The Shore gets ready for Prince Harry

Prince Harry and Gov. Christie on the Seaside Heights Boardwalk. (Amy Rosenberg/Staff)
Prince Harry and Gov. Christie on the Seaside Heights Boardwalk. (Amy Rosenberg/Staff)
Posted: May 15, 2013

Update: Prince Harry has ended his short visit to the Shore with Gov. Christie and flown to New York for the next stop on his tour. During his visit, the prince walked on the Seaside Heights Boardwalk with the governor, who presented the royal guest with one of his trademark fleece jackets.

SEASIDE HEIGHTS - Prince Harry, as it turns out, will be among the final tourists to take in the sobering sight of the Jet Star roller coaster in the Atlantic Ocean that has defined Hurricane Sandy on the Jersey Shore.

Casino Pier confirmed Monday that its iconic roller coaster - partly submerged in the ocean just offshore and flying an American flag put there by a rogue climber - will be dismantled starting Tuesday afternoon, just hours after Prince Harry's visit.

The timing is apparently coincidental, but on Monday, it made for a multi-layered day of reckoning and reflection for merchants and others in Mantoloking and Seaside Heights - and a few digs at Seaside's other global celebrity, Snooki.

"We're swapping the Royal Pain for the Royal Prince," said Charlie Draper, manager of Adrenaline Tattoos, whose boardwalk shop had just opened after weeks of working out of a truck in the parking lot.

The two towns - separated by a stretch of Route 35 that, with its toppled houses and State Police presence, still looks as if the hurricane had come through a week ago - are the designated "hardest hit" towns that will be displayed Tuesday for Prince Harry and his guide, Gov. Christie.

"It's a sad ride," said Margaret Africana, whose sister lives on Prince Harry's route, between affluent but devastated Mantoloking and touristy, rebuilding Seaside.

In truth, the prince's coming visit did not register that sharply in Mantoloking, a town still in crisis mode, with State Police checkpoints to guard against looters.

"We have stuff to do," said an unimpressed Police Chief Mark Wright. "You want to come through here, we're not going to stop you."

Nearby, at the Osborn Camp bungalow community - where fire and wind the night of Sandy consumed virtually all but the remains of a few cedar bungalows - someone had hung a Union Jack, an American flag, and a sign: "Prince Harry Welcome to Camp Osborn."

At the base of the Mantoloking Bridge, Becky Schmierer watched another of her neighbors' homes being demolished. There was talk of a house that would be demolished Tuesday so Prince Harry could bear witness. "This is so sad," she said. "Their name is Hughes, and they're in Florida."

She said the hurricane had "forever changed" the town, which sustained perhaps the most visible damage at the Shore, with flattened roofs sticking out of the sand and chunks carved out of houses. "We lost the neighborhood," she said. "It's been a dreadful experience."

She said she hoped the prince's visit would serve as a catalyst for rebuilding. "I think it sheds some light on our situation," she said.

The prince was expected to take a brief walk up Barnegat Avenue past six houses that, she said, "used to be eight."

In Seaside Heights, a town known for hefty police protection for its celebrities, but also for arresting them, there was more royal anticipation.

At the former MTV Jersey Shore House, now offering tours for $10, the prince will be welcome. He could even get his photo taken with Snooki's famous Duck Phone if he wanted to.

Or buy a "Twerk Team Captain" T-shirt for $15. (With his own party reputation, you know he might want to, but would be talked out of it.)

Instead, he will be welcomed at Jimbo's, which sits at the point of the Boardwalk where restoration is finished, and where tourists on Monday lined up at the police tape to take photos of the workers continuing to build the next section of the new wooden walkway.

Prince Harry is expected to stop by Jimbo's for a sausage sandwich, accompanied by some pre-selected Jersey Shore children to play an arcade game, perhaps at Frankie's Games, where Frank Rainey said that the tourists who put on sad faces to take photos of the Jet Star were the same ones who ignored his pleas to play a game of darts for $5. He hopes the heir to the British throne is game for a game of balloon darts, though he said, "I'm not after the prince's money."

Draper, at Adrenaline, said taking the coaster down was probably a good idea. "The last thing we need is to give people a target. Every hero would be trying to swim to it and climb it," he said.

Maria Mastoris, spokeswoman for Casino Pier, said the contractor, Weeks Marine, had been waiting for proper weather to begin removing the Jet Star. "We would rather it wasn't the same day" as the prince's visit, she said.

The company will work around the clock to remove the coaster and other debris. The dismantling is expected to take up to 48 hours. Casino Pier representatives have asked that a portion of the destroyed roller coaster be preserved for a monument to Sandy.

Draper, the tattoo store manager, says he hopes the prince will stop by for a Restore the Shore shirt or maybe one emblazoned "Keep Calm and Call Batman."

The prince's visit gives the Jersey Shore a chance to promote the coming season. "I'm pretty excited," said Jimbo's manager, Roger Gibson. "I want people to know we're open and ready."

At the MTV Jersey Shore House, Connor Wells, a Toms River firefighter and college student, said the prince would do better to get away from affluent Mantoloking and talk to commoners affected by the storm.

"He should come to Ocean County College and talk to the people who went through it," he said, before forking over $10 for the House tour.

"The prince is so much cooler than The Situation," he added. "There's a situation around every corner around here."


Contact Amy S. Rosenberg at 609-576-1973 or arosenberg@phillynews.com. Follow on twitter @amysrosenberg

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