It's the only way in and the only way out.
For the hundreds of boaters who live in the Berkeley Shores section of the township, the Amherst Beach Inlet - also known as the Berkeley Shores Channel - is the watery portal to Barnegat Bay.
The narrow channel historically has a tendency to shoal in as storms and shifting tides take their toll on Amherst Beach and nearby Allen Road beach. And 2012 is no exception.
"They've been dredging it for the past 40 or 50 years," Township Engineer Alan B. Dittenhofer said during a recent inspection with Council President James J. Byrnes. "I lived here 25 years ago and they were dredging it then."
Township officials hope to have maintenance dredging on the inlet done before the Memorial Day holiday. The project will be handled in-house.
"The inlet is down in size over the past several years," Byrnes said.
Because the channel has narrowed, boaters often have to wait their turns to use the inlet, said a resident who met up with Byrnes on his way back from the inspection.
"It's tough getting in and our of here," he told Byrnes.
An ambitious joint $84,825 project back in 2009 between the state Department of Environmental Protection and the township resulted in the extension of the groin and additonal rip-rap stone to stem erosion from nearby Allen Road beach.
The 2009 project was awarded "Project of the Year" honors by the New Jersey Society of Engineers in the "municipal projects involving intergovernment" category, according the the DEP's website.
The Berkeley Shores Homeowners Civic Association also completed two recent projects. The first was an American beach grass planting along 550 feet on Allen Road Beach. The second was a "living shoreline" planting of spartina, a salt marsh grass, along 200 feet of Allen Road beach.
But strong wave action and high tides shortly after the project was completed in May 2011 and Hurricane Irene in August buried many of the spartina plants under sand, according to the BSHCA's "Living Shoreline: A Case Study" published in Dec. 2011.
The Amherst Beach Inlet provides access to Barnegat Bay for almost 1,000 waterfront homes in Berkeley Shores, according to the homeowner's association.