Along New Jersey’s shoreline, there are towns that require summer beach tags and others where beaches are free.
In Sea Isle City, it is both.
Twenty years ago, Sea Isle City began a unique practice suspending beach fees on Wednesdays with the hope of drawing more visitors during the mid-week lull.
That practice drew some scrutiny last month when the city raised seasonal beach tags by $5, questioning whether free beach Wednesdays helped tourism or hurt the budget.
City Council in December decided to keep the Wednesday policy in place, but noted it should be better advertised.
“It’s been in effect for a long time, but I don’t think it was ever publicized as well as it could have been,” said Chris Glancey, president of the Sea Isle City Chamber of Commerce and Revitalization.
By comparison, the Wildwoods, which currently require no summer beach tags, have openly touted that fact in advertising.
In Sea Isle City, a daily beach tag will continue to cost $5. Seasonal beach tags were raised from $15 to $20 if bought by May 15. (Seasonal tags sold later were increased from $20 to $25.)
City Councilman John Divney said the cost of hiring more beach tag checkers on Wednesdays was not worth what the city could collect by selling daily beach tags those days.
Beachgoers are typically less abundant mid-week, especially among day trippers.
“It turned out to be revenue neutral,” Divney said. “If we took it away, we would have had to hire more checkers.”
Beach tags brought in about $1.2 million last year, Mayor Leonard Desiderio said.
City officials said they can’t gauge whether free beach Wednesdays had any effect drawing beachgoers over the past 20 years.
“I would think it brings people in. As far as them buying an ice cream cone or a sandwich, I don’t know what it did,” Desiderio said. “But it’s nice to see we’re giving something back.”
Free beach tag Wednesdays has drawn some scrutiny over the years, especially when it was implemented in the early 1990s.
Would it anger beachgoers who bought weekly or seasonal tags to see others get free access?
“I’ve had people come up to me who say, “You’ve got to give me one-seventh of my beach tag (money) back,” Desiderio said.
James Iannone, a former Sea Isle City Commissioner who championed free beach Wednesdays when it was implemented, said he was glad it will remain.
“There’s no measurement out there on how successful it is, but you would have to think it would be,” he said. “Anytime you give anything away free, you’re usually successful.”
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