I am posting this reluctantly because of the danger of racial stereotyping. But we are dumbfounded to explain why more than 4 out of 5 cars of visitors to Money Island this summer season (excluding residents, workers and government vehicles) are Asians from Pennsylvania. We’ve been tracking the state source of traffic based on video license plate data at the suggestion of a regional business development group since the spring. I prepare compilations of random sample traffic data in an attempt to quantify the total traffic and the trends. The original idea was that we might use increased traffic data to request additional state funding. However, the project seems to be back-firing on us as we’ve uncovered so much illegal or controversial use. I am on site daily and do interact with or at least see most visitors. A significant portion of these visitors seem to not understand English language. This complicates the issue. The transformation of visitor demographics and behavior came suddenly and unexpectedly.
While most visitors are good guests, some cause problems either intentionally or unintentionally. At a basic level, the state has not responded to requests to supervise their adjacent property, install trash containers or portable potties. The township and county have not responded to requests to replace road signs (like no parking on bridges) town down in severe weather. We’ve offered funding for replacement signs but still no response from local government. I’ve been physically assaulted by troublemakers twice in the past year here. One of those instances was when I was breaking up a house robbery. I’ve also reached a point of frustration with those who apparently do not speak or read English, thereby providing an excuse to ignore my verbal requests (like do not park blocking construction equipment), ignore the private property signs at the commercial spaces, and ignore a range of other ordinances – not just seafood harvest rules. The original community concerns focused on harvesting of illegal fish, crabs and oysters. But it’s gone far beyond that Fish and Wildlife issue. Apparently the troublemakers also have no reservation about dumping their trash and pooping in the open on the beach. I am not exaggerating when I say that it seems impossible for such a small number of people to dump so much fast food trash. In former years the primary trash on our rural beaches was beer cans an bottles apparently from local visitors. Now the trash is almost all fast food containers brought in be the long distance visitors. Police are not useful in this situation; that’s a whole different issue. Again, it’s only a minority of the visitors who cause problems.
This year I tried a program to allow guests who identify themselves and ask for permission to use my property. But today I lost my temper with a group who has strewn fast food litter all over the property, helped themselves to my fishing and crabbing equipment and pretended to not understand what I was saying (although later one did communicate in English). It’s disturbing. This weekend the problems worsened. Yesterday one of the Asian visitors tried to con me in a crab business deal in a text message conversation. In another unrelated incident Saturday, I reported an attempted financial crime (apparently some type of bank check fraud) to state police and they declined to get involved. I didn’t fall for either of the con game attempts but it was disturbing that this is happening when it never happened before. Overall, the strategy of being a good host for visitors seems to be failing.
I know that the respectful Asian guests are embarrassed by the few bad apples and they are aware of the risks they face in racial stereotyping. Two of the Asian guests are now friends who have been coming here for a long time. I plan to ask their advice this week since they seem to have insight into some of the possibly cultural issues. But at this point I’m leaning toward cutting off all property access except to owners, their guests, and Baysave members. Any other suggestions are welcome but we will not tolerate any discussion that is based on racial profiling or an “us vs. them” mentality.
UPDATE 7/21/2021: In the days following this original post I sought additional comment and advice from multiple sources. One Asian professional friend whose opinion I respect and value in past instances confirmed that much of what I report is a cultural issue and he clarifies this is different from a racial issue. This adviser plus a couple other Asian friends say that disrespect for the environment is actually a cultural thing in Asian countries and that it carries over to some of our country’s Asian people. While almost all of my cultural peers would be ashamed to dump trash on the roadside, apparently some in this culture are not. An example came up in conversation: overharvesting of small crabs was told to be commonplace in Asia (but I did not attempt to verify this outside of our conversation). Another Asian professional friend shows his personal embarrassment with the issue but offers no solutions except the phrase “a few bad apples”. We are all clear to point out that he problem is not limited to Asian visitors. It just happens that hey make up the majority of visitors this year. The primary local Division of Fish and Wildlife officer is clearly aware of the issue and we apparently share similar reservations. I exchanged text messages with our mayor but have not spoken yet. A county official offered empathy but no suggestions. Yesterday my one neighbor and I picked up a tremendous amount of trash from the one block in front of our houses. It filled up two construction bags; more than we’ve ever seen here before. The majority of the trash is fast food containers: Wawa, Burger King, Taco Bell, Dunkin Donuts, etc. My neighbor complained to me that his family is disgusted by the smell of human urine and feces on what used to be a pristine beach. Then, last evening Lance and I took a walk down Bayview Road, something that we usually do each day but stopped when this recent heat wave came. The amount of trash on the roadside and beach is more than I have ever seen before. There is additional beach erosion from vehicles getting stuck in the sand at two places. It really made me sad and angry that the State of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection purchased this beach and then did not take care of it and allowed our formerly beautiful pristine neighborhood to deteriorate to such a wrecked conditions. Late last night the security system showed that there was an additional trespasser on the boat yard who bypassed security barriers. I have had time to inspect for signs of theft, trash or damage yet. I’ve not made any decision on a course of action yet but am inclined to revoke all free access to our properties; limiting only to owners, members and their guests. That won’t help address the problem of those who trespass or those who trash the adjacent state properties, so we’ve made no decisions yet. I simply do not have the money required for upgraded live security (as we had for so many years when Bruce was alive). There is a possibility of increased automated security: drones, floodlights, sirens, etc. But that would be more expensive than Baysave can handle right now. We discussed the possibility of volunteers watching the properties. That seems unlikely from a practical perspective. We will continue to look for additional options.