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Ocean County Freeholders: Leave Beach Management to Local Towns

Bill would allow counties to create county-wide badges, take over beach management

The beach in Seaside Park, N.J. (Photo: Daniel Nee)
The beach in Seaside Park, N.J. (Photo: Daniel Nee)
While the idea of having one badge for all of Ocean County's public beaches may seem attractive to residents who would like to visit friends on the beach in neighboring towns, county officials say they are against a state Senate bill that would put the county in charge of beach management.

The Ocean County freeholders voted this week to pass a resolution against the bill, which is being sponsored by Sen. Bob Smith (D-Middlesex) and Sen. Christopher "Kip" Bateman (R-Hunterdon, Middlesex, Somerset).

The bill would authorize, but not require, Atlantic, Monmouth, Ocean, and Cape May counties to take control of municipal beaches unless a municipality specifically passes an ordinance affirming its own, local control.

The bill provides that the operation of the beaches would constitute a public utility of the county and mandate a single-rate, county-wide beach badge be available for purchase. The county would provide lifeguards and beach maintenance services, though it could enter into shared services agreements with local communities for police services. The beach utility would be excepted from the state's 2.5 percent cap on appropriations increases.

Ocean County's freeholders have consistently come out against the bill, which is pending in the Senate Environment and Energy Committee. A companion bill in the General Assembly sponsored by Assemblywoman L. Grace Spencer (D-Essex/Newark) is pending in that body's Environment and Solid Waste Committee.

“Our municipalities, whether it be Seaside Heights, Seaside Park or Long Beach Township do a great job with taking care of the beaches,” Ocean County Freeholder Director Joseph Vicari said. “From making certain they are cleaned and maintained daily to providing professional lifeguards that make sure everyone is safe as they enjoy the ocean, our towns are equipped to be the caretakers of our beaches and it should stay that way.”

Ocean County contains 44 miles of the state's 127 miles of oceanfront.

The freeholders' resolution states that the county's governing body believes municipal control for the operation and maintenance of local beaches best serves the public, whether it be visitors or residents

Spencer, in a statement in 2013 when she first proposed the bill in her chamber, said the benefits of the legislation would be the uniform beach badge pricing, the ability for residents and visitors to access beaches in multiple towns, and to "realize economies of scale by dealing with the maintenance and operation of all of the beaches within the county through one entity."

Ocean County's freeholder board is not alone in opposing the proposal. Cape May County and Monmouth County officials have also come out against it.
OLD WHITE JOE June 20, 2014 at 09:13 AM
Ive been going to Seaside Park for about 8-9 years now, never paid an entrance fee once, get there early before the money takers arrive
Marynary June 20, 2014 at 09:51 AM
NJ will never do away with "Home Rule'. There will always be municipalities as well as county government.
Brandy the Dog June 20, 2014 at 10:45 AM
Of course they won't. Not willingly, anyhoo. At some point the public takers will squeeze every drop out of the economy of government in the once great Garden State. Until such time- get out the lube.
Mac June 20, 2014 at 05:41 PM
home rule is equivalent to hiring a landscaper to landscape the wet spots on the bed in the master bedroom
Grunt June 21, 2014 at 09:18 AM
A state/county/municipal beach badge is absurd. I already pay for the beach with my taxes. Municipalities should be allowed to control their beach only when they pay for their own beach replenishment projects.

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