BELMAR, NJ — Sunny skies and warm temperatures this past Saturday brought the anticipated crowds to the Belmar beachfront — the first time that borough officials could gauge its COVID-19 beach operation plan.

And they were pleased with the overall results: Social distancing and other guidelines were followed by the vast majority of beachgoers on May 30, including when there was a need to direct them to less-congested beaches to keep others at capacity limits.

“Every part of the plan was tested … and everyone was respectful of the guidelines in place,” Borough Administrator Edward Kirschenbaum reported to the borough council during its June 3 remote meeting. “We closed a few beaches and moved (beachgoers) to other locations. Everyone understood … residents and guests. We learned new lessons and what we need to do moving forward.”

Sign Up for Belmar/Lake Como Newsletter
Our newsletter delivers the local news that you can trust.

The beach operation plan, released two weeks ago for the Memorial Day weekend, 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. 

READ MORE: Summer of Sand, Surf and Social Distancing to Unfold along Belmar Beachfront

Mayor Mark Walsifer concurred with Kirschenbaum’s assessment of the picture-perfect beach day that as expected brought droves of visitors to the beachfront. “Our residents, visitors, employees, first-responders — everyone was really stepping up. I was surprised how many people are social distancing, even our visitors.”

At about 1:15 p.m. on May 30, the borough alerted beachgoers through social media and the Monmouth County “Know Before You Go” online directory that beach entrances at Eighth, 11th, 16th and 17th Avenues were temporarily closed in order to comply with social distancing guidelines.

As a result, ticket booths for daily badge sales were closed south of Eighth Avenue, and beachgoers were directed to the wider northern end, where capacity had not been reached. As congestion eased on the southern end, the beaches were reopened about an hour later, according to officials.

Council President Thomas Brennan monitored the beachfront on that day with the borough’s “Friendship Force” — a group of volunteers assisting to ensure visitors are social distancing properly.

The collection of data through the digital counting, drones and first-hand observation of the number of beachgoers was instrumental in the effectiveness of the borough’s beach operations plan, Brennan said. “The plan really worked. You could see which beaches were getting crowded and we focused on those beaches, and when it got crowded, we moved people,” he said. “People were really, really good about social distancing on the beach and boardwalk. A lot of people were wearing masks."

As for the businesses along Ocean Avenue, Brennan said many had placed markers on the ground, where people lined up and were complying with social distancing, as well as donning face coverings.

In addition to social media updates, Brennan suggested that real-time information on the beachfront also be displayed on the borough’s electronic message board on Route 35 at 10th Avenue — a major entrance into town by visitors.

During the council’s meeting, Walsifer announced the retirement — once again — of Eugene Cory, longtime beachfront lead supervisor responsible for day-to-day operations. “He came out of retirement to help us out. He has now come to a point where he needs to retire and relax. He has done a great job for us,” he said.

Jeff Coviello, who joined the beachfront staff two years ago, has assumed Cory’s post, supported by Erica Coviello, Michaela McGuiness and Christina Spina.

BELMAR BEACHFRONT: WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW

Beachgoers are strongly encouraged to visit the borough’s website or social media —  Facebook, Twitter or Instagram — to get real-time updates. In addition, Monmouth County offers a full rundown of updates at areas beaches on its online “Know Before You Go” directory

Seasonal beach badges are on sale at Taylor Pavilion, 500 Ocean Avenue, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week.  

The cost is $70 per seasonal badge for persons between age 16 and 64, and $30 per badge for seniors age 65 and older with proof of age, and $30 for disabled individuals with proper identification (click here). Payment can be made by cash and checks only.

Daily badges are priced at $9 and available at tickets booths along the boardwalk and at Silver Lake, as well as at the main office in Taylor Pavilion. Cash only for payment, but ATMs will be available at every ticket booth. 

Belmar offers free access to its 1.3-mile beachfront for children age 15 and under, as well as for active-duty military members and their dependents, Gold Star family members (parents or legal guardians of Armed Forces members who died while serving) and military veterans. Proper military identification is required upon daily entry to the beach when it officially opens for the season.

Badges are required for admission to Belmar’s beaches from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., beginning Saturday, May 23 through Labor Day, September 7. 

No refunds will be given due to the weather or if beaches are closed due to coronavirus restrictions.

Visitors are reminded that volleyball or other sports activities are not permitted on the beaches, including all forms of ball or Frisbee throwing. That includes the use of footballs, soccer balls, tennis balls or any recreational object.

Additional information on badges and other topics related to the Belmar beach is available on the borough’s website by clicking here.

 

TAPinto Belmar/Lake Como is Belmar and Lake Como’s only free daily newspaper. Accredited by the New Jersey Press Association, it is the official electronic newspaper of both municipalities. As a locally owned news organization, TAPinto through its advertisers is able to publish online, objective news 24/7 at no charge. Sign up for its free daily e-News, and follow it on Facebook and Twitter.

Download the free TAPinto App!  Click here for Android - Click here for iOS to get news as it is happening.