Mayors Hoping for Memorial Day Weekend Opening

By PETE WALTON

Some mayors of oceanfront towns in Monmouth County are planning to reopen their beachfronts for the Memorial Day weekend.

During a conference call earlier this week, mayors from Sea Bright south to Manasquan discussed opening beaches in a safe manner for the traditional start of summer at the Jersey shore.

Bradley Beach Mayor Gary Engelstad, who was one of the participants on the call, said there was an “overwhelming consensus” among the mayors in favor of the Memorial Day reopening.

“Part of this is because of the fact that people are going to go on your beach if it’s a nice day, and they’re going to go into the ocean, so if that’s the case, let’s make sure they’re safe, let’s make sure that we have the proper personnel, so that is what’s driving staying to a traditional opening of Memorial Day weekend,” Engelstad said.

The mayor said he has asked Borough Administrator David G. Brown II “to quickly expedite biweekly meetings” to discuss subjects such as “the correct spacing of people on the beach, the concessions and how they should operate in a safe manner, making sure our employees are safe, even looking into a way that badges can be sold in a different way that enables us to control the total number of attendees on the beach.”

Asbury Park Mayor John Moor was more cautious.

“We need more guidance and direction from the governor,” he said. “I hope we can but I have serious concerns and doubts.”

Engelstad said that the Viply system of online beach passes might be used to sell all daily badges, enabling a cutoff of sales when the count reached a certain number, and eliminating the need for beach attendants to handle cash.

The mayor said he would recommend “especially on weekends, a quota system for the disbursement of badges, and when that quota is met, we’re done.”

“Right now the administrator is working with the Department of Public Works in literally mapping out the beach and trying to determine what would be a safe amount of beachgoers,” Engelstad said. “We also want to have a system where someone would know before they hop in a car from 60 miles away that there are or aren’t badges available. We want to have good customer service and part of that is educating people that yes, there is room or no, there’s not.”

Monmouth County Freeholder Director Thomas A. Arnone led a conference call last week with the oceanfront mayors.

“On the first call, Freeholder Arnone reinforced that the decision to open the beaches rests with the municipality [and that] the state does not want to be involved in that process, so this is clearly a call that is made at the local level,” Engelstad said.

“The consensus at the first meeting was that whatever we do, we should do in concert, in other words, with all the municipalities doing the same thing on the same date,” the mayor said. “The initial thought back at the first meeting was [to reopen on] July 1. At the second meeting, the overwhelming consensus on the part of the participants was Memorial Day.”

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