Almost a month ago, the federal government told boaters the party was over at Brick's F-Cove.
Now, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is making good on the message that was posted on signs erected at the site several weeks ago. Anchored, floating barrels now physically prevent boats from entering F-Cove and another nearby local boaters' hangout commonly known as No Name Cove.
F-Cove, which was slated decades ago to become a residential lagoon community, developed into an anchorage for local recreational boaters, who for years spent days of fun, music and partying in the waterway, dug out in the shape of the letter 'F.'
The cove, located just north of the Mantoloking Bridge and the former Traders Cove Marina in Barnegat Bay, eventually became part of the Edwyn B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, a string of open space stretching from Brick to the northern part of Atlantic County.
Public access to the Brick portion of the refuge at F-Cove is being restricted because the refuge's current manager, Virginia Rettig, has determined that recreational boating does not fit within the context of proper usage for such a designated area.
"Any activity that we permit there has to be tied to the needs and requirements of wildlife before they can be tied to what we need to do to recreate," Rettig told Brick Patch earlier this month when signs were posted in the cove warning boaters against accessing the site.
The issue of boaters congregating in the cove first became an issue in 2009, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service initially began the process of banning recreational boaters and threatened to anchor bollards at the site's entrance and fill in the lagoons.
At that time, township officials put forth legal arguments that the federal government had no business restricting access to the cove since the bay water that filled the lagoons constituted a tidal waterway held in the public trust. After the threat of litigation, the federal government retreated.
But since then, township officials say refuge managers have honed their legal case and established their ownership of the waterway. Since the lagoons in F-Cove were man-made, they do not legally count as a tidal waterway, the federal government's argument goes.
"They established ownership to the mouth" of the cove, Mayor Stephen C. Acropolis said.
This time around, the township will not consider legal action against the federal government, the mayor said. The only way to gain back access to F-Cove will be through cooperation.
"We're switching from a lawsuit-type mode," Acropolis said. "I've switched to, 'when can you open it back up?' "
Some parts of the overall refuge are open to the public. The Holgate portion, on the southern tip of Long Beach Island, has long been a location where four-wheel drive vehicles have been allowed, for instance.
Rettig will appear before the township council on Tuesday, May 8, presumably to discuss public access to the site.
"We want to find out, if we can't get it open fully to motorized watercraft, can we get the trails open, can we get it open to kayaks, people who want to fish?" said the mayor.
Councilman Joseph Sangiovanni said the issue of accessing the cove was a major issue in town the last time there were threats to close the area.
"Because of the enormous support we got from the residents, we were able to put it off for a few years," said Sangiovanni.
The council meeting where Rettig is scheduled to appear is set for Tuesday, May 8 at 7 p.m. at the township municipal complex.
Correction: This article had originally stated Virginia Rettig would appear before the Brick Township Council May 1. However, Rettig's appearance is scheduled for May 8 at the council's public meeting.