Rocks At The Barnegat Dock Tell A Story

Curious visitors can read a variety of messages on rocks at the dock. (Photo by Stephanie Faughnan)

  BARNEGAT – Exquisite presentation of lush greenery and fanciful blooms generally serves as the attraction to most gardens. However, that’s not the case when it comes to the steps leading to the Barnegat Municipal Dock.

  Rather than a horticulture display, art meets language expression in a compilation of messages on painted rocks. The myriad collection created by mostly unknown contributors resulted in a rock garden warranting a visit in any season.

  Even before Superstorm Sandy, many referred to the Barnegat Municipal Dock as the community’s “crown jewel.” It offered a place to hang a crab trap, toss a fishing line, or launch a boat. Local officials also arranged for regular concerts during the summer months.

  Photographs taken post-Sandy show the dockmaster’s station floating into the bay and the entire area underwater. Restoration of the docks came more expeditiously than many other Sandy casualties.

  “We worked with a good engineer in getting things done,” recalled Elaine Taylor, who served as a member of the township committee at the time.

Barnegat resident Greg Cummings painted at least 100 of the rocks on display at the Barnegat Docks. (Photo by Stephanie Faughnan)

  Most appreciated the updated structure, although some complained about one feature in particular. Before Sandy, visitors could easily walk over the gravel pathways without incident. The new design literally made the surface as hard as rocks – because small boulders replaced the crushed stone.

  Greg Cummings moved to Barnegat from Union County and visits the docks almost daily. He recalled the controversy back then and what triggered the appearance of the first painted rock.

  “Jon Hingos, one of the dockmasters, painted a rock saying that “Fred Flintstone was here,” Cummings shared. “That rock is still somewhere among the others here, although it’s now buried by others.”

  The first rock seemingly multiplied as new painted works of art appear year after year. Cummings, who retired from a career in marketing, personally designed at least 100 rocks on display.

  An area by the dockmaster’s shack serves as home to remembrance rocks created by Cummings. Many contain dedications to deceased dockmasters or their family members. Cummings also created a rock in memory of the late Barnegat mayor Leonard Morano.

  A stone in the remembrance section pays tribute to Anthony Leopaldi, referred to as “Godfather Tony.” Cummings smiled when he explained the dedication.

  “I was sitting on one of the benches when a guy pulled up in a big Cadillac,” said Cummings. “He got out of the car and had wraparound sunglasses and white hair.  I was fairly certain he was retired from the Mafia.”

  As it turns out, Cummings wasn’t far off base with his assumptions. Leopaldi played a bodyguard in “The Godfather,” the film based on the book written by Mario Puzo.

Photo by Stephanie Faughnan

  Some of the rocks painted by Cummings capture his talent for using words to create clever messages. An entire section highlights music, whether including references to rocks, stones, and pebbles. Think “The Stone Pony,” “The Rolling Stones,” “Jailhouse Rock,” and “Rock Concert” as just a few examples for musical enthusiasts.

  Cummings offered some disturbing news concerning some of his work. He’s on his fourth version of the Exit 67 rock as three others have disappeared. Among the other stolen rocks include one proclaiming “Nurses Rock” and featured a drawing of a masked rocks.

  Meanwhile, one can’t help but wonder about the messages left by rock creators other than Cummings. A couple named Gary and Cathy planted colorful rocks together in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019. After leaving no stone unturned in the area, the mystery remains concerning whatever happened to Gary and Cathy in the last two years.

Whether it’s a rock, stone or pebble, count on a musical dedication at the Barnegat Docks. (Photo courtesy Greg Cummings)

  Barnegat Cub Scout 26 put up a wooden handpainted American flag in one section of the rock garden, with another sign supporting the Barnegat Police Department. The group dug in the ground and added plants to create a more traditional community garden. The project first began in 2018, with new plantings in 2020.

  Whoever once referred to the Barnegat Docks as the township’s crown jewel may have been on to something. The Barnegat Rocks represent a collection of eye-catching gems and a special treasure within the community.