Borough Steps Up Communication with Public on Real-Time Beach Updates
BELMAR, NJ — During this summer of COVID-19, a day at the beach isn’t what it used to be in Belmar.
Beach capacity limits and other coronavirus restrictions have put pressure on Belmar beachfront employees, lifeguards and police officers to ensure the rules are followed, especially now that hot and humid weather is bringing more visitors to the ocean’s edge.
While beachfront employees are going “above and beyond” in doing their jobs during the coronavirus crisis, the situation has brought out the worst in some beachgoers, according to Belmar Council President Thomas Brennan, who spoke out on the matter at the governing body’s July 21 meeting.
“Most people this year are just being crazy,” said Brennan, who has been monitoring the activity each weekend first-hand as a member of the borough’ Friendship Force, a group of volunteers assisting to ensure visitors are social distancing properly.
“Our staff is being yelled at, they are being bullied, they are being threatened. They are being spat on,” he said, referencing an incident that involved washroom attendants when a visitor refused to wear a face mask before entering the boardwalk restrooms — a requirement posted outside these facilities.
On Sunday, July 12, when certain sections of the beach were closed to prevent overcrowding, “people were over-the-top abusive,” Brennan said, adding that one group “bum-rushed” an 80-year-old gate attendant, knowing that the person would not be able to stop them. “We had to get the police to get them off the beach.”
He added that this unacceptable and inappropriate behavior is 10 times worse than it’s been in previous years along Belmar’s beachfront.
In her report given earlier in the July 21 meeting, Police Chief Tina Scott said that there has been a 90 percent increase in summonses issued over last year for beachfront, noise and other quality-of-life violations throughout the borough, she said.
And with the next 100 citations written, the Police Department will reach its total for the entire summer last year, Chief Scott said.
During the past two weeks, nearly 240 tickets were issued — after 600 summonses were given out over the previous three weeks, she added. The most-common beachfront violations include not having a beach badge, smoking, consuming alcohol and drinking from glass containers.
To help prevent a repeat of the July 12 beachfront “pandemonium,” as Brennan described it, the borough has placed a 7,500 limit on daily beach badge sales to help stop the flood of visitors to the beachfront.
However, Brennan stressed that communication is key to let people know about beach closings before they even get to Belmar.
He related a story about two younger mothers and four children who arrived to Belmar on Sunday afternoon after driving two hours — only to find out that daily badges sales had been suspended, leaving one of the girls crying inconsolably.
“We need to do everything we can to ensure people who are on their way or haven’t left yet that they won’t be able to get on the beach,” Brennan said.
In addition to providing updates on the borough’s website, and through its social media outlets — Facebook, Twitter and Instagram — there now are beach updates displayed on the large electronic message board at the Belmar marina on Route 35, a major gateway to the beach. Electronic signs also are posted on the south and north ends of Ocean Avenue, and more signs are on order, Brennan said in a July 19 letter to residents.
In addition, Monmouth County offers a full rundown of updates at areas beaches on its online “Know Before You Go” directory.
And starting this week, people can sign up to receive text message alerts that will provide real-time updates for the Belmar beach, including closures. Text BELMAR to 44622 to sign up.