensive boats, fared even worse than the rest of the country. Sales decreased 87 percent and employment fell 89 percent between 1989 and 1992, according to a survey last year by Power and Motoryacht Magazine.

The tax affected dealers as well. Sales of Hatteras boats, which cost about $400,000 each, declined at Clark's Landing Marina, in Delran. "We sold an average of two and a half a year in the past. Now we're down to one," said Jeff Truesdale, general manager of the marina.

At Merit Marine, in Somers Point, sales of larger boats are actually up 30 percent this year, but the figure is misleading, said Mike Aiello, company vice president. The company sold between 30 and 40 such boats in 1988 and again in 1989.

It sold only seven last year. "It doesn't take much sales to bring that up to a 30 percent increase," Aiello said.

Despite the rough seas during the last four years, the boating industry nationwide has stayed afloat.

The number of boats sold rose 3.8 percent last year, the National Marine Manufacturers Association said. Most of the increase was in the sales of smaller - but less profitable - boats.

The smaller boats, along with sales of used boats, have been the "bread and butter" of dealers, said Aiello, whose dealership is up 15 percent in dollar volume this year.

The future looks even brighter, according to a survey commissioned this year by New Jersey boat builders. It forecast that industry sales and employment in New Jersey would reach 90 percent of the pre-recession levels by 1999. Boat builders are expected to hire 1,650 workers, and 6,500 more indirect jobs will be created.

With the tax repealed, Viking has gone on a hiring binge. "We'll be up to 300 employees by the end of the month, and up to 500 or 600 by the end of the year," said Healey, who was chairman of the Coalition to Save Jobs in Boating, a lobbying group organized to fight the luxury tax.

Nationwide, the repeal should translate into an immediate 5,000 jobs in manufacturing and retail, said Napier, the trade group president.

Still, the industry faces a slow recovery in the face of a lingering economic malaise, Napier said. "We're the first ones into a recession, and the last ones out," he said.

Officials are optimistic, though.

"The market won't take off right away. But we'll see a consistent but gradual increase in sales," Healey said.

For one thing, the timing of the repeal coincides with the fall season for boat sales, Healey said. Moreover, there is thought to be a pent-up demand among boat buyers and little inventory on hand to satisfy that demand.

Builders may find help in getting money to jump-start their languishing operations. The tax was repealed retroactively to January 1993, so builders who have absorbed the cost of the levy will get some money back.

And in New Jersey, the legislature has introduced the Boat Builders Recovery Fund Act, which would provide $12 million in loan guarantees for manufacturers. Hearings are expected in September.

The New Jersey Economic Development Authority already has awarded Egg Harbor Yacht Co., of Egg Harbor City, a $3 million loan through the federal Section 108 program, which finances projects that provide jobs for low- and moderate-income residents.

Egg Harbor Yachts emerged from two years of bankruptcy in March and resumed operations in April. Company president Charles Underwood said the $3 million loan would be used to restructure long-term debt and provide working capital.

He has hired 12 employees and plans to triple the workforce by the end of September and be up to 50 employees by the end of the year. He expects the boatyard to produce up to 40 boats before the year is out. Underwood predicts sales of 60 boats a year by 1998.

Still, it's a far cry from the giddy days of 1988, when Egg Harbor cranked out 127 boats. "We'll never reach that level again," he said.

Ship Sails Educational Missions

Source: Posted: April 22, 1998

BURLINGTON CITY — Jacky Wizmerski, a Girl Scout from Delran, swirled a vial of Delaware River water yesterday as another girl added drops of a starch indicator.

The solution turned blue as the girls tested for oxygen, a crucial element for the survival of native plants and animal life in the waterway. The color indicated a high level of oxygen - a good sign, said Nancy Oswald, an educator aboard the A.J. Meerwald, an historic oyster schooner that has become a floating classroom.

The Meerwald will be a key feature for the third year at Burlington City's RiverFest this weekend. Tours aboard the 70-year-old, 115-foot vessel ship will begin at 6 p.m. tonight from the Riverfront Promenade and will be available until Sunday. The Bivalve-based ship docks at various New Jersey ports throughout the year, offering visitors a chance to learn about the ecology and history of the Delaware Bay region. Next week, the Meerwald will dock in Camden.

``Lately, the people are polluting the ocean and the land and everything, and I highly think that's wrong,'' said Wizmerski, 13, a student at Delran Middle School.

