N.J. beach towns can’t restrict access to residents only, Murphy says

Seaside Park beach

A Seaside Park beach in late June 2015. (Justin Auciello/JSHN)

New Jersey is planning to issue guidance to Jersey Shore towns on managing beaches amid the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday during his daily briefing.

Murphy, who has consistently said municipalities are empowered to decide whether to open or close beaches, reiterated that beach towns cannot legally restrict beaches to only residents. Point Pleasant Beach has recently floated the idea of restricting access to primary and secondary residences with social distancing enforced as a test-run.

The governor noted that state officials were “encouraged by the compliance over the weekend with the state and county parks,” adding “that’s a good thing.” Last week, he said the state’s guidance on beaches would be driven by behavior in parks upon reopening.

Murphy said that limiting parking in state parks to 50 percent worked, hinting that a similar limitation could be part of guidance the state is expected to issue.

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“That may well be smart as communities think about how many day tickets or monthly passes they’re going to sell. Maybe there’s something on the capacity side that speaks to that, but bear with us on that,” he said. “We’re not making any news today on beaches yet.”

Murphy noted that since the state controls Island Beach State Park, it will not be impacted by the guidance issued to municipalities.

Still, the governor made it clear on Monday that face coverings and social distancing will be part of the social fabric for some time.

“Social distancing right now is the only proven COVID-19 prevention. I would add face masks to that. There are no recognized treatments yet and there is no cure. There’s no vaccine yet,” he said. “There is only social distancing. And a face covering is about you, if you are asymptomatic, lowering your chances of spreading the virus to others.”

In Cape May County’s Ocean City, Mayor Jay Gillian has said that while it won’t be “business as usual” this summer, “there will be a summer.” The city has purchased 100,000 masks to hand out to visitors.

USA Today cited a report from the research firm Oxford Economics which found that the Jersey Shore “generated more than $7 billion in sales and employed nearly 50,000 workers in 2018.”

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