BELMAR, NJ — As the summer rolls out with the easing of coronavirus restrictions, Monmouth County officials are giving Jersey Shore visitors this advice: “Know before you go.”
Each shore municipality will have its own rules — and they may change on a daily if not hourly basis — to ensure that state-directed beach capacity, social distancing and safety regulations are met.
During the county's annual summer kickoff press conference held today in Belmar, it was announced that an online directory with town-specific information has been compiled to help beachgoers plan ahead.
“Know before you go because it is going to be different,” said Freeholder Director Thomas Arnone, emphasizing that every shore town will have its own distinct plan. “The beach you may have enjoyed in the past may not be selling daily badges or they may only be selling badges online. New policies like this … make it critical for visitors to research their destination to ensure a smooth trip to our part of the Jersey Shore."
The county has been working with local officials from Sea Bright to Manasquan on beach opening plans for weeks before Gov. Phil Murphy gave his official go-ahead on May 14.
With Murphy’s OK, many shore towns put those plans into high gear this weekend, including Belmar where in-person badge sales began on Saturday, drawing hundreds to the boardwalk to make those purchases. At one point, the line of people leading to Taylor Pavilion stretched some six blocks as borough officials worked to ensure proper social distancing.
Without formal guidance from the state on beach openings until last week, seasonal badge sales in Belmar had not been actively promoted and limited to online purchases up until that point. As a result, the number of seasonal badges that would have typically been sold in two months were sold in one day, said Belmar Mayor Mark Walsifer during the press conference
And if this past weekend was any indication, he acknowledged that this season will be a challenge in a beach town where thousands upon thousands of daily visitors, short-term vacationers and seasonal renters converge on a hot summer day.
“When the temperature gets above70 and the sun is out, it’s like trying to hold back the ocean,” Walsifer said, adding that changes to its plan will be made on a weekly, daily or hourly basis, if needed, to “keep everyone safe.”
While specifics will soon be announced, he said a main focus will be on enforcing proper social distancing, including on the beach, which will be divided into zones. Through the use of electronic badge counters and drones, as well as through observations by members of its social distancing task force, real-time decisions will be made on whether certain beach zones have reached capacity and will be closed to additional beachgoers.
In addition, Walsifer said, the Belmar police force will play an active role in making sure seasonal renters do not exceed either their dwelling’s occupancy limits under borough code or the 10-person limit placed on social gatherings under state emergency restrictions.
Whether it’s on the beachfront, business district or throughout Belmar’s residential streets, “We need to have the cooperation of everyone to make social distancing work,” particularly among young adults, Walsifer said.
Arnone also stressed the importance of balancing public health and safety — amid the coronavirus crisis — with economic health, particularly in a county where tourism drives many local economies. Last year, Monmouth attracted 8.8 million visitors, making it the fifth most-visited county in New Jersey.
“Our small business community is the backbone of our economy,” said Arnone. “More importantly, they’re employing our friends, neighbors and residents. It’s especially important to give them our support during this tough time.”
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