Wizmerski and 14 other Girl Scouts from the South Jersey Pines region joined Gov. Whitman and environmental experts on the Meerwald, where they collected water samples for a report on the river's quality this Earth Week.

The group boarded the Meerwald for an hourlong cruise just minutes after the governor signed a law designating the vessel as the state's tall ship. The new law includes a one-time $95,000 appropriation for maintenance and operation of the ship.

The Meerwald joins the goldfinch, the violet and the horse as one of the state's official symbols, officials said.

The governor said the educational program offered by the Meerwald's crew will help community members understand how important water conservation is to the Delaware River, the world's largest freshwater port.

``Moving to this next step will mean involving our communities in a partnership to educate all our citizens about how to keep our waterways clean,'' Whitman said. ``We want to make New Jersey's waters the cleanest in the nation.''

Built in 1928 in Cumberland County, the oak Meerwald was one of hundreds of ships that dredged the rich Delaware waters for oysters before the decline of the shipping industry that coincided with the Great Depression.

During World War II, the boat was turned over to the U.S. Coast Guard, which outfitted it as a fire boat. The Meerwald returned to commercial waters in 1959 for surf clamming until the late 1970s. About 10 years ago, members of the Delaware Bay Schooner Project found and restored the rotting boat. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1995.

Whitman Promises More Money For Parks She Also Hailed Voters' Passage Of A Broad Open-space Measure And Made A $50 Million ``down Payment.''

Source: Posted: November 05, 1998

TRENTON — The governor cut a giant-size check for $50 million yesterday as the state's down payment on preserving open space and farmland, then promised even more to preserve state parks.

In festivities in the Statehouse courtyard, Gov. Whitman hailed the public's approval of a sweeping open-space measure in a referendum Tuesday. The 30-year proposal would earmark a portion of the state's sales-tax revenues over the next 30 years to preserve farms and other land.

``New Jersey is leading the way in showing the nation how to care for its resources,'' Whitman said as she stood in the back of a pickup truck decorated with hay bales. She greeted hundreds of supporters of the initiative as John Cougar Mellencamp's ``Pink Houses'' played in the background. Farm animals dotted the courtyard, and grade-school children and Boy Scouts sat near the front to drive home the governor's ``Future Generation'' theme.

``New Jersey is showing the nation that we care enough to set aside some 40 percent of our land mass to ensure that future generations are going to have the quality of life that we enjoy today,'' she said. ``This will ensure that we remain the Garden State forever.''

Alluding to the huge check propped up next to her, Whitman said the money was in the current budget for open-space preservation.

The governor also announced her intention to increase funding in the annual budget for state parks maintenance, though she did not give an amount or other specifics. While every penny of the initiative would go toward acquiring open space and historic preservation, she said, more resources were needed to maintain parks.

She said her move to increase parks funding had stemmed from genuine concern, and had not been calculated to appease critics who have said she is more interested in acquiring land and establishing a legacy than preserving what the state already has.

``I've always thought funding parks was very important. We need the land, but we need to protect the parks first,'' she said.

Whitman said she planned to meet with members of the legislature and her Council on New Jersey Outdoors, the advisory committee that recommended that the state save one million acres of open space, to agree on an amount.

Whitman said she also planned to work with the Senate president and the Assembly speaker to introduce legislation on implementing the open-space funding measure approved in the referendum.

She offered no time line, other than saying that the meetings would be held in the next several months. She said she would develop an implementation plan that would try to preserve the farmland that is most vulnerable to development.

For some in the crowd, such as Maureen Ogden, approval of the measure culminated a 16-year journey.

``I feel incredibly elated,'' said Ogden, the former seven-term assemblywoman who fought to secure a stable source of funding for open-space preservation and failed in three previous atttempts. Whitman publicly thanked Ogden yesterday for her efforts.

Conservation experts across the nation praised New Jersey's initiative yesterday.

``It is the largest land conservation measure to be approved by voters in at least a decade,'' said Earnest Cook, senior vice president of the San Francisco-based Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit land-conservation organization. ``It's obvious that the eyes of the nation are on what happened on New Jersey yesterday and on Gov. Whitman's leadership.''

Cook said a bigger measure, called the California Parks and Wildlife initiative, had gone before voters in California in June 1994. The $1.98 billion proposal was rejected.

Other states, such as Florida, have put aside comparable dollar amounts for land preservation, but given the relative size of New Jersey, the scope of the project is staggering.

