By Kristin Guglietti | Feb. 26, 2020
HEISLERVILLE – The East Point Lighthouse, the second oldest in New Jersey, is threatened by erosion.
According to Nancy Patterson, President of Maurice River Historical Society, the problem has been growing worse for decades and has been long neglected by state officials.
“There’s been nothing done to address the erosion until recently when it hit basically crisis stage,” said Patterson.
That’s when a geotube, a 900-foot-long sandbag, was installed along part of the area. Patterson, 61, says that is only a temporary fix, and there isn’t currently a plan to rebuild the point or install a bulkhead or seawall, which she says are needed to protect the 170-year-old structure.
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Coastal Engineering lists East Point as one of their current projects for flood damage reduction. However, beach replenishment projects along beach areas seem to take priority, according to Patterson.
“Here along the bayshore, I don’t know… it doesn’t get the attention,” she said.
East Point Lighthouse was built in 1848 to help guide boats and ships entering the bay.
In the summer of 1971, a fire destroyed the roof and lantern room and the Maurice River Historical Society raised funds to rebuild it. and relocated an occupied cottage to the site to curb vandalism During the 1980s, the U.S. Coast Guard relit the lighthouse and put it back on the list of active aids to navigation. Recently, it underwent additional renovations.
Today, the lighthouse is still functional and also serves as a museum. Inside, furniture dating back to the early 1900s show what the lighthouse would look like in earlier years. It also plays host to events throughout the year including Bay Day and a butterfly event. These events help educate children and get them interested in local history.
East Point is also a popular location for weddings. Jess Parsons, 33, had her wedding pictures taken at the lighthouse. This past Christmas, she brought her 5-year-old son, Jase, to experience it. In the lantern room, the light can be turned on when a hand covers the gray sensor. This tricks the light into thinking it is night time.
“We haven’t found another lighthouse in the United States that you can do that,” said Irene Hawn, 72, a volunteer.
This story is part of our participation in a statewide climate reporting collaboration with members of the NJ College News Commons, a network of campus media outlets working together to cover the climate crisis in New Jersey.