Cape May County is designated as a Coast Guard Community, along with only one other County and fifteen cities in the nation. This designation was sought by the community through a rigorous application process, and was awarded after approval from the United States Coast Guard and United States Congress.
A long and meaningful history forms the foundation of the County’s relationship with the Coast Guard.
Beginning in 1849, twelve Life Saving Stations graced our shores. Revenue Cutters, ships dispatched by the Secretary of the Treasury to collect duties on ships and goods, were stationed at Cape May beginning in the nineteenth century. Eighteen 75-foot patrol boats operating out of Sewell’s Point foiled rumrunners off the Jersey Coast during Prohibition. With the advent of World War II, Coast Guard Mounted Beach Patrol rode the beaches of all Cape May County’s barrier islands on horseback, and walked them with German Shepard’s, to monitor for suspicious activity.
Training Center Cape May, located in Cape May City, is the only site for Coast Guard recruit training in the Nation; 80% of the Coast Guard’s workforce begin their enlisted careers in Cape May County. The Training Center graduates approximately 2,400 recruits annually.
Coast Guard Station Cape May, plus seasonal stations in Townsend’s Inlet and Fortesque, combine to provide South Jersey with a fast response in the event of an emergency on the water. Additionally, another unique Coast Guard facility operates in Cape May County: the Coast Guard Uniform Distribution center, in Woodbine, ships uniforms, metals, ribbons, and accessories to Coast Guard men and women all over the world.
The economic impact of Training Center Cape May on Cape May County’s economy is substantial. The Training Center provides year- round employment in an economy that is largely seasonal, and is responsible for about 1,200 jobs. The Coast Guard is the largest employer in Cape May County. Considering wages, institutional spending, and spending by visitors to the Training Center, the annual economic impact of Training Center Cape May totals around $173 million. About 40,000 people attend graduations at the Training Center each year, and the frequent local, shops, hotels, and restaurants. Cape May County residents run programs that support Coast Guard men and women. From “Operation Fireside,” which places recruits with local families to enjoy a warm environment during the holidayseason; to welcome packets distributed by the Cape May County Chamber to Coast Guard families new to the area; to free educational programs offered by the Nature Center of Cape May and others; to County Fare Free buses offering transportation to Coast Guard members; Cape May County stands firmly in support of the Coast Guard.
Local groups sponsor eight awards for recruits who excel in certain areas of basic training; other groups and municipalities regularly recognize the Coast Guard during their respective “Coast Guard Day” or “Coast Guard Week”.
Local businesses support Coast Guard personnel by offering specials, hiring Coast Guard spouses and children, and participating in special projects. Several cultural sites preserve historic Coast Guard structures, vessels, and artifacts with admirable dedication and persistence. Coast Guard families live as our neighbors, participate in our interdependent “Cape economy” and engage in daily activities with other members of the community. Cape May County’s Coast Guard Community designation and Festival recognize and support these special relationships.