New Jersey measures about five million acres, of which three million are already developed or preserved. Of the nearly two million acres up for grabs, Whitman seeks to preserve one million, an area more than 10 times the size of Philadelphia.

The measure would dedicate $98 million annually from sales-tax revenues, and would allow the state to issue $100 million in 20-year bonds in each of the next 10 years. After 10 years, all the money is to go toward paying off the debt. Once the debt is retired, the funds will revert to the general fund. Municipalities will be expected to match a portion of the state funding.

Environmentalists have argued that New Jersey cannot afford to wait. It is the most crowded state in the country, at 1,035 people per square mile, according to the 1990 census.

The governor's Council on New Jersey Outdoors broke down its million-acre recommendation as follows: saving 500,000 acres of farmland, 200,000 for public recreation spaces, 200,000 acres for greenways (such as stream corridors, trails or linear parks that connect larger open spaces), and 100,000 acres for watershed protection.

``The governor has done an amazing job in setting open-space preservation in the context of a broader statewide plan for urban revitalization, land conservation and economic development,'' said Phyllis Myers, president of State Resource Strategies, a consulting firm that specializes in state and local land-conservation finance and policy in Washington and which tracks open-space initiatives around the country. ``It is a very promising story about the importance people are giving to quality of life in their communities.''

In Rhode Island, a modest $15 million, two-year open-space initiative was approved Tuesday.

``We are the second most densely populated state in the country after New Jersey,'' said Andy McLeod, director of Rhode Island's Department of Environmental Management. ``The pressure on the land and for the conversion of open space to houses and malls is comparable in Rhode Island to that which exists in New Jersey. We are watching with admiration what New Jersey is doing in this regard.''




(99% of the vote)

Yes - 730,237

No - 643,641

Burlington County

(100% of the vote)

Yes - 48,752

No - 37,944

Camden County

Yes - 44,605

No - 35,646

Gloucester County

Yes - 28,796

No - 27,593


Yes - 832,885

No - 572,006

Yes - 52,450

No - 34,172

Yes - 51,298

No - 31,947

Yes - 31,232

No - 25,820


Yes - 958,230

No - 490,550

Yes - 59,832

No - 28,692

Yes - 58,222

No - 26,966

Yes - 37,528

No - 20,209



Yes - 46,924

No - 23,337



Yes - 47,362

No - 34,239


East Greenwich

Yes - 1,133

No - 625


Yes - 1,267

No - 2,155


Yes - 954

No - 301


Yes - 3,961

No - 2,729

Mount Laurel

Yes - 6,871

No - 2,658


Yes - 3,475

No - 2,611


Yes - 3,835

No - 1,417

North Hanover

Yes - 476

No - 525


Yes - 2,510

No - 1,583

Burlco Creates Parks Department

Source: Posted: July 29, 1999

MOUNT HOLLY — A parks system was created yesterday by the Burlington County Board of Freeholders to develop and manage an increasing collection of county-owned land.

The freeholders will begin searching immediately to fill the new position of parks superintendent, which comes with a salary of about $50,000. The board is looking for someone with experience in developing open space for recreational use and in devising fund-raising methods to help support the park system.

In addition to overall upkeep of the land, the parks department will develop long-range plans for the property, some of which is to be converted into recreation areas with walking trails and other outdoor attractions.

As director of land-use issues, Freeholder William S. Haines Jr. has been the driving force behind creation of a parks division.

``It's more than just vacant land,'' he said. ``We're going to have something the people of Burlington County can not only see, but use. It just makes it a better place for people to live.''

The creation of the parks department comes at a crucial time. So far, the county is responsible for the land and buildings on the 2,520-acre county park at Smithville in Eastampton, the 122-acre DAC Farm in Eastampton, and the prison museum in downtown Mount Holly.

After years of negotiations, the freeholders this month added the lush 133-acre Pennington Farm in Delanco at a cost of $1.4 million. County officials are also seeking to acquire Hawk and Amico Islands, near where the Rancocas Creek and the Delaware River join, and are in preliminary talks to purchase a 282-acre farm in Delran.

The parks chief will have a staff of three to five people, including an assistant superintendent, maintenance workers and a secretary. The positions will be funded by the county budget through 1999, but compensated after that through an $8 million annual tax fund.

The resolution creating the parks system also gives it authority over the Burlington County Cultural and Heritage Department. Others outside the county are happy about the creation of the parks system.

