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Long Beach Island (colloquially known as LBI or simply The Island) is a barrier island and summer colony along the Atlantic Ocean coast of Ocean County, New Jersey in the United States. Aligned north-south, the northern portion is generally slightly higher end, low-density residential; whereas the southern portion possesses more economical, higher-density housing and considerable commercial development. The primary industries include tourism, fishing, and real estate. The only access point to the island by land is a single bridge, the Dorland J. Henderson Memorial Bridge, colloquially referred to as the Manahawkin Bay Bridge or "The Causeway". The bridge was designed by an African American, New Jersey Department of Transportation engineer, Dorland J. Henderson who also designed the unique bridge lights known as the strand of pearls], extending from Manahawkin on the mainland to Ship Bottom on the island. The island can also be reached by water transport. Among the most significant of landmarks on the island are Barnegat Lighthouse, located on the northern tip and the Holgate Unit of the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge on the south end.
As of the United States Census, 2000, a total of 8,556 people in six separate municipalities declared Long Beach Island home on a year-round basis. However, the population in these communities swells significantly in the summer months to approximately 100,000 with part-time residents and tourists. The island's close knit communities are largely affluent and contain many vacation homes for wealthy residents across New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut.
Long Beach Island is approximately 18 miles (29 km) in length, which includes three miles (5 km) of nature reserve located on the southern tip. The island is about a half-mile wide (800 m) at its widest point in Ship Bottom, and spans a fifth of a mile (300 m) at its narrowest point in Harvey Cedars.
Bisecting the middle of the developed region is the sole access point for road vehicles, via State Route 72, which consists of the Dorland J. Henderson Memorial Bridge (sometimes locally known as "The Causeway", though the term is incorrect in its application). The bridge is known for its "String of Pearls", a row of lights mounted on the railings lining the length of the bridge. A $155 million plan unveiled by the New Jersey Department of Transportation in 2005 would replace the existing bridge and add a second span. There is no mass transit serving the island, but NJ Transit Bus 551 runs to Manahawkin. There is a weekend summer bus service that runs at nights. The schedule can be found here: http://www.trolleytoursinc.com/lbi_dial-a-ride.html
The presence of the bisecting roadway, located in Ship Bottom, results in the division of the island into a northern portion and a southern portion. From the bridge northward, the island includes the communities of Surf City, North Beach (a section of Long Beach Township), Harvey Cedars, Loveladies (the northernmost section of Long Beach Township), High Bar Harbor, and Barnegat Light. From the bridge southward, the island includes the communities of Long Beach Township (including the census-designated place of North Beach Haven) and Beach Haven, with the Holgate section of Long Beach Township at the southernmost tip of the island.
Some of the island's 18 miles (29 km) of beaches experienced significant erosion in recent decades, threatening the multi-million dollar waterfront homes in the area. In 2005, with the help of the Army Corps of Engineers, work began on a $75 million project to build a 22-foot (6.7 m) high, 30-foot (9.1 m) wide dune the length of the island, using sand pumped from offshore. In front of the dunes, a 200-foot (61 m) wide stretch of sand separates the dune from the ocean. The beach replenishment project began in Ship Bottom and Surf City. With work on those beaches now complete, the project continues toward the northern end of the island. There have been large amounts of controversy concerning replenishing beaches. Many surfers and swimmers argue that the pumping of sand destroys sandbars which create waves and a better swimming environment. Neck and back injuries have been caused by the way the waves now break into the sand.
Long Beach Island has a humid subtropical climate. In the winter, the island does not get as much snowfall as the northern and western portions of New Jersey or even the immediate inland areas due to its close proximity to the Atlantic Ocean. Overall, Long Beach Island has relatively mild winters due to the warmer Atlantic waters. The island also receives the very last frost in the state with its mild autumn climate. The summers are hot and sunny for the most part, with the occasional thunderstorm or hurricane from the ocean.
There are six separate municipalities on Long Beach Island (with Long Beach Township breaking into multiple neighborhoods), listed from north to south:
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The island has been continuously settled since 1690, initially being a destination for hunters. Barnegat Inlet, to the north of the island, was an important path for freight shipments and whaling from the 17th century through the 20th century. Due to the inlet's importance and its turbulent waters, a lighthouse tower was constructed in 1835 to guide shippers through the area. Erosion problems destroyed the tower in 1857, two years before the current Barnegat Lighthouse was completed in 1859. It was constructed by the United States Army Corps of Engineers under the supervision of George Gordon Meade, famous for leading the Union forces to victory four years later during the Civil War at the Battle of Gettysburg. The United States Life-Saving Service built Station #17 in Barnegat Light (then known as Brownsville) around 1872, which continues today as a United States Coast Guard station.
