N.J. will guide municipalities on how to handle beaches this summer, Gov. Murphy says

(Justin Auciello for WHYY)

(Justin Auciello for WHYY)

New Jersey officials will offer guidance to municipalities on how to manage beaches during the upcoming summer months, Gov. Phil Murphy said on Wednesday.

The governor said the guidance on beaches will be driven by how people behave once state parks reopen this Saturday.

“We’ll see how it goes in terms of opening parks. If folks do what we’re asking them to do, that will have a huge impact on our ability to take what I call baby steps,” Murphy said. “Let’s see how parks go, but no decisions yet or imminently on beaches.”

Matt Platkin, the governor’s chief legal counsel, added that “nothing” in the order “changes the fact the municipalities can close beaches on their own, as they’ve had the ability to do.”

He reiterated that the administration is reviewing options for the summer months. Some officials in beach municipalities have spoken about their plans.

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.

Michelle Gillian of the Ocean City Chamber of Commerce said that for Memorial Weekend, city officials “think” the beaches and boardwalk will be open.

In Ocean County, Point Pleasant Beach Mayor Paul Kanitra said earlier this week that if more Class 1 and 2 police officers become available, he will seek to reopen the Maryland Avenue beach to primary and secondary residences with social distancing enforced as a test-run.

And down the Ocean County barrier island from Point Pleasant Beach, Lavallette Mayor Walter LaCicero told The Asbury Park Press that his municipality, with recently widened beaches, can accommodate social distancing, but reopening the beaches will require a “coordinated effort” with other municipalities to avoid overcrowding.

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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