State Sen. Martha W. Bark (R., Burlington) is a former freeholder but now serves as president of the Smithville Conservancy, which was formed to help the county raise money for the site.

Bark said she believes it is important to try to have a county structure, such as a parks department, in place. In ``securing these open spaces and historic preservation areas, there needs to be someone who is appropriately dealing with'' the assortment of land to provide services to the public, she said.

At least one nearby county has a head start with a parks system that maintains land and open space.

As the liaison to the Ocean County Department of Parks and Recreation, Freeholder John Bartlett talks glowingly about the 50 employees who oversee 20 county-owned parks and two golf courses.

Burlco Freeholders Approve $2 Million To Buy Open Space The State Money Will Purchase Land On Rancocas Creek, Mainly For Parks.

Source: Posted: October 13, 2000

MOUNT HOLLY — In an effort to rejuvenate the Burlington County parks system and expand it to include bicycle and walking trails, freeholders Wednesday approved the use of a $2 million state grant to purchase more open space along Rancocas Creek.

The county has preserved 987 acres since 1996, when voters approved a tax to preserve farmland and open space. Most of that property is in the Rancocas greenway.

The county received the $2 million grant in August 1999 after the Garden State Preservation Trust Act was passed, said Freeholder William S. Haines Jr., who supervises the county's land-preservation programs.

"Earmarking the funds for greenway property is consistent with the county's Open Space Strategic Plan, as well as its current pursuit of potential parklands," he said.

The strategic plan includes the Delaware River Heritage Trail, which is expected to be 25 miles long and pass through 15 municipalities along the Delaware River; a Rails to Trails project to create a hiking and biking trail; watershed management; and a local open-space grant program.

Susan Craft, county land-use coordinator, said the county was seeking to purchase nine other properties.

If all the properties on its list are acquired, Burlington County will have preserved 1,851 acres in nine municipalities, most of which can be tied to the parks system, Craft said.

Haines said there were a limited number of undeveloped parcels along Rancocas Creek that the county could buy for parkland.

"By allocating these funds for the anticipated acquisition of creek-front property, we are ensuring that we are in a position to move quickly with purchases when the opportunities arise," he said.

The county has already preserved the 105-acre Olympia Lakes site in Willingboro and the 134-acre Pennington Farm in Delanco.

Freeholders have entered into an agreement to purchase the 130-acre Anderson Farm in Delran. They have also targeted Amico Island in Delran, Hawk Island in Delanco, and a portion of Holiday Lakes in Delanco.

Melanie D. Scott's e-mail address is

Officials glimpse waterfront's future Burlco freeholders and others cruised Rancocas Creek to view land they hope will be part of a park. "Pretty, isn't it?" one asked.

Source: Posted: September 20, 2001

DELRAN — It was the picturesque view of the lush grass and towering trees hiding the bustling towns and highways that Vincent R. Farias liked to see and talk about.

"Pretty, isn't it?" the Burlington County freeholder director asked as he rode a boat up and down a portion of the Rancocas Creek. "You'd never think that you were driving through the most populated area of Burlington County."

Yesterday, Farias, three fellow freeholders and several other county officials got on the 39-foot boat to survey land that the county either owns or would like to as part of its future parks system.

The vision is to connect the waterfront properties and make them more accessible with hiking and bicycle trails.

So far, the county has purchased 1,300 acres along the Rancocas Creek, including the Pennington Farm in Delanco and the Anderson Farm in Delran. The properties that the county has its sights on include 125-acre Amico Island in Delran, which may cost nearly $1 million, Freeholder William S. Haines Jr. said.

Taking off from the Dredge Harbor in Delran and curving around Amico Island, the tour went under Route 130 and the new light-rail bridge; past Newton's Landing and Holiday Lakes in Delanco and Olympia Lakes in Willingboro; and all the way to the Anderson Farm.

"Today is an opportunity for the freeholders to see what the park system is going to look like," said Haines, who has been a strong supporter of preserving open space in the county.

Jeff Kerchner, the county parks director, said the freeholders had been "very fortunate" to acquire prime property along the creek.

"It's fabulous, quite frankly," Kerchner said of the view. "I'm very excited to see it from this water side. It's an extremely exciting opportunity to build a parks system from the ground up."

Farias said he did not cherish the thought of what the land would look like in five years without preservation.

"I suppose you'd be seeing housing development beginning and construction all around," he said. "You'd probably not see walking and biking trails and muskrats and all the other things nature gives us."

