AT THE JERSEY SHORE NEWS:
BELMAR, NJ — Bicycle riding is allowed on the Belmar boardwalk once again, and it may not be long before at least some of the 200 benches are returned to the 1.3-mile promenade.
During the Borough Council’s October 6 remote meeting, Mayor Mark Walsifer announced the return of bicycles after they were banned along the boards this spring at the beginning of the coronavirus crisis to ensure proper social distancing could be maintained.
“We just allowed bikes back and we’re watching (social distancing) every day,” he said, adding that the borough Office of Emergency Management is monitoring the situation. “If (the boardwalk) is not packed this weekend, we’ll probably put them (benches) back on.”
He added that they will first look at placing them at “strategic locations,” such as the cutout areas that extend farther onto the beach from the main boardwalk.
The benches have been stored across from the Department of Public Works building on 13th Avenue since early May — all numbered in order since many are named memorials placed at specific locations along the boardwalk.
But now that the busy summer season is over, residents have been pressuring borough officials to bring them back, particularly so that seniors and individuals with disabilities can enjoy the ocean views — something many were unable to do during this unprecedented summer of COVID-19.
“We have people with physical impairments and seniors who like to enjoy the boardwalk and look at the ocean,” said Councilman James McCracken, adding that he has received much feedback from residents as they watch other surrounding beachfront towns put back their boardwalk benches.
“Without compromising public safety, a minimum amount of seating (can be) placed at strategic places to allow people to take a break and enjoy this nice weather we have,” he said.
Despite the state’s current public health emergency, Council President Thomas Brennan said that he was surprised to see how many municipalities have returned their oceanfront benches, including Spring Lake, Avon-by-the-Sea, Bradley Beach, Ocean Grove and Asbury Park.
Unlike these municipalities, Belmar officials have been waiting for Gov. Phil Murphy to lift the state of emergency before bringing back the benches so that social distancing can be properly maintained along the boardwalk. However, it doesn't appear that will not be happening soon as Murphy just extended the executive order for an eighth time on September 25.
“Belmar has been really good about working with Trenton, playing by the rules and doing what they tell us to do. And then the towns around us seem to do what they want and Belmar residents seem to suffer,” Brennan said. “I understand it’s a big job to put all those benches back. But if there’s any way to put even a limited number back, it would be beneficial to our residents.”
Meanwhile, bicycles are permitted on the boardwalk at any time now through April 30, according to the borough’s offseason beachfront regulations. Rollerblades and skateboards are not permitted on the boardwalk at any time of the year.
Licensed dogs on leashes are permitted on the beach through April 30, but animals of any type are not permitted on Belmar’s boardwalk at any time of the year — except for dogs that are being crossed over the boardwalk to get to the beach.