"New Jersey lawmakers on Thursday refused to put better public access guarantees into a bill governing funding for beach-replenishment projects in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. ...
"'Now is really the time, when we're doing all this construction work, to address the long-standing problems we have with public access on the coast,' Tim Dillingham, executive director of the American Littoral Society, told the panel."
- The Associated Press, April 25, 2013
Yes, there are a handful of towns along the coast - a handful, and mostly on the northern tip of Long Beach Island and farther north - where wealthy homeowners like to make it difficult for visitors to get to the beach.
They do it by making bathrooms, access points and parking scarce and/or beach fees exorbitant. It's wrong - and, frankly, the state should sue these towns over beach access.
But there are no widespread problems with beach access in New Jersey. Our state has some of the more accessible beaches in the country. Ever try to go for a walk on a beach in Connecticut? You quickly run into chain-link fences that extend right into the water to block you from walking on truly private beaches.
Yes, many shore towns in New Jersey charge beach fees. But at least down here in this corner of South Jersey, fees are nominal - and in many towns you get a hefty discount on seasonal beach tags if you buy them now, before Memorial Day.
In Margate and Ventnor, preseason prices for season-long beach tags are $7 and $3.50 for senior citizens. The price goes to $15 after June 1.
Ocean City is more expensive - seasonal tags are $20 through May 31 and $25 after that - but still a bargain.
Atlantic City and Wildwood have free beaches.
And the overriding point is that all of these towns are in the business of attracting visitors. Buy a Margate tag today, and for the price of a lunch, you will have the privilege of parking in front of million-dollar homes and walking a block or two to the beach.
That's pretty darn accessible.
And as for the argument - made once again last week in Trenton - that if public money is used to replenish beaches the public must have access to them:
Well, yeah. No one disagrees with that, which is why both the Army Corps of Engineers and the state Department of Environmental Protection have long linked access points, parking and bathrooms to beach-replenishment projects.
By all means, as we mentioned above, the state should sue the handful of towns that do restrict access to their beaches.
But if you live near those towns and you are thinking about a beach vacation this summer, buy a seasonal pass now to our beautiful beaches in South Jersey, or make plans to visit Atlantic City's or Wildwood's free beaches.
Down here, beach access is our business.