Freeholder Theresa Brown lives in Willingboro but said she had never been on the Rancocas in a boat. She brought her camera along.

"This is great," she said. "I think when we get it all done, the people are going to love it."

Leonard N. Fleming's e-mail address is

Burlco to wrap up parks hearings If You Go

Source: Posted: June 17, 2002

MOUNT HOLLY — The Burlington County freeholders are wrapping up a series of public hearings tonight and tomorrow night on the proposed county park system.

Those attending will hear plans for five county parks lying along Rancocas Creek and a general discussion of open-space goals for the county.

By the end of July, the freeholders hope to complete a master plan to guide county park development over the next several years.

Detailed proposals will be shown for parks lying along Rancocas Creek, including Smithville Park East and West in Eastampton, which are to feature hiking and biking trails and picnic areas. At Anderson Farm in Delran, the plan calls for horticulture gardens, trails and a launch for motor boats.

The fourth proposed park, a transformed Pennington Farm in Delanco, would feature a network of trails that would take strollers past wetlands and wildflower meadows.

The fifth is the 118-acre Winzinger tract in Hainesport, which would include trails, playgrounds and a canoe launch.

Freeholder William S. Haines Jr. said the county's 2002 capital budget includes $4 million to begin work on site improvements such as trails and other facilities. The bond money would be repaid by the county's four-cent dedicated open-space tax, the county said.

The hearings will also discuss the future of open-space acquisitions in the county.

Contact Thom Guarnieri

at 609-261-0901 or

Tonight's hearing will take place in the Public Safety Building, 91 Union St., Medford. Tomorrow's hearing will be in the Walnut Street School,

411 Walnut St., Delanco. Both sessions will be from 7 to 9 p.m.

A lovely shade of green The strip-center-weary are reveling in new parkland.

Source: Posted: May 01, 2005

On a recent 75-degree afternoon, John Tyira emerged from a woodsy trail on a previously off-limits Delaware River peninsula. He clutched an odd aluminum walking stick, wiped a perspiring brow, and grinned widely when he saw a visitor studying a colorful trail map posted on the bulletin board.

"I just love it here. What do you want to know about this place?" said Tyira, 79, a retired tractor-trailer driver who frequently hikes and fishes on the 55-acre peninsula, known as Amico Island, in Delran, his hometown.

John Woolan, 61, an accountant who also lives in Delran, bicycled by, swiftly disappearing down the dirt paths of the peninsula. The peninsula, named after its former owner, a sand and gravel company, sits at the confluence of the river and the Rancocas Creek, just off the Riverside Marina.

Last fall the Burlington County Board of Freeholders opened Amico Island Park to the public - one of several parcels that the county acquired in recent years expressly for open space. Two more new parks with hiking trails are scheduled to open soon in Hainesport and Eastampton.

The new open spaces, in Burlington as well as other counties, are inviting. Saved in many cases from the bulldozer, they form a patchwork quilt of green scattered along assorted waterways. They create an oasis from pavement, a place to hike, bird, fish, picnic or just enjoy nature.

In Gloucester County, Wenonah environmentalists have also been working feverishly to preserve open space. They are busy carving new trails out of a "ring of green" that nearly surrounds the one-square-mile borough, said Chuck Forsman, a township committeeman and former chairman of the borough's Environmental Commission.

In the last three years, three new trails have been carved out of woods that surround six crystal-clear lakes and ponds, Forsman said. There are now 5.9 miles of woodsy trails winding through the borough's open spaces.

Ambitious plans call for restoring the dried-up Synnott's Pond, now a silt-laden trickle, and creating even more woodsy paths for people to enjoy a retreat from the hustle-bustle of suburbia. The project is being funded through donations and seed money from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

"We have a herd of deer, two fox families, a coyote, turtles. . . . We have all kinds of wildlife here," Forsman said.

Ellen Hummel and Leah, her 3-year-old daughter, visited the Wenonah woods and Comey's Lake on a warm morning last week. They sat on a stone bench and gawked at the scenery. "This is beautiful. And it's so nice to have this so close to home," said Hummel, 39, of Wenonah.

Harry A. Schroeder, 90, appeared in the clearing after his hike. "I try to get out here every day," he said.

Back at Amico Island, Tyira said he too tried to hike the new trails every day. He recalled one morning when a deer family, including a six-point buck, dashed past him. Then there was the crane with the seemingly six-foot wingspan. And the 19-inch catfish he caught and released so that "someone else can have the fun of catching him."

"This island was made when they dredged the Delaware River. That's how this island was born," said Tyira, who has lived nearby for 50 years. Then it became the private property of Amico Sand & Gravel, which closed about 20 years ago.

Tyira recalled how in his younger days he would sneak onto the island to fish. He's thrilled that it is now public land and that the underbrush has been cleared to allow easier access.

"When Amico closed, there was a plan to build big condominiums on this island. The people fought it. Then, when the state got money, it acquired the island," Tyira said.

The county freeholders spent nearly two years clearing and preparing the peninsula for public use.

The tale was told and Tyira wandered home. Soon, Woolan was back. He had bicycled a loop around the peninsula, past its two freshwater ponds, its river vistas, its upland forests and meadows. "I just think it's a great thing to have this," he said, puffing. "It's a place where there are no strip shopping centers, traffic lights or jug handles. I used to bike through the streets, but to be here, so close to nature, is so nice."

Contact suburban staff writer Jan Hefler at 856-779-3224 or

Contact Information

Burlington County Parks system at 609-265-5858 or

Camden County Parks system at 856-795-7275 or

Gloucester County Parks at 856-468-0100 or

Wenonah Environmental Commission 856-468-5483 or 468-2934, or

Going into overdrive about parks By the end of summer, the county will have three spots, and even more are planned.

Source: Posted: June 26, 2005

A year ago, Burlington County residents had but one county park, a historic site in Eastampton that opened in 1975. This summer, that number will be tripled with the soon-to-be completed Long Bridge Park in Hainesport. And before the end of the year, another project should bring the total to four if it stays on course.

These parks, some 600 acres mostly in northern Burlington County, are just the beginning, said Jeff Kerchner, superintendent of the county Parks Division. "Since 1999, the county has acquired over 1,600 acres for park sites," he said. Three more parks are planned.

The state's largest county has invested $35.7 million so far to preserve space and add recreational facilities along Rancocas Creek. "A major aspect of the program is to link all the parks with trails. . . . We want to make it so that you will be able to ride your bike from Delanco all the way to the Brendan Byrne State Forest in Pemberton - a total of about 25 miles," Kerchner said.

The parks feature a network of trails through woods and meadows along a tidal basin rich with wildlife. Hawks soar above and red foxes crouch in dens. There are rustic picnic areas under towering pines, playgrounds with newfangled climbers, fishing docks, boat ramps, and observation areas.

"I caught a sunny and a half-pound catfish," Justin Githens, 17, of Mount Holly, reported on a recent Sunday at Smithville Park in Eastampton. Last fall, a 595-foot-long floating foot bridge was constructed over Smithville Lake to complete a trail loop and expand fishing opportunities.

"This is so nice here and it's good to get people outdoors," Rebecca Stackhouse, 21, of Springfield Township, said as she fiddled with a stuck mechanism on her camera at another spot along the bridge.

In 2000, when Burlington County officials decided to create a park system, there was only Smithville. Back then, only 50 of its approximately 200 acres were accessible and its main allure was an 1840 mansion where industrialist Hezekiah B. Smith lived.

Later, trails were carved into Smithville's ravines and woods, and then the floating bridge was built.

Last fall, Amico Island Park, a 55-acre peninsula in Delran, opened. It has hiking trails, a fishing pond, and beautiful vistas of the Delaware River and Rancocas Creek, which converge on its borders. A boat launch is planned.

In April, more of Smithville was developed, this time with a 170-acre area known as Smith's Woods that has hiking trails and a playground with six-foot-tall climbing sculptures molded from rocks.

This month, the 115-acre Long Bridge Park in Hainesport neared completion. It too will have trails, a playground and picnic area.

Currently, the county is sculpting paths through the former 140-acre Pennington farm along the Rancocas Creek in Delanco. Kerchner said the trails will include an asphalt loop for in-line skating. Completion is slated for the fall.

Still in preliminary stages are three other parks. They are farms the county acquired in Delran, Moorestown and Springfield Townships.

"The pent-up demand for this park system has been incredible," Kerchner said. "Come out on a weekend and you will see a lot of people who've already made it their regular place to run and bike and fish."

Contact suburban staff writer Jan Hefler at 856-779-3224 or

MAJOR-LEAGUE MUD A Delran man digs up the muck to be rubbed onto new baseballs.