A developing tourism sector prompted a railroad connection between the mainland and the island, which was completed to Barnegat Light in 1886. The Jersey Shore shark attacks of 1916 included a fatal attack in Beach Haven, killing University of Pennsylvania student Charles Vansant in July 1916, which partly inspired the book Jaws. A severe winter storm in 1920 destroyed most of the beaches along the island as well as several hotels. A storm in 1923 further diminished the tourism sector, resulting in the discontinuation of train service to Barnegat Light between 1923 and 1926. In 1935, the railroad bridge to the mainland washed out, leaving the entire island without rail service.
Several storms throughout the island's history have resulted in the island being split in two, with the division occurring at the island's narrowest point in Harvey Cedars. Most famous of such storms, however, was the Ash Wednesday Storm of 1962, which split Long Beach Island into numerous pieces and nearly destroyed the island in its entirety. The storm caused the destroyer USS Monssen to run aground in Beach Haven Inlet, Long Beach Township. The existing Route 72 Causeway was erected in the late 1950s which replaced a low-level two-lane automobile bridge which in itself had replaced the previously destroyed railroad bridge.
In the 1970s, an article in Philadelphia Magazine quipped that, "The haves turn right (south) and the have mores turn left (north)," referring to the option of turning right or left when arriving on the island from the bridge. Nominally accurate, the low-density northern end of the island, Loveladies, North Beach, and the surrounding neighborhoods are home to an assortment of large-scale waterfront homes which attract considerable attention from visitors and are often the source of rumors regarding vacationing celebrities during the summertime. The southern community of Beach Haven features historic and elegant Victorian homes that have survived the many storms. The south end contains significantly more commercial zoning, which generally decreases north of the bridge. Year-round residents and businesses in operation are more common toward the southern end of the island, particularly in the larger boroughs of Beach Haven and Ship Bottom.
Long Beach Island typically attracts a family-oriented crowd during the summertime, unlike more frenzied beach vacation destinations such as nearby Belmar and Seaside Heights. The island has not contained a boardwalk since the one in Beach Haven was washed away by the 1944 hurricane, and the night life is limited to a few quality bars. Visitors generally take part in such activities as miniature golf, parasailing, jet skiing, walking and shopping, and relaxing on the beaches. The island is known as a base for many long-range recreational fishing and charter boats, whose trips can range from 10–100 miles from one of the island's two inlets (at Barnegat Light in the north, and Beach Haven in the south.) In 2009, the Lighthouse International Film Festival launched on the Island. The three-day event screens films in venues throughout the Island. Other art venues include the Surflight Theatre in Beach Haven, and numerous art galleries throughout the island.
The historic Barnegat Lighthouse is located in Barnegat Lighthouse State Park at the northern tip of the island, along the Barnegat Inlet. The conical tower stands 165 feet (50 m) tall and the park includes several trails through native foliage as well as along the jetty constructed in the 1990s. The scallop boat Lindsay L, docked near Viking Village in Barnegat Light, was used in the movie The Perfect Storm.
Loveladies is home to the Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts and Sciences, established in 1948 by artist Boris Blai. The organization provides arts, science and recreation programs to area residents and visitors. The Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts and Sciences offers an After School Arts Education Program to area schools, an Artists Residency and Retreat Program for New Jersey Artists, Visiting Artists in Ceramics during the summer season, and ceramics scholarships and residency opportunities.
The original Ron Jon Surf Shop was located in Ship Bottom. Its current building along Route 72 — the third building to house the business in Ship Bottom — is a large store immediately apparent to all travelers onto and off of Long Beach Island. To the south, in Beach Haven, the Fantasy Island Amusement Park is the only location on the island with standard-fare amusement rides (including a classical-design carousel). Lucille’s Oh Fudge! Candies has a large salt water taffy display in front of the shop, a candy which was first created in nearby Atlantic City.
Two significant commercial establishments are Bay Village, in Beach Haven, and Viking Village, in Barnegat Light. The latter includes numerous family-owned shops generally oriented toward the local fishing industry and many fishing charter boats set sail there, though a variety of handmade crafts can also be found. The former is geared specifically toward the tourism industry, featuring a variety of eateries and more mainstream shops. Across from the Thundering Surf Water Park, Bay Village began in 1965 when John Maschal purchased a half-block around his shop "Country Kettle Fudge" — which had opened four years earlier — and developed it into the existing shopping area. When Bay Village opened it adjoined the Lucy Evelyn, a 3-masted schooner, 140' long with a 32' beam and 10' draft, build in 1917 in Harrington, Maine which had been set on land and turned into a gift shop and museum. The Lucy Evelyn burned to the ground in January 1972. One of the original "Seaman's Shacks" that used to surround the Lucy Evelyn still remains on the north-western outskirts of Bay Village. The annual Chowderfest clam chowder competition is held at Bay Village in Beach Haven every October, drawing a significant influx of tourists during the off-season.