BELMAR, NJ — Belmar will sell no more than 7,500 beach badges a day — a number that could be reduced even more based on the number of beachgoers with seasonal badges and the time of high tide on any given day.
The Belmar Office of Emergency Management announced the change in an early evening Facebook post on July 17 — shortly before the start of what is expected to one of the hottest weekends of the season and several days after Manasquan became yet another nearby beach town limiting badge sales.
According to Mayor Mark Walsifer, there were several factors that led to the borough’s decision to limit badge sales, including the scenario that played out last Sunday, July 12, when Belmar was forced to close several sections of the beach and direct beachgoers to less-crowded areas to keep within capacity limitations.
“Last Sunday, we had a high tide at 2 o’clock in the afternoon, and in addition, thanks to Tropical Storm Fay, we had our beaches shortened. The forecast predicted a beautiful beach day and accordingly, we had a lot of visitors come to town,” he said.
The situation was further compounded by beach badge limitations set by Avon-by-the-Sea to the north and Spring Lake to the south, Walsifer explained. “The beachgoers who showed up to their towns were told badge sales were shut down and were instructed to go to Belmar. If surrounding towns would put a responsible limit on badge sales we would not be put in this position.”
In response, borough officials reviewed the amount of beach badge sold on days that sections of the beach were closed and beachgoers redirected so that social distancing could be maintained. “They calculated that 7,500 would be a comfortable number of daily beach badge sales,” Walsifer said.
Council President Thomas Brennan said in a Facebook post the number of daily badges sold on July 12 was 11,000.
Even with the beach badge limits now in place, Belmar will still need to grapple with how to handle a flood of visitors should badge sales reach their limit and many decide to remain along the beachfront.
“As we learned from past experience, when we had to close sections of the beach, they would either agree to go to the open beaches or they would sit and wait on the boardwalk in their beach chairs. This of course caused social distancing problems and many other issues,” Walsifer said.
Ensuring that coronavirus restrictions are followed in a popular beach town hasn't been an easy task this summer, according to the mayor.
“There is no playbook for what we are going through and we are trying to stay within the guidelines of the law and keep our residents safe,” he said. “We are a seashore community and Belmar has always had a large influx of visitors during the summer season.
“Because of this pandemic, it is a monumental task to coordinate all the efforts by our Office of Emergency Management team. I do want to commend them for all the hard work they are putting in this summer,” he added.
The borough issued its COVID-19 beach operations plan on May 22, which includes the use of digital counters at beach entrance points, drone surveillance overhead and observations by foot and traveling patrols along the 1.3-mile oceanfront to assess the number of people on the sand and in the surf, ensuring they are keeping at least six feet away from others.
In its July 17 update, the borough also reminded beachgoers of the following:
- Ball playing is strictly prohibited.
- Dispose of trash in the containers on the beach and boardwalk.
- Beach showers are touchless and activated by motion, so there is no need to touch the shower controls.
- Face masks are required outdoors when social distancing cannot be maintained.
Today's high tide will be at 6:24 p.m. and tomorrow, July 19 at 7 a.m. and 7:08 p.m.
According to Belmar’s 2020 beach report, nearly 193,000 daily badges have been sold through July 12 — an increase of nearly 63,000 over last year’s total at this time. Seasonal beach badges sold total nearly 19,500 —some 6,000 more than in 2019.
As a result, beach revenues are up more than $1 million from last year — $3,335,733 in 2020, compared to $2,302,435 at this time in 2019. Last year, beach revenues for the entire season totaled $3,683,035.
Click here to see the full 2020 beach report.
Click here for updates on Belmar's beachfront operations, including any closures throughout the upcoming weekend.
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