Source: Posted: July 12, 2005

Jim Bintliff has pretended to be a scientist, a college professor and a government geologist - all for the sake of baseball.

"I don't like to lie to people," the Delran, Burlington County, resident said recently as he shoveled runny, brown muck from a creek into five-gallon buckets. "But if they see me out here, I have to make up something. I can't have people knowing this is where I get the mud."

From a secret location in South Jersey, Bintliff supplies the major, minor and international leagues with the dirty concoction that is rubbed on new baseballs before they are put into play. It takes off the sheen, softens the seams, and gives pitchers better control.

"Lena Blackburne Baseball Rubbing Mud" has been used in the American League since the late 1930s and on every ball in the majors for the last 50 years.

And that will be the case again tonight as the National League and American League face off in Detroit for the 76th All-Star Game.

According to Major League Baseball, umpires began rubbing mud into the balls in 1921 to remove the gloss. But they used infield dirt and water, with varying results.

In 1938, Russell "Lena" Blackburne, a former player who was a coach with Connie Mack's Philadelphia Athletics, joined the effort. He searched Burlington County's streambeds and found a suitable goo.

It covered the ball evenly without making the cover mushy. Umpires loved it, and the rest is history.

It took Blackburne, who didn't care much for National League teams, a couple of decades to offer his mud to them. Major League Baseball has been using the stuff exclusively since the 1950s - no other foreign substance can be applied to new baseballs before they are used.

Before he died in 1968, Blackburne passed the mudhole's location on to boyhood friend John Haas, who later passed the secret on to his son-in-law, Burns Bintliff.

Burns Bintliff, who died three years ago, brought his son Jim into the business when he was about 8 years old.

"Back then, we used a boat and would wade to the shore," said Jim Bintliff, 47, who now hoofs it to the hole.

The mud has been refined over the years. A secret organic ingredient is added to give it a fine grit.

Bintliff describes the finished mud as "a cross between chocolate pudding and whipped cold cream." He won't patent the product because that would mean the processing method would eventually be made public. Its cosmetic potential - facial, anyone? - is unknown.

"Nobody can match this mud," he said. "It only takes a dab to do a half-dozen balls."

Before home games at Citizens Bank Park, that job falls to Phillies assistant equipment manager Dan O'Rourke.

"Without the mud, the ball is much more slippery," he said.

He spends about half an hour rubbing up to 120 balls - more than enough for the game.

"I'd be in trouble if we ran out," he said. "I wouldn't want to do that."

The mud mined today comes from a spot different from the one used by Blackburne, Bintliff said. About 25 years ago, development near the first hole made it impossible to keep the location a secret.

He makes up to six trips a year to the mudhole, working through the spatterdock (a water plant) to his special spot before collecting the syrupy top layer from underneath a foot or so of water.

"It's a pretty good day for mud," he said on a recent trip. "We caught the tide just right."

The Inquirer agreed not to divulge the location of the mudhole, which is along a South Jersey tributary of the Delaware River.

If people come upon him while he's there, he sizes them up to see what story he can sell them. Sometimes, he simply uses one of his father's favorites - an oldie but a goody.

"I tell them I'm getting it for my rose bushes," he said.

He's not concerned about taking something from public lands. Nobody has ever challenged him on it.

"The amount that I scoop up is so small that you won't even be able to see where my shovel was once high tide comes and goes again," said Bintliff, a commercial printing press operator when he isn't harvesting mud. "As long as I pay taxes on what I sell, I don't think the government will give me a hard time."

While the location is still a secret, the price is no longer a mystery - a 32-fluid-ounce container costs $45 and can be purchased by anybody, not just by ball clubs. Each major-league team uses two per season, one at spring training and another for home games once the season begins.

Last year he sold nearly 1,200 pounds.

"I'll never get rich doing this, but I get paid in more ways than money. My mud is on every ball and is a part of every milestone. I am part of baseball."

Contact staff writer Joel Bewley at 609-261-0900 or

Inquirer staff writer Marc Narducci contributed to this article.

Before The Mud, A Clean Start

Major League Baseball's Official Rules, No. 3.01 (c) states: "Before the game begins the umpire shall . . . receive from the home club a supply of regulation baseballs, the number and make to be certified to the home club by the league president. Each ball shall be enclosed in a sealed package bearing the signature of the league president, and the seal shall not be broken until just prior to game time when the umpire shall open each package to inspect the ball and remove its gloss. The umpire shall be the sole judge of the fitness of the balls to be used in the game."

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