JERSEY SHORE – Memorial Day is the start of the summer season, but some still got to the beach before the traffic started coming down the Parkway.
Daniel Ortiz, Nicole Mejia, and Daniel “D.J.” Ortiz Jr., 3, were playing in the sand on a Seaside Heights beach just before the holiday weekend. As the afternoon wore on, a chilly wind started.
“Little man wanted a beach day,” Daniel Ortiz said. “We brought a jacket just in case it was cold, but as of right now we’re soaking in what we can.”
This is the first season for shore towns since the multi-million dollar beach replenishment project by the Army Corps of Engineers, and town officials are looking forward to a successful year.
In Seaside Heights, the most noticeable change are the dunes separating the boardwalk from the beach. Sprigs of dune grass sprout up neatly in rows, and they will grow into larger plants over the coming months.
The experience for visitors won’t change much, said Christopher Vaz, the borough administrator. The boardwalk, shops, hotels, and beach are ready to go. It’s really more a change for the town itself.
“In past years, you could see the beach from the boardwalk,” he said. Now, the dunes are higher. So security will have to be physically on the beach to make up for that. Surveillance cameras will also be installed on the beach patrol buildings that will provide a view of some of the beaches and boardwalk, but they won’t be coming until the end of June.
“For us, it’s an entirely new operation,” Vaz said. Staff will have to clean litter that blows onto the dunes without stepping on dune grass. They have to roll up the handicap access mats at the end of the day. It amounts to a little more maintenance to keep the new things nice.
“It’s been a long winter for us,” he said. “I know business owners are excited.”
Toms River township engineer Robert Chankalian said everything is ready for this season on the town’s small strip of beach.
Year-round residents watched the replenishment project over the long months, and soon tourists and summer residents will see it, too.
The access to the beach has changed as well, as they too have installed Mobi-mats that help people access the beach on foot or in wheelchairs, he said.
Every township road on the island has been paved, he said.
“New roads, new beach, new everything,” he said.
“There’s a noticeable difference,” said Debbi Winogracki, recreation director for Berkeley. The Army Corps provided a lot of extra protection, and visitors should be able to see it when they arrive.
There’s an elite group of lifeguards ready to start the season in their new booth, she said. Beach badge prices are the same as last year.
“We’re excited for a new season,” Mayor Carmen Amato said.
The public ocean beaches in Berkeley are along 20th to 23rd avenues on the South Seaside Park section of town, north of Island Beach State Park.
All beaches on Long Beach Island are public, an official said.
In Long Beach Township, there haven’t been any active beach replenishment projects this year, a township official said. Additionally, the entrances to the beach, and the boardwalks are the same.
Events for the area can be found at longbeachtownship.com/departments/recreation/.
This is the first year that beachgoers won’t be allowed to smoke on beaches and parks. The law went into effect in January.
“Cigarette butts are one of the major sources of litter, and our beaches and parks will now look less unsightly. Some communities like Atlantic City will set aside a small smoking area, but otherwise our beaches will be completely smoke free,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “Visitors will be able to sit outside without breathing in second-hand smoke. They can walk on the sand without stepping on cigarette butts. We will also be safer. A recklessly discarded cigarette can start fires, igniting picnic tables or boardwalks. The Sierra Club proposed this smoking ban 10 years ago. Gov. Christie vetoed the bill multiple times but we kept fighting until Gov. Murphy signed it into law. Now we won’t have to deal with second-hand smoke while trying to enjoy a day outside.”
He explained in a press release that cigarettes can also be ingested by animals or even children. Additionally, they break down, leading to the spread of nicotine, pesticides and even plastic in the environment.
According to the World Health Organization, 90 percent of cigarettes have plastic in their filters, and two-thirds of them are dumped irresponsibly, where they wind up in the oceans via wind and storm drains.
The State Department of Environmental Protection has a web site that will inform bathers of potential closures due to high bacteria counts.
The DEP’s Cooperative Coastal Monitoring Program has created njbeaches.org, an interactive website where people can see the status of their favorite beaches. There’s a map of the state, with little circles where the water is being monitored on the east coast from Monmouth to Cape May counties. The circles are color-coded to denote if the beach is open, closed, or if there’s an advisory. If you zoom in on the map, you can click on the beach and find out what the bacteria count was.
Although the DEP said that there are 180 ocean and 35 bay monitoring stations along the coast, there are also some more inland. There are several along the Toms River, such as in Ocean Gate, Pine Beach, and Beachwood. There’s one on the Brick side of the Metedeconk River. There are two on the Point Pleasant side of the Manasquan River. There’s one at the L Street beach in Belmar, on the Shark River. The rest are on the ocean or bay from Keansburg to Cape May Point.
The site monitors the presence of a certain bacteria found in human and animal waste. It’s not harmful by itself, but it denotes the presence of waste in the water.
Tests are done on Monday, and problem areas are retested until they are clean. They are done on Monday, officials said, because of the influx of visitors on weekends. The visitors increase the strain on the sewer systems, which is one of the ways that the bacteria wind up in the water.
Generally speaking, bay beaches close more frequently than ocean beaches, he said. Ocean beaches have more tidal flow, which washes out anything harmful.
The DEP also promoted these tips for safe swimming:
- Swim near a lifeguard.
- Never swim alone.
- If you are caught in a rip current, remember to swim parallel to the shore.
- Avoid sandbars, drop-off areas, or fast currents.
- Be aware of your surroundings.
- Protect yourself from the sun.
There were no closings listed when this article was written.