Next time you see a Shore to Please license plate on a vehicle, give the driver a smile. By paying a little more for that piece of metal, the owner has funded clean-beach programs.
But the amount of money generated by Shore to Please plates has steadily fallen, likely because of increased competition from 16 other specialty plates, said Bruce Friedman, director of water monitoring and standards for the Department of Environmental Protection.
The DEP will try to increase sales of the plates this summer, using ads on banner planes along the beachfront, he said.
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“We are going to try to fly Thursdays and Sundays along the entire coast,” said Sheri Shifren, a DEP environmental scientist who manages the beach program.
There are more than 40,000 of the plates on vehicles now, officials said.
The plates, which have an illustration of Barnegat Lighthouse on them, raise money for the state Coastal Protection Trust Fund. The fund pays for programs to remove floatable trash, pump out and safely dispose of recreational boat sewage, monitor swimming beaches’ bacteria levels and match volunteers with beaches.
In 2011, the plates generated $714,000 for the fund, said Friedman. By 2017, the amount had fallen to $573,000, and this year the projection is for even less, Friedman said.
“Part of the reason for the decline is more plates competing for various causes,” he said. “But we also think it’s because we are looking at more renewals than new purchases.”
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The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission could not provide data in time for the story on the amounts of money raised annually by the 16 other plates.
The plates cost $50 upfront and $10 a year for renewals, Friedman said. They can be purchased at nj.gov/dep/wms.
The Shore to Please plate was first issued in 1993, created by legislation that sets the fees that DEP cannot change.
Banner ads will feature a picture of the license plate that says “Plz buy me” and the message, “Proceeds fund clean beaches,” Shifren said. They will also include the website address njbeaches.org, where people can see water test results and other information.
Shifren manages the Clean Shores Program, which works with the Department of Corrections and uses inmate labor to pick up trash along mostly back bay shorelines, and the Cooperative Coastal Monitoring Program, which works with the state Department of Health and local and county health agencies to do weekly water testing from late May to when the beaches close in September.
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The Clean Shores Program is entirely funded by Shore to Please plate sales, Shifren said. It gets the first $485,000 of money generated by the plates.
The CCMP program, on the other hand, gets about $263,000 a year from the federal Environmental Protection Agency, and it gets $65,000 from the Shore to Please plates if enough money is raised by them.
After Clean Shores, the next $90,000 of plate sales goes to a state Division of Fish and Wildlife program to provide pump-out boats for keeping boaters’ sewage out of waterways; the next $65,000 to CCMP; and the last $10,000 to the Adopt a Beach program.
Adopt a Beach, a program of the New Jersey Clean Communities program, has not gotten any funding since 2014, when it got $4,000, said Shifren.
It hasn’t gotten the full $10,000 since 2013.