About 300 protesters, carrying signs and chanting in unison, walked the Wildwood Boardwalk between Leaming and Hildreth avenues Saturday to fight a city plan to allow recreational vehicles on the beach.
“No RVs on our beach, no RVs,” chanted protesters, many of whom own condominiums at the nearby Wildwood Ocean Towers.
A banner plane even flew overhead protesting the RV plan. The placards protesters carried summed up some of their concerns.
“We want dunes, not RVs,” read one.
“RVs belong in a campground,” read another.
The city plans to allow RVs on the beach as a way to increase revenue. The city does not have beach tags, but Mayor Ernie Troiano is hoping to create some form of recurring revenue from the strand.
Robert Ferris, a member of the condominium association, said the city may realize $200,000 in revenue by allowing RVs but may lose as much in taxes as properties are devalued.
“Our building has 176 units, and we pay about $1 million in taxes. This will devalue our properties. They will lose in property tax whatever they gain in revenue,” Ferris said.
Most of the protesters, who also came from neighboring Wildwood Crest and North Wildwood, were not concerned with economics as much as safety, pollution, noise and other issues.
“Water comes up to the Boardwalk in a storm, and in a good storm comes under the Boardwalk,” said condo owner Bruce Balady. “What will they do, tow out the RVs?”
Another concern is using Cresse Avenue to access the beach. The protesters say this is a busy area and that it is not a safe plan.
“All it will take is one accident, and that will be the end of this,” said Karim Kaspar, the attorney for the protesters.
Several protesters were worried about their children and grandchildren going to the beach and having to pass the RVs.
“I don’t want my grandchildren walking through a trailer park,” said Willa Piplitz, who has lived across the street on Ocean Avenue since 1947.
Condo owner Andy Thomas worried about the types of people who would camp on the beach.
“It will be like an Eagles game with tailgaters getting drunk,” Thomas said.
Pollution is another concern. The park will not have electricity, so the protesters say generators will be running all night long, causing air and noise pollution. Some worry about sewage being dumped on the beach, as the RVs will have to use their own holding tanks while they are there.
“They will dump when nobody’s looking. They don’t want to take it back with them,” said Colette Pecsi, who lives six blocks away in Wildwood Crest.
There was also a bit of animosity about perks the RVs owners could avail themselves of on beaches that are officially closed to the public between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
“Residents can’t have a pet on the beach. We can’t grill on the beach. We can’t have alcohol. We can’t even go on the beach after 10 o’clock at night,” said Ocean Avenue resident Cindy Criss.
Some offered solutions. Pecsi said the city should institute a minimal beach tag fee to raise money from the beaches. Others just wanted the RVs moved to a different beach.
The area for the RVs has been staked out with 78 spots, but none is actually there yet. Ian Cairns, whose company Point Break Group Management LLC recently received a five-year beach concession contract, said RV rentals will begin this week at $150 a night for a 60-foot spot and $120 for a 30-foot spot.
“It’s a huge beach. There’s tons of room for everyone,” Cairns said.
The RVs, Cairns noted, are just one component of a beach festival that will run for five weekends beginning Aug. 18. He said they got a late start this year, but plans are for beach events between Memorial Day and Labor Day in 2013. The company’s plans include teaching surfing and paddle-boarding while offering volleyball, inflatable water slides, water cannons for children, BMX competitions, platforms for skateboarding, paintball, and other events. Cairns said he has founded surfing competitions in California.
“All of the issues they are protesting are the same issues we are concerned about. I’ve been a surfer for 45 years. I want to surf in a clean ocean,” Cairns said.
He said a crew will handle trash and there will be security at the RV location. All RVs will be required to pump out sewage before they arrive and, if they fill up, will be required to leave and pump out again. Cairns said RV generators are very quiet.
“They will be an asset to Wildwood and will bring revenue to businesses,” Cairns said.
Robert Grandinetti, president of the condominium association, said the protest “was outstanding. He said only about 100 of the 300 protesters were from Wildwood Ocean Towers. He said the group also collected signatures on a petition protesting the RVs.
“We’ll give it to (Mayor) Troiano, for what it’s worth. We’re not sure he’s listening to us,” Grandinetti said.
Contact Richard Degener: