So I guess it’s appropriate to make my first blog post about my new favorite place to lagoon, Beach Haven West. I’ve been lagooning in OBX, the outer banks of NC, my whole life. OBX, like LBI has beautiful beaches and awesome sound (bay) life too. Playing in the lagoons of OBX whet my whistle for that lifestyle. But just recently, I discovered what I consider to be the coolest place on earth for lagooning, Beach Haven West. Located just across the Manahawkin bay from LBI, right at the base of the Causeway bridge, it is a series of manmade canals that was built in phases, beginning in the 1950s.
Stafford Township was named after Staffordshire, England which is evidently where some of its first residents in the 1700s were from. Over the years it adopted the name Manahawkin, which is apparently a Lenape word that had many spellings and many different meanings attributed to it, but my favorite is “fertile land sloping into the water”. The area along the Manahawkin bayfront was known as Remson Meadows, and was purchased by the Shapiro brothers in 1950.
Initially the access to Long Beach Island was only by boat and then in the late 1800s a rail bridge was constructed, that was later destroyed by a storm. The first automobile bridge over to LBI was constructed in 1914 and the current bridge in 1957. A direct route to LBI, the Causeway, was built through Stafford Township in 1930 and that prompted the construction of a few (less than 100) vacation homes, just this side of the bridge. The Garden State Parkway opened in the 1950s and Stafford Township began to grow and Beach Haven West was born.
The Shapiro brothers began construction using a dredge towed up from North Carolina, a weird little fact that makes my OBX connection feel a little cooler:) It began with the bottom section that I like to call the “OG” section, or “the feathers”, because their diagonal lagoons have that appearance. This initial series of lagoons are some of the deepest. This phase opened in 1957. Phase two, completed by the early 60s, was just above it running off of Walter, the series of straight lagoons that run east/west and are parallel to route 72, as well as the the small section perpendicular to them just to the south, including Jack, Joy and Virginia. Phase three is above those, the lagoons that run off of the top part of Mill Creek Road and above that. By the 1970s, Mill Creek Road was extended and the expansion continued to create East Point and then The Coves section with the extension of Newell Ave. by the mid 1980s. Over 130 lagoons and well over 3600 single family homes make up the largest lagoon community in NJ. One of the coolest things I learned is that the expansion was supposed to continue. It appears that Newell Ave. was supposed to continue east towards the bay and the large Mill Creek was to have, not marshland on the other side, but more homes and lagoons. Lack of permits, pressure from the EPA and the Wetlands Protection Act of 1970 evidently prevented this. If you look at satellite photos of the area you can see the partially dredged “ghosts” of the unfinished lagoons. Although it is mostly vacation homes for folks from areas of NY, NJ and PA, the number of year round residents is growing. I understand why. They say you are either a bay person or a beach person, and this place is like Disney World